Specialty crops in New Mexico and Texas will receive another round of support from the USDA-AMS Specialty Crop Grants Program, according to agriculture officials in both states. The grants are awarded annually by the United States Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Marketing Service (USDA-AMS).
Seven New Mexico specialty crop projects have been awarded federal grants totaling $429,000 to be used in promotion and production efforts for the state's chili pepper, pecan and grape crops.
The New Mexico Department of Agriculture, which administers and manages the grant program in that state, says some of the money will be used to partner with the New Mexico Wine Growers Association to develop material for tourists and a smart phone application to help people find wineries across the state.
In addition, the New Mexico grants will support projects designed to expand marketing efforts and opportunities, including restaurant promotions and funds to increase in-state and out-of-state demand for New Mexico chili pepper and pecan crops.
Congressman Ben Ray Luján of the Third Congressional District made the New Mexico grant announcement last week in Santa Fe.
“From chiles to pecans, New Mexico’s specialty crops represent not only jobs in our communities, but a source of pride. These federal funds will help our local farmers and producers take steps to sustain their livelihoods and create more opportunities to sell their distinct products,” Luján told reporters.
Texas Agriculture officials say a total of 16 projects totaling $1.42 million will be funded, including partnering with the Texas Vegetable Association along with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M Center for Food Safety, and Texas A&M AgriLife Research, for a project designed to increase grower/packer awareness of high risk contamination areas and ultimately limit contamination outbreaks in the Texas food system.
Another Texas project includes partnering with Texas Citrus Mutual in their continued management, research and control of citrus greening disease, or Huanglongbing (HLB), in the Rio Grande Valley.
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USDA earmarks funds each year for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to assist producers of fresh fruits and vegetables and to strengthen markets for specialty crops such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops, including floriculture. Funding for Texas and New Mexico projects are part of a $52 million investment in grants that support 694 initiatives across the country.
Luján said an integral part of New Mexico’s economy is driven by the hard work of farmers and producers across the state who provide specialty crops "that are part of the fabric of the Land of Enchantment" and says the specialty crop grants are a needed tool to aid the developing specialty crop industry across the Southwest.
Each year the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and the Texas Department of Agriculture asks producers and specialty crop support groups in their states to submit projects for consideration.