Ithaca, N.Y. – U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $4,281,618 in new 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.
Apple producers face annual costs of nearly $300 million to replant orchards to improve tree health in the face of persistent disease threats and changing soil conditions. Cornell University will use the federal funding to advance research in the commercial apple industry, investing in new candidate rootstock and identifying new genetic makers to select improved plant traits. Developing and adopting new rootstocks can reduce the need for fumigation, improve disease resistance, reduce fruit disorders, and make orchards more economically and environmentally sustainable.
“New York is the second largest apple producer in the country, and this specialty crop ranks highly nationwide in terms of both production and economic value. So I am proud to announce that this federal USDA funding will help bolster the NY apply industry by supporting Cornell University’s research and development into ways to reduce fruit disease threats and maintain orchard health in the face of changing soil conditions,” said Senator Schumer. “Ensuring that agriculture is able to flourish 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. It is also 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. “This critical investment will improve the health of our apple orchards and the viability or our farms. The results of Cornell’s research will benefit the whole production chain in the apple industry from nurseries to producers and packers and support this important sector of the New York agricultural economy.”
“Great apples start from the ground up and I applaud Senators Gillibrand and Schumer for recognizing the importance of rootstock and for their support of this crucial program,” said Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University. “This project will not only provide Americans with sustainably produced, healthy, high-quality fruit, but will also ensure that U.S. farmers remain competitive in international markets.”
Cornell University will be working with an advisory panel to focus on research efforts in Washington and Michigan, two of the top three apple-producing states. The university will also work in coordination with the Nursery Improvement Institute, the International Fruit Tree Association Conference, and NC-140 multi-state project team to share results focusing on increasing apple grower viability.
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.