Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced $460,000 in funds for eight projects that will increase market opportunities and competitiveness of Pennsylvania specialty crops. Funded under the Pennsylvania Farm Bill, state Specialty Crop Block Grants fund high priority specialty crops that are not eligible under the federal specialty crop grant program.
“Increasing market access and competitiveness means investing in crops with high growth potential that otherwise may be overlooked,” said Redding. “There is strength in our diversity, and we need to ensure growers – no matter size, scope or production – have every opportunity to succeed, strengthening both on-farm vitality and our commonwealth’s economic impact.”
High priority crops in the state include hemp, hops, hardwoods, honey; and barley, rye and wheat for distilling, brewing and malting. Projects aim to enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of specialty crops through research to increase conservation and environmental outcomes, enhance food safety, develop new and improved seed varieties, or improve pest and disease control.
Funded projects include:
Projects funded in Berks, Bradford, Centre, Indiana, Lancaster and McKean counties.
Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group, Inc., McKean County, $49,250: Host National Hardwood Lumber Association Lumber Grading Course for Pennsylvania foresters.
Alvernia University, Berks County, $32,095: Complete an environmental assessment of industrial hemp, from seed to structure, by collecting growth and supply chain data.
Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster County, $35,588.00: Establish a comprehensive baseline assessment of oomycete pathogen pressure on hemp.
Indiana County Conservation District, Indiana County, $37,951.00: Collaborate with local farmers and brewers to create an educational program for hops and malt grains production.
Northern Tier Hardwood Association, Bradford County, $16,500: Increase student awareness of green jobs in the forest products industry through Project Learning Tree’s Green Jobs: Exploring Forest Careers curriculum.
Penn State University, Centre County, $69,767: Mitigate impacts of spotted lanternfly in the hardwood ornamentals industry.
Penn State University, Centre County, $126,730: Optimize genotype selection and management practices for Pennsylvania hemp production.
Penn State University, Centre County, $72,049: Create a PA Specialty Crop Block Grant Brewing Program.
A percentage of the awarded funds are designated to projects in rural communities with at least 20 percent of the population below the federal poverty line.