First Posted: 1/15/2009
RALEIGH - The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services secured a $136,155 Specialty Crops Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support the continuation and development of four statewide agriculture programs.
The grant will be split between the Good Agricultural Practices Certification Cost Share, Farm to School and Specialty Crops programs, as well as a program to increase demand for the state’s green industry crops.
“Our farmers work very hard to provide some of the highest-quality fruits, vegetables and plants available for purchase,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “The programs supported by the Specialty Crops Block Grant will make our agriculture industry stronger and more competitive.”
The four programs meet the grant’s requirements that these funds enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in North Carolina, according to Ross Williams, assistant director of marketing for the NCDA&CS. The grant will be distributed between the four projects:
* The GAP Certification Cost Share program, which began in 2007, has helped 30 farmers adhere to industry food safety standards known as Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices. The grant will provide up to $600 for a grower’s cost for an audit of the farm’s food safety program to decrease the risk of microbial contamination and increase buyer demand.
* The Farm to School initiative serves to increase the number of North Carolina schools purchasing locally grown produce. A new program will be implemented with the grant money to supply schools with N.C. food products.
* New varieties of honeydew, Asian melon, asparagus, lettuce for processing and medicinal herbs are just some of the crops the Specialty Crops partnership with N.C. State University has created to provide new sources of income for farmers. Grant money will fund marketing projects to promote new specialty crops.
* The green industry marketing campaign will promote N.C. plants through targeted advertising and public relations efforts in conjunction with the Water-Wise Works! conservation program. For more information on the Water-Wise Works! program, visit its Web site at www.tarheelgardening.com.
For additional information on the grant or the programs it will support, contact Ross Williams, NCDCA&S Marketing Division, at (919) 733-7887, ext. 237, or by e-mail at [email protected].