Ithaca, N.Y. – U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $2,019,142 in federal funding for Cornell University. The funding was allocated through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) to advance and support research and programs that help support specialty crop growers to ensure long-term viability, high yield, and labor efficient production of locally grown fruits and vegetables. Cornell University is scheduled to receive the first installment in September.
Cornell University will invest in research to develop broccoli production as a self-sustaining crop on the East Coast. The university will work to develop a large grower base of broccoli, create seed of new cultivars commercially and enhance distribution channels for regional fresh produce.
Previous SCRI funding allowed Cornell University to clearly define distribution bottlenecks and make progress in breeding broccoli for adaptation to the eastern climate. Developing a year-round eastern supply is paramount for maintaining market access. The potential production capacity for broccoli resides on farms that could produce tens of acres per year, but for commercial production producers need a base of hundreds of acres and lower risk of supply gaps than individual growers can provide.
“New York produces a wide range of specialty crops, from maple syrup, to fruits and vegetables. All of these New York specialty crops rank highly nationwide in terms of both production and economic value – which is why it’s exciting that Cornell University will use this critical funding to help develop and support the burgeoning East Coast broccoli industry. This federal investment will help bolster this new and growing crop market by supporting research and development as well as programs that aim to increase demand and enhance distribution methods to help farmers,” said Senator Schumer. “Ensuring that agriculture is able to grow, and that the unique needs of New York agriculture are considered in federal programs, has always been a top priority of mine. That is why I have always fought to secure funding for these kinds of valuable programs and it is one of the major reasons why I proudly voted to pass this year’s 2014 Farm Bill, which contained a number of provisions beneficial to Upstate farmers, particularly those farmers of specialty crops.”
“This federal funding will support the cutting edge, agricultural research at Cornell University,” said Senator Gillibrand, the first New York Senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years. “The Eastern Broccoli Project would help develop a larger grower base and enhance opportunities for regional fresh produce year-round. Through this investment, Cornell would be able to break barriers in the broccoli industry and create a new, viable eastern market food-hub center.”
“The Specialty Crop Research Initiative allows horticultural researchers to tackle large-scale challenges through the application of basic science and collaboration with multiple sectors of industry, providing them the means to make a positive difference in society from field to fork,” said Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University. “The Eastern Broccoli Project, which promotes individual wellness and regional economic vitality, would not be possible without the unflagging support of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand.”
This project would help triple eastern production, to a farm gate value of $100 million per year, by making eastern broccoli more profitable for seed companies, growers and distributors. The expansion would also reduce the overall cost and carbon footprint of broccoli consumed in the East, because of shipping across shorter distances meaning less transportation fuel, less irrigation water, and improved rotations on vegetable farms. National food security would also improve by diversifying the production area to reduce risk from regional events natural disasters and extreme weather conditions.
The USDA NIFA SCRI program aims to strengthen local food systems and support farmers growing fruits, vegetables, and nursery crops through research, agricultural extension activities, and initiatives to increase demand and address the needs of America’s specialty crop industry.