Washington Awarded $4.3 Million to Nurture Specialty Crop Growth


A grant to enhance and standardize the quality of Pacific Northwest ciders is one of 21 projects recently awarded funds by the federal government in an effort to boost specialty crop production in Washington.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that a total $4.3 million has been awarded to those projects in Washington as part of USDA Speciality Crop Block Grants. According to the press release, individual grants ranged between $55,000 and $300,000 and were allotted to agricultural commodity commissions, agricultural associations, nonprofit organizations, Washington State University and the WSDA. 

Crops that received support this year include pears, apples, berries, nursery, lentils, potatoes, as well as projects to enhance food safety. Washington ranks second in the nation behind California in the production of specialty crops, which include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, nursery crops and floriculture.

The Northwest Cider Association was awarded $120,585 for an educational mission to improve the quality of Northwest ciders. The association will educate members about science-based tools for fermenting and growing that are regularly used in other countries. Members will also travel internationally in order to observe apple and pear cider production sites in areas noted for “impeccable” quality ciders and then teach the techniques that they have learned to other producers in Washington upon their return. The goal is to grow Washington’s apple and pear industries through increased and improved fermentation techniques. 

]The Northwest Cider Association was started six years ago with seven members. Today it boasts 75 members who are producers of cider or perry. The press release noted that Washington’s unique cider flavor profiles are a result of sourcing local specialty crops like apples, pears, hops, stone fruits, cane berries and cranberries. 

The USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program was formed in order to support the competitiveness of specialty crops through the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service. Over the past nine years the WSDA has received more than $27 million through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.