Wisconsin receives funding boost for specialty crops, corn

Wisconsin will receive over $1 million in grants to diversify its agriculture through specialty crops such as nuts and ginseng. The grants will go toward research designed to make distribution of these crops more efficient, enhance food safety, look at invasive species and promote sustainable production. Some of the money, however, will also go toward corn – the most widely grown crop in the United States and one of the largest crops produced in Wisconsin.

The grant money is coming from the U.S. Department of Agriculture specialty crop block grant program. The program supports the growth and marketing of specialty crops in the US in order to keep US agriculture more competitive. The grant funding is broken out in small awards targeted to specific research projects. One of the more notable awards provides $36,500 to Midwest Food Processors to conduct field studies to evaluate nitrate leaching in sweet corn production – a surprising inclusion considering the virtual ubiquity of corn crops across the nation and Wisconsin.

Wisconsin is also home to a variety of specialty crops including ginseng, mint, hazelnuts and cranberries. Wisconsin cranberry growers produce half the world’s cranberry supply and the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association works on research to enhance the sustainability of this popular specialty crop. Agriculture accounts for $59 billion in Wisconsin annually and is responsible for more than 1 in 10 jobs in the state.

“Agriculture is Wisconsin’s past and our future,” Governor Doyle said. “One of Wisconsin’s greatest agricultural strengths is its diversity, and these grants will take advantage of our tremendous capacity for research and innovation to keep farmers on the competitive edge as they compete worldwide.”