The American Olive Oil Producers Association (AOOPA) announced that it is the recipient of a $50,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, one of 19 federal grants totalling $36.5 million that will go to growers of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and floriculture for research to support the country’s specialty crop farmers.
The funding is part of the Farm Bill, adopted in 2014 by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI).
The SCRI was devised to develop and disseminate science-based tools that address the unique issues faced by farmers who grow lesser-known crops. According to a statement released by the agency, the grants are designed to ensure crop diversity and food safety in farms of all sizes, whether conventional or organic.
“America’s specialty crop farmers face many challenges ranging from a changing climate to increasing production costs,” noted Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
“Investing in cutting edge research helps uncover solutions to keep operations viable. The universities, state departments of agriculture and trade associations that partner with USDA address challenges at the national and local levels to help sustain all parts of America’s food and agriculture system.”
From the study of plant genetics and the improvement of crop characteristics to identifying pests and diseases and improving production and profitability, the grants seek to help farmers through innovation and technology.
A statement by AOOPA said the grant will allow it to “bring together key industry stakeholders and leading olive oil researchers from across the country to identify and prioritize the research needs of the American olive oil industry; determine the most effective ways to gather and share current research with the specialty crop sector, state associations, extension professionals, and growers; and develop a plan for ongoing cooperative efforts and future SCRI grants.”
Olive experts from the University of California, Davis, Texas A&M University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Florida are expected to participate in the project.