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Department of Agriculture Sending Grant Funds to Specialty Crop Programs

The Missouri Department of Agriculture is sending more than $425,000 in federal grant money to thirteen projects across the state.

The money comes from the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants, which are grants that specialize in strengthening the state’s specialty crops. Specialty crops are “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture”, according to the Department of Agriculture Grant Manager Liz Roberts.

The end goal of handing out these grants is to aid Missouri’s specialty crop industry though research, education, food safety and marketing.

“You know, we can’t grow everything here in this climate and with our soil,” Roberts said. “And so we’re always looking for ways to enhance what we do grow and to help our growers capitalize on that.”

Grants are being distributed to multiple organizations across the state, including Lincoln University, Missouri State University and the Missouri Vegetable Growers Association. MU is receiving the most funding, with four of the thirteen projects having more than $117,000 in grant money belonging to it.

MU’s projects are:

  • An investigation of the Grapevine Red Blotch Virus being found in Missouri vineyards.
  • A study into enhancing tomato marketability by identifying high-yield and pesticide-resistant varieties of tomatoes.
  • A comparison of husk tomatoes that have grown in high tunnels and fields.
  • A standardization of lavender growing techniques.

Roberts said MU’s projects received their funding because of the quality of research and action plans submitted to the department by the university.
“These projects, in particular, were able to give us a good outline and a really good plan of action for the research that they’re going to conduct and how they’re going to tie that to enhancing the competitiveness of their chosen specialty crop in the state,” Roberts said.