Specialty crops are a major segment of the U.S. agriculture industry, with Michigan being the second most diverse, only to California. Over $100 billion of economic activity occurs annually from the sale of specialty crops across the United States. There are many support mechanisms for specialty crop growers through USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) program. This funds critical research/market enhancement activities. Last year all 50 states were awarded funding at some level, performing 735 projects that keep the specialty crop industry on the cutting edge.
In addition to supporting critical research through the SCBG program, the federal government is a major purchaser of specialty crops for use in school lunch programs through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). This program’s purpose is to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption by children in the nation’s poorest schools. The FFVP began as a pilot program in 2002 and has grown to over $150 million to date. Historically, this program has been geared to fresh only purchases, and some members believe it should be expanded to include frozen, canned, and dried, which would expand the variety and year round consumption.