U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today the allocation of $5 million to support 19 projects under the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN) funded under the Agriculture Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill). NCPN-funded facilities provide high-quality propagative plant material that is free of plant pathogens and pests that can otherwise cause economic losses to the American specialty crop industry, which includes fruits and vegetables and other crops.
'Invasive pests can endanger our nation's crops and food security. They cause billions of dollars in damage each year,' said Vilsack. 'The funds USDA is making available today will help partners and stakeholders prevent the introduction or spread of plant pests and diseases that threaten America's agriculture economy.'
The Farm Bill funds provided to the NCPN help maintain the infrastructure necessary for growing disease and pest-free plants, improving diagnostic capabilities and providing therapeutic treatments in specialty crop plants, and establishing foundation stock . The goal is to make sure that disease-free, certified planting materials are available and ensure the global competitiveness of U.S. specialty crop producers. This year, 22 proposals requesting $7.8 million were submitted to NCPN to support developing and propagating pest-free fruit trees, grapes, hops, berries, citrus, roses and sweet potatoes.
The NCPN Governing Board, which is comprised of representatives from USDA APHIS along with representatives from USDA's Agricultural Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and members of the National Plant Board, recommended the projects to be funded and the level of funding. The first priority for funding was given to projects that support existing facilities with established capabilities for maintaining and providing nuclear/foundation stock, and for conducting diagnostics and different therapeutic treatments. These facilities develop clean or disease-free plant material to the nursery industry, enabling growers to establish healthy orchards/vineyards/field plantings.
The NCPN's Governing Board recommended funding 19 of the 22 NCPN proposals in 14 states. NCPN facilities receiving funding this year include $1.58 million for grapes, $1.28 million for citrus, $1 million for fruit and nut trees, $455,000 for berries, and $203,000, for hops. Additionally, APHIS is providing funding for exploratory planning to consider adding roses ($28,750) and sweet potatoes ($19,000) to the Network. Funds will support facilities in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington.
The NCPN's supported clean plant centers are recognized leaders for enabling the introduction of high quality, regionally adapted, propagative plant materials that are free of targeted plant pathogens and pests. This supports opportunities for international trade, while protecting American nurseries and growers. Through the NCPN, industry, research, extension and regulatory communities collaborate to ensure an abundant supply of healthy specialty crop propagative materials. The economic, environmental and social sustainability of specialty crop industries and the improved economies of the communities that depend on these industries are the ultimate beneficiaries of the NCPN.
Today's announcement was made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.