AmericanHort wasted no time in praising Thursday’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that it was allocating $58 million from the 2014 farm bill to fight plant pests and diseases. The money will go to a variety of projects across the country.
“For many years, the farm bill has been about row crops and livestock, but a decade ago, Congress began to acknowledge the importance of specialty crops and horticulture in America,” said Craig Regelbrugge, AmericanHort senior vice president for advocacy and research. “Specialty crops represent half the value of all U.S. crop production, and our industry represents one-third of the total value of specialty crops.
“This program represents a wise investment in solutions to enable future success,” Regelbrugge said.
The farm bill actually called for $62.5 million to be allocated for these programs in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, but the funding was reduced by sequestration.
All told, 434 projects will be funded in 50 states and several U.S. territories. In a news release on the budget allocation, AmericanHort and its research affiliate, the Horticultural Research Institute, pointed to these highlights:
- The Horticultural Research Institute will receive $149,500 to support the continued development of the Systems Approach to Nursery Certification (SANC) project, in partnership with the National Plant Board and USDA. Eight nursery and greenhouse operations across the country are currently piloting this new approach to plant production and certification.
- Continued funding for the National Ornamentals Research Site at Dominican University of California (NORS-DUC), $509,283, as well as several specific research projects that will deliver needed tools and information to deal with threats such as Phytophthora ramorum and other challenges confronting the nursery sector.
- Numerous projects around the country in support of clean stock and harmonized certification programs for pome and stone fruit, citrus, grapes, berries, and roses; supporting the safe importation of new varieties; and orderly trade in planting stock for these high value crops.
- Several coordinated projects to address ongoing regulatory and production challenges associated with boxwood blight and downy mildew.
- Granular insecticide treatment efficacy work for Japanese beetle and imported fire ant in compost-amended substrates.
- Best management practices for control of bacterial gall, an emerging threat to Loropetalum, $39,600.
AmericanHort’s Regelbrugge said USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is “a strategic partner in protecting our industry and facilitating trade, and (Thursday’s) announcement is chock full of good news for our industry.”
Regelbrugge concluded. “We appreciate all the hard work on the part of USDA and the APHIS Farm Bill management team toward ensuring these funds are invested wisely on behalf of American agriculture and horticulture.”
AmericanHort was formed in 2014 by the consolidation of the American Nursery & Landscape Association and OFA-The Association of Horticulture Professionals. The organization says the horticulture industry’s production, wholesale, retail and landscape service components have annual sales of $163 billion and sustain over 1.15 million full- and part-time jobs.