But before I go: This important, Earth-shaking news just hit my desk, courtesy of Virginia governor Bob McDonnell. For reasons known only to God, the farm lobby (a.k.a Big Elmer), and Governor McDonnell, setting up Web sites to sell apples and the “Beautiful Gardens Plant Breeders Workshop” are pressing public priorities in the Old Dominion, requiring taxpayer subsidies. You Virginians need the government to help you build a Web site? What, they don’t have seventh-graders in Virginia?
RICHMOND — Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell announced funding today for eighteen agriculture-related projects which will promote and enhance the competitiveness of Virginia’s specialty crops. The projects resulted from the competitive grant process established by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block Grant funds.
Commenting on the grants, Governor McDonnell said, “These grants represent a half-million dollar investment in Virginia’s economy that will boost economic development and create jobs in agriculture, Virginia’s largest industry. This is a diverse group of very innovative projects that include marketing, development, research and engineering projects, all of which are designed to increase the competitiveness of specialty agricultural crops in Virginia. I congratulate these individuals, educational institutions, and organizations for advancing ideas that will help growers add value and enhance market and job creation opportunities across Virginia.”
The Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 authorized the USDA to provide funds to the states to promote specialty crops including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops. When considering grants for the USDA Specialty Crop Program, VDACS gave priority to projects that included the following activities: assisting farmers in transitioning into specialty, high value agricultural initiatives that address the eligible specialty crops; increasing net farm income through high-value or value-added enterprises; finding new ways to market or to add value to specialty agricultural products; and developing pilot and demonstration programs in specialty agriculture that have the potential for transferability within rural Virginia.
VDACS is awarding grants totaling $513,226.81, the largest amount ever for the block grant program, for the following projects:
Specialty Crops Cooling and Packing, Kevin Semones, Southwest Virginia Farmers Market, Hillsville
Handling and Use of Poultry Litter Incineration Ash Byproducts as Organic Fertilizer in Fresh Market Tomato Production, Jane Corson-Lassiter, Eastern Shore Resource Conservation and Development Council, Accomac
Performance of a Novel Solar Greenhouse Prototype, Naraine Persaud, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg
Marketing Expansion Initiative Promoting Virginia Grown Christmas Trees, Jeff Miller, Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association, Christiansburg
Increasing the Competitiveness of Virginia Specialty Crop and Disadvantaged Farmers through a Statewide Situational Assessment of the VA Farm-to-School Program, Matt Benson, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg
Educational Opportunities for Farm Direct Marketers and Farmers’ Markets, Cathy Belcher, Farmers Direct Marketing Association, Richmond
Increasing the Competitiveness of Virginia Grown Strawberries , Gail Moody Milteer, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Franklin
Beautiful Gardens Plant Breeder Workshop, Alexander Niemiera, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg
Increasing GAP Certification Readiness among Organic and Conventional Growers and Nutrition Knowledge and Consumption of Specialty Crops among Children and Adults in Southwest Virginia, Kathlyn Terry, Appalachian Sustainable Development, Abingdon
Developing, Teaching and Promoting Sustainable and Organic Growing Practices at Maple Hill Educational Farm, Marisa Vrooman, Local Food Hub Inc., Scottsville
High Resolution Vineyard Site Suitability Mapping, Peter Sforza, Virginia Vineyards Association, Clifford
Organic Management of Pest Predation in Commercial Production of Summer Squash, Kevin Damian, Virginia Association for Biological Farmers, Louisa
Working Capital Grant to Develop a Broad Based Website for the Promotion of Virginia Apples, Diane Kearns, Virginia Apple Growers Association, Charlottesville
Connecting Southwest Virginia Farmers to Institutional Buyers through Local Food Processing and Preservation, Michal Burton, Sustain Floyd, Floyd
Expanding Markets for Virginia’s Specialty Crops, Butch Nottingham, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Onley
Improved Management of Harlequin Bug in Cole Crops, Thomas P. Kuhar, Virginia Tech, Painter
Stink Bug Populations, Injury and Control on Primocane-bearing Caneberries, Douglas G. Pfeiffer, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg
Production and Marketing of High Tunnel Grown Ginger Roots In Virginia, Reza Rafie, Virginia State University, Petersburg