The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday a round of funding to strengthen markets for specialty crops, such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops, which will benefit Puerto Rico with a $524,511 grant to the Agriculture Department.
The funding authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill will help the local agency move forward nine projects:
- Increase sales of Puerto Rico‘s specialty crops and increases exposure of its specialty crop products by participating in local and international trade shows and fairs, which allows access into the United States, Europe, and other international markets.
- Increase exposure of local specialty crop products by implementing an advertising campaign (“Del País) that will use advertisements via television, radio, newspapers, and magazines.
- Partner with Finca el Sol de Joaquin, Inc.-Café Nativo to increase competitiveness of coffee farmers and expand their opportunities in the south region of Jayuya and nearby cities by demonstrating coffee drying technology.
- Partner with Centro de Adiestramiento para Personas con Impedimentos, Inc. to strengthen the production and marketing of lettuce and strawberries by providing business training with specialized knowledge, individual counseling, and support in hydroponics.
- Partner with Agroempresas Ke‘Verde, Inc. to provide new and better varieties of seeds of tomato to hydroponic farmers in the mountainous region, assist small farmers in Puerto Rico with training on cultivation practices, the selection and effective use of nutrients, and the selection and adequate use of pesticides for the control of pests and diseases in hydroponic crops of tomatoes under an organic approach.
- Partner with FSCC Inc. to improve the competitiveness of farmers through the use and application of “vermicomposting” by reducing the uncertainty faced by producers of specialty crops in Puerto Rico, who depend entirely on imported fertilizers which have high price volatility in the market and are often scarce.
- Partner with the Beekeeper Nucleus of Puerto Rico Inc. to enhance the pollination of specialty crops and create an industry of honey based in good quality to ensure the health of the citizens by establishing new European bee colonies and keeping their characteristics pure and separated from Africanized bee characteristic genes, and to protect the bees from all the different acari and viruses that affect the bee.
- Increase sales and awareness of Puerto Rican specialty crops providing support for specialty crop producers at the Plaza Las Américas and the Plaza del Caribe farmers‘ markets.
- Increase the number of hives in active production and yield in volume of honey produced through the construction and management of at least 500 hive boxes in a collaborative effort among government agencies, while also training apiarists, agronomists, and prison inmates in apicultural practices.
In total, the USDA will disburse $118 million in grants to entities across the U.S. mainland and its territories, Secretary Tom Vilsack said during a visit to Miami on Thursday.
“Specialty crop grants provide a major boost to the rural economies,” said Vilsack. “Today’s announcement is another example of how USDA is implementing the Farm Bill to deliver critical tools producers need to successfully grow, process and market high-quality products.”
Sales of specialty crops total nearly $65 billion per year, making them a critical part of the U.S. economy, he said.