As any architect or general contractor worth their weight will tell you, the quality of every building project is dependent upon a solid foundation, followed by making certain the cornerstone is of sufficient quality and workmanship to support the structure design.

Growing healthy food products, such as fruits, nuts and vegetables, is no different. According to the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN), starting a good specialty crop demands clean, disease and pest-free, high-production plant material to assure success on the farm.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established the NCPN following guidelines established by the 2008 farm bill to help maintain the infrastructure necessary for growing disease and pest-free plants, improving diagnostic capabilities and providing therapeutic treatments in specialty crop plants, and establishing sufficient foundation stock.

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Since then, USDA has provided $5 million in annual funding toward the project, which is designed for pathogen diagnosis and elimination, to develop clean plant material that is to be made available to states for certification programs for private nurseries and producers, to consult with State Departments of Agriculture and universities, and to use existing Federal/State clean plant centers to accomplish the Network's objectives.

The program was extended and refunded by the Agriculture Act of 2014.