The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced the awarding of 26 matching grants totaling $1,316,000 to 20 states and Puerto Rico to support agricultural market research and demonstration projects.

The grants, provided under the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program, will be used to explore new and innovative approaches to marketing U.S. food and agricultural products and improve efficiency and performance of the marketing system.

“These projects are excellent examples of the benefit of investing in new marketing opportunities for U.S. agriculture,” said Chuck Conner, deputy secretary of agriculture. “Many are innovative; others increase efficiency of production; still others help remove trade and transportation barriers. But all may provide wide-ranging benefits for the American farmer and consumer.”

The USDA grants included:

California - $49,000 to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, in cooperation with the California Dried Fruit Export Association, the Dried Fruit Association of California, and the Northern California World Trade Center, to research the market for dried fruit in Mexico and to assess opportunities for sales of dried fruit to California supermarkets that cater to Hispanic consumers.

New Mexico - $53,500 to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with New Mexico State University, the New Mexico Chile Commission and industry partners, to investigate and implement new handling methods and packaging for fresh green chiles, and educate consumers about the qualities and uses of fresh green chiles to expand marketing opportunities for this regional specialty product.

Oklahoma - $69,500 to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, in cooperation with the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, Oklahoma State University and the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association, to analyze wheat quality data on a regional basis, and expand an Oklahoma-based electronic grain marketing system to other wheat-growing states in the region.