Oct 8, 2020
Idaho ag department awards several grants to aid potato production

Interest in the Idaho State Department of Agriculture’s annual specialty crop program was up considerably this year compared with last year.

ISDA has announced it will award a total of $1.8 million this year to 17 different projects that aim to benefit specialty crop growers in Idaho.

The money will be used to promote, market and conduct research for the state’s potato, dry bean, wine grape, onion, cherry, apple, hops and nursery industries.

ISDA awards money each year through its specialty crop block grant program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The program is designed to solely benefit specialty crops, which include vegetables, fruits, tree nuts, dried fruits, nursery and horticulture crops.

ISDA received a total of 29 applications for its specialty crop block grant program this year, more than double the 15 applications it received last year. Combined, this year’s applications sought a total of $3.7 million, much more than the $2 million in total funding sought last year.

ISDA funded 13 total projects last year.

Since the program was created in 2009, ISDA has awarded a total of $14.7 million to 150 projects designed to benefit specialty crop farmers in Idaho.

Potato impacts

ISDA’s Idaho Preferred program will receive a $164,000 grant to market Idaho specialty crops through the use of advertising, social media, public relations and retail promotions.

The University of Idaho will receive a $139,000 grant to develop sophisticated disease surveillance methods to safeguard potato soil health in Idaho. Potatoes are the No. 1 crop in Idaho in terms of total farm-gate receipts and Idaho is the nation’s top potato-producing state.

According to the application for that grant, pathogens harmful to potatoes are a constant threat to spuds and the management of soil-borne diseases can account for more than 10% of potato farmers’ production costs.

The Idaho Potato Commission was awarded a $130,000 grant to help establish retail sampling programs in the United Kingdom. The programs are designed to increase dehydrated potato exports to the UK.

According to the application for that grant, “Sampling and other marketing programs and activities will be developed to increase consumer awareness of the dehydrated products coming from Idaho … The dehydrated product coming out of Idaho is very different from the local dehydrated flakes produced in the UK It is the IPC’s belief that through sampling events, we can change consumers’ perception of dehydrated mashed potatoes and increase consumption of Idaho products.”

Idaho State University was awarded a $98,000 grant to conduct field trials for an automated early season potato virus Y (PVY) detection system. ISU researchers will use unmanned aircraft systems equipped with a specialized sensor to detect and map individual PVY infected plants. The ultimate goal is to develop a low-cost solution for growers to rapidly detect and mitigate for PVY.

The Snake River Seed Cooperative was awarded a $10,000 grant to help fund a project designed to increase the economic return of specialty crop seed production by acquiring upgraded tools for seed cleaning and germination testing. The SRSC is a group of 34 farmers that produce local seeds that are put in garden packets and sold at retail nurseries around the state. Most of the seeds are sold to backyard gardeners while some are purchased by small-scale farmers.

That project, according to the grant application, seeks to enable those producers “to continue to meet the growing demand for sustainably grown and regionally adapted seed.”

— Idaho Farm Bureau Federation. More information on the grants awarded can be found here

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