Every school kid in Michigan can, at some point during their schooling, point with pride to the sheer volume and national ranking of Michigan’s key agricultural crops from fruits and vegetables to plants and flowers. U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow shares that same pride, but she’ll also be the first to tell you, “Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables are not only a source of great pride, they are also critical to our state’s economy.”
With that backdrop, Stabenow — who is Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry — announced that $1,992,250 million to support Michigan specialty crop growers who produce fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, nursery plants, and flowers. Those funds come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and will support 20 projects throughout the state, including the Southwest Michigan Wine Trail.
Stabenow tells us, “This new support will help Michigan farmers get their products off the farm and onto our plates during these difficult times.”
Each of the 20 projects are targeted to help specialty crop growers sell more products locally and globally, protect crops from pests and diseases, and market products to be competitive.
In 2008, Senator Stabenow authored the first ever fruits and vegetables section of a Farm Bill to provide support for so-called “specialty crops” which includes fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, nursery products and floriculture. Those crops are critical to the state’s economy, as Michigan leads the nation in producing a wider variety of crops than any state in the union other than California.
Julie Gordon, Chief Financial Officer of the Cherry Marketing Institute, says, “The Cherry Marketing Institute (CMI) is a national research and promotion organization that works on behalf of Michigan, Utah, Wisconsin and Utah cherry growers. Michigan produces 75-percent of the tart cherry supply for the U.S. CMI is grateful for the awarded USDA Specialty Crop Grant that they received to enhance the Michigan cherry industry. These funds leveraged with grower assessments provide an opportunity to expand our mission to showcase Michigan cherries on a national platform. The partnership with the USDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is a tremendous asset for Michigan cherry growers.”
Kevin Robson, Michigan Blueberry Commission, says, “The Michigan Blueberry Commission is excited to once again be able to advance our research platform through the specialty crop block grant program. This program has paved the way to making our grower dollars go twice the distance, and in better positioning our state’s growers to compete in an ever-increasing global market. Anthracnose Fruit Rot in blueberries is a problem that our growers rated as a top priority problem. Through USDA’s SCBG program, we’re able to bring about solid solutions through industry driven research.”
John Bakker, Executive Director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, responded to Stabenow’s news, saying, “I am very excited for the opportunity that this grant represents to improve the economic wellbeing of Michigan asparagus farmers. Every year we see an increase in imported asparagus coming from Mexico and Peru right during our 8-week season. These imports tend to glut the market driving down returns for everyone. Market research has clearly shown that US consumers prefer asparagus that is grown close to home in this country. We will use this grant, along with grower funds, to educate consumers and wholesale and retail buyers about how to identify Michigan grown asparagus. We will emphasize that our crop is sustainably grown, is fresher, tastes better and travels considerably fewer miles from field to fork. This is a huge undertaking and we simply couldn’t do this without the additional funding provided through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program.”
Joe Cramer, Executive Director of the Michigan Bean Commission, added his two-cents, saying, “SCBG funding stretches every assessment dollar into roughly two dollars which are dedicated to production research. Research projects over the years have improved quality and yield – important factors that keep Michigan’s dry bean growers competitive globally as we work to feed the world nutrient dense, healthy Michigan beans.”
Goeff Hansen, Executive Director of the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council, shared his thanks, saying, “The Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council (MGGC) would like to thank Senator Stabenow for her continued support of Michigan’s agriculture industry and the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. In collaboration with Michigan State University researchers Drs. Roberto Lopez and Mary Hausbeck, SCBG funds will be used to develop and extend novel strategies to control grey mold (Botrytis blight), a plant disease that is increasingly resistant to fungicides. This research will help our growers reduce fungicide use and plant losses and increase their profitability.”
Greg Bird, Executive Director of the Michigan Vegetable Council, says, “Downy Mildew harms some of the most valued vegetable crops in Michigan, like pickling cucumbers and squash. Downy Mildew has developed resistance to key fungicides and finding new strategies to deal with the disease will be the focus of this Specialty Crop Block Grant.”
Diane Smith, Executive Director of the Michigan Apple Committee, voiced support as well, saying, “Specialty Crop Block Grants have allowed the Michigan Apple Committee to do important consumer awareness and marketing campaigns that encourage increased movement of Michigan Apples at retail. These grants are a significant part of our consumer education work – funds we leverage to get even more benefit from the grower dollars in our budget.” She adds, “We remain focused on our mission of engaging in market development, consumer education, research and communications for the benefit of Michigan’s apple growers. The Specialty Crop Block Grant program enables us to enhance our efforts to aid in the success and the sustainability of the Michigan Apple industry.”
Prior to 2008, farm bills focused largely on traditional commodity crops and had no section dedicated to fruits and vegetables. The 2018 Farm Bill continues to strengthen support for specialty crops and makes major investments in organic crops and local and regional food systems.
Grant recipients announced today include:
- Cherry Marketing Institute – Driving Demand for U.S. Grown Tart Cherries with Influential Food and Beverage Manufacturers, $125,000
- Hop Growers of Michigan – Integrated Approaches to Managing Cone Diseases in Michigan Hopyards, $73,258
- Michigan Apple Committee – Target Audience Engagement to Increase Sales of Michigan Apples, $125,000
- Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board – Sales & Marketing Tools to Advance the Michigan Asparagus Industry, $125,000
- Michigan Bean Commission – Multifaceted Strategies to Communicate the Value of Michigan Dry Beans, $107,200
- Michigan Bean Commission – Optimization of Fertilizer Rate Recommendations for Michigan Dry Bean Growers, $99,998
- Michigan Blueberry Commission – Evaluating Effective Management Strategies to Control Anthracnose Fruit Rot in Michigan Blueberries, $70,258
- Michigan Celery Research Inc. – Michigan Celery Growers Seek Answers to Plant “Meltdown,” which Threatens the Industry’s Future, $70,046
- Michigan Christmas Tree Association – Development of Integrated Weed Control Program for Michigan Christmas Tree Production, $72,744
- Michigan Grape Society – Cold Hardiness Monitoring for Grapevines in Southwest Michigan, $40,000
- Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council – Greenhouse Growers Seek Innovative Solutions to Control Botrytis Blight, $70,000
- Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association – Debating Glyphosate, Understanding the Prominence of Herbicide Resistance and Residuals in Nurseries, $100,000
- Michigan Potato Industry Commission – Identification of Potato Varieties with Postharvest Disease Resistance, $85,625
- Michigan State Horticultural Society – Managing Downy Mildew in Michigan Vineyards: Investigating Alternative Products, Fungicide Efficacy, and Resistance Levels, $99,500
- Michigan Vegetable Council – Strategies are Needed to Protect Michigan’s Cucurbits from Fungicide Resistant Downy Mildew, $91,577
- National Grape Cooperative – Addressing Priority Issues in Berry Moth Management for Michigan Vineyards, $99,637
- Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office – Publication of Instructional Manual for Operating a Five-Acre Institutional Horticulture Farm Using an Incarcerated Labor Force, $125,000
- Southwest Michigan Wine Trail – A Comprehensive Marketing Project to Improve Competitiveness of Lake Michigan Shore Wines, $88,252
- MDARD International Marketing Program – International and Domestic Promotion of Michigan Specialty Crops, $161,626.85
The photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market is courtesy of the U.S. Senate Photographic Studio, from photographer Rebecca Hammel.