USDA Launches Initiative to Enhance Competitiveness of the U.S. Specialty Crops Industry

WASHINGTON–Agriculture Deputy Secretary Torres Small today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is initiating a new effort to further support the U.S. specialty crops sector and increase the competitiveness of its products as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to build new, more and better markets that catalyze opportunity for American farmers.

“We all count on America’s specialty crops for reliable access to nutritious, fresh foods,” said USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small. “Specialty crop producers are hard at work to keep operations profitable while implementing sustainable practices, and President Biden is proud to invest in innovation within the industry to remain competitive domestically and in markets across the world.”

As part of this new effort, USDA conducted a departmentwide review of its current services and programs that support the specialty crops industry and compiled the information into a Specialty Crops Resource Directory (PDF, 1.6 MB). The directory, being launched today, is a one-stop shop for the sector and contains a comprehensive snapshot of USDA’s resources and services for specialty crops producers and businesses in one convenient location.

Additionally, over the next several months, USDA leadership will engage directly with the specialty crop industry and producers to gain feedback on how the Department can better address gaps in services and better meet the industry’s needs. Dates and locations of roundtables and other live opportunities for stakeholder feedback are to be announced.

USDA also encourages U.S. specialty crops stakeholders to submit comments on how USDA can better support and meet the needs of the industry. To submit a comment, visit the Request for Information posted in the Federal Register. Comments are due by March 8, 2024. A new specialty crops-dedicated webpage designed to provide information on the initiative is available at

Deputy Secretary Torres Small is making this announcement as officials from the Administration are traveling the country as part of the Investing in Rural America Event Series to highlight how the Biden-Harris Administration’s investments are bringing new revenue to farms, increased economic development in rural towns and communities, and more opportunity throughout the country. Increasing competition is a key pillar of Bidenomics and President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.

Specialty Crop Research Initiative

In addition, USDA today announced that it is investing $70.2 million in the Specialty Crop Research Initiative to support 21 research and Extension projects that address key challenges of national, regional and multistate importance in sustaining all components of food and agriculture, including conventional and organic food production systems.

The grant program, administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), prioritizes projects that improve crop characteristics; manages threats from pests and diseases; improves production efficiency, profitability and technological innovation; and mitigates food safety hazards.

Examples of the 21 projects include:

Michigan State University will increase competitiveness and sustainability of the U.S. blueberry industry by developing methods to improve fruit quality and reduce crop loss.

Pennsylvania State University will focus on new pest and disease management strategies for mushroom farms, specifically by transitioning the management of mushroom pathogens and flies beyond short-term reliance on pesticides.

University of Georgia will undertake a coordinated, multistate effort to improve the understanding of the recent anthracnose outbreaks by determining pathogen biology, population structure, host specificity and fungicide resistance profiles of the pathogen causing severe anthracnose outbreaks in cucurbit crops.

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