TRENTON, NJ – The Christie Administration has received a $813,342 Specialty Crop Block Grant to fund 13 initiatives to benefit Garden State crops such as fruits, vegetables, as well as horticulture and nursery. 

The grants are part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) efforts to promote specialty crops in the nation and stimulate food-and agriculturally-based community economic development.  Specialty crops account for $907.7 million in sales annually in the Garden State.

“This federal funding has many benefits for our produce and horticulture industries and consumers,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher.  “The organizations receiving the grants will use the funds for a variety of purposes, including promotional campaigns, research and education.”

Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture, nursery crops and floriculture.  Most of New Jersey agriculture falls into the specialty crop category.

To be eligible for the grant, projects are required to "enhance the competitiveness" of specialty crops and might include, but are not limited to: research, promotion, marketing, nutrition, trade enhancement, food safety, food security, plant health programs, education, "buy local" programs, increased consumption, increased innovation, improved efficiency and reduced costs of distribution systems, environmental concerns and conservation, product development and developing cooperatives.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture will use $373,000 of the funding to support the popular Jersey Fresh and Jersey Grown programs.  A majority of the projects support agricultural marketing and cooperative development.  Several research projects also are included.

The projects to be funded by New Jersey’s grant include:

Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station -- Evaluate the use of low-tunnels to extend the growing season for specialty crops including strawberries, kale, collards and mustard greens; evaluate both organic and conventional agricultural management systems; educate local farmers on the benefits oflow-tunnel use to extend their growing season of the sespecialty crops; increase farmer awareness of the project through video segments and a project website; encourage more sustainable management practices including more efficient use of pesticides, fertilizers and water.

New Jersey Farm Bureau – Facilitate the matching of aspiring urban farmers with farm management expertise of Rutgers Cooperative Extension.  Using Ag in the City, an association of urban farmers, candidates will be selected for training on urban farming. 

New Jersey Blueberry Growers Association – Working with Rutgers Cooperative Extension, provide New Jersey blueberry growers with statewide integrated pest management (IPM) information and work to improve pest management and monitoring practices, while addressing invasive species and the pesticides used to control those pests.

Cape May Beach Plum Association – Increase the number of high quality beach plum plants; create a beach plum marketing and promotion program; offer paid internships to agri-science high school students; educate farmers and educators about what was learned during the project.

Cumberland County Board of Agriculture – Increase awareness of non-farm residents of Cumberland County about the importance of crops grown in the county; increase the number of residents who buy local crops from direct marketing outlets in the county; request retailers source products from local growers; train specialty crop growers in county on marketing strategies.

New Jersey Agricultural Society – Hold educational workshops for New Jersey Agriculture Leadership Development Program geared toward enhancing special crop production; develop website for program to include news articles and success stories of alumni specialty crop growers and specialty crop-related issues.

New Jersey Beekeepers Association – Conduct a study to identify the types and quantities of pesticides being collected by honey bees in different areas of the state at different times of year to learn which areas are least toxic to bees; hives throughout the state will be tested monthly for a broad spectrum of 180 pesticides.

New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association – Develop a Plant Something Campaign marketing program to increase the sale and use of New Jersey-grown landscape flowers, trees and plants.

New Jersey Peach Promotion Council – Promote the quality and availability of locally grown Jersey Fresh peaches; compile the NJ Peach Buyers’ Guide and distribute it to consumers retail, institutional and wholesale buyers; plan and stage various media events; consumer and produce merchandising contests,  coordinate retail promotional events; provide education and information to consumers, buyers, and the media via print advertising, website and other social media information, and personal contacts and via audio and video methodology; market impact studies, and conduct product development and handling research.

New Jersey White Potato Association – increase in the volume of Jersey Fresh-branded potatoes sold by embracing the slogans “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” and “Locally Grown;” develop point of purchase materials that feature the 11 New Jersey potato farm families to tell the story of the New Jersey potato farmer; distribute to 750 targeted stores over 2 years with the goal of significantly increasing “Jersey Fresh” potato sales.

Outer Coastal Plain Vineyard Association -- conduct a survey of wine grape pests across the state of New Jersey to identify the distribution and severity of key insect pests in the state; use this information to form a coherent IPM program for New Jersey wine grape growers; conduct a survey for grape root borer larvae in commercial vineyards, allowing us to map locations of high abundance and correlate it to soil type and prevalence of entomopathogenic nematodes, which may act as a biological control agent.

The New Jersey grant was announced on October 2 by the USDA, part of $118 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants funding 838 projects throughout the nation for 2015.