President Obama Signs the Farm Bill at Michigan State University
Courtesy of MSU.

I was so excited to see that President Obama went to my Alma Mater – Michigan State University – to sign the Farm Bill.  He signed it in the Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center, which I remember well because I lost my parking spot for my building across the street -the Plant and Soil Science Building!  All my friends and colleagues were posting pictures on facebook as the hour approached and it was fantastic to know that we now have funding for things like the State Block Grant Program, Specialty Crops Research Initiative, a new fruit and vegetable incentive grant program for SNAP recipients, and the pest and disease prevention programs.

I will be certainly taking advantage of these grant programs as we head into the next year and hope to have significant funding for stone fruit extension efforts in breeding nationwide for Rosaceae crops and also here at home for fruit quality and peach flavor research.

Important Items for Horticulture Research –

–Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) will receive $275M over five years with budget protection beyond FY2018. (2008 Farm Bill provided for $230M over 5 years)

–For SCRI, the new farm bill provides an additional $125M authorization for five years solely for an “Emergency Citrus Disease Research & Extension Program”.  This additional funding will NOT be taken out of the original $275M allocated for other specialty crop research projects.

Agriculture & Food Research Initiative (AFRI) gets $316M for FY2014, a big $52M increase from two years ago.

The Organic Agriculture Research & Education Initiative (OREI) retains its funding level at $100M over five years…..$20M each year.

The Beginning Farmers / Ranchers Development Program also has $100M total over five years — $20M/yr. for FYs 14-18.

The National Clean Plant Network programIt retains an annual base funding level of $5M/yr., allowing for additional annual funds if permitted by the USDA Secretary.  Clean Plant Network’s budget is now merged with Plant Pest & Disease Management.


Formula / Extension Research:  Those crucial land-grant funding programs get a boost for FY14:

  • Hatch gets $244M….an $8M increase from 2012
  • Smith-Lever Extension gets $300M….a $6M increase from 2012
  • Evans-Allen (1890) schools get $52.4M…a $1.5M increase from 2012
  • Extension for 1890 schools get $44M…a $1.3M increase

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) gets almost $23M for FY14, an $8.2M increase with a combined research and extension budget.

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research:

A NIFA program providing tax incentives for private sector contributions to competitive research grants funded by USDA. Program funding total is $200M, which will cover the entire period of this new farm bill — FY14-18.

SCRI Dual Panel Review Arrangement / Matching Waivers:

The new farm bill ushers in a dual panel grant review process for SCRI.  This allows greater collaborative review procedures among research scientists, specialty crop industries, and other stakeholders.

In the 2014 Farm Bill: Sect. 7128 – Non-Federal Matching:

The Conference substitute adopts the House provision with an amendment. The amendment requires at least a 100 percent match from the recipient of competitive grants under certain covered laws but exempts grants awarded to a research agency of the USDA and entities, including their partners, that are eligible to receive capacity funds. The amendment authorizes the Secretary to waive the match requirement if the grant involves research or extension activities that the NAREEE Advisory Board has determined is a national priority specific to a statutory purpose of the program under which the grant is awarded. The match policy will apply to new grants awarded after October 1, 2014. (Section 7128).

What kind of research do you hope to see funded for your crops that you grow?


Bloom and Fungicide Sprays


As we head into full bloom and early fruit set for the growers down south, please don’t forget about application of your fungicide sprays to combat peach scab.  This, along with peach leaf rust, are our major diseases here in Florida.

UFSun fruit
Peach Scab on ‘UFSun’. Notice scab lesions around the stem area where sprays were difficult to get in.

Please check the latest version of the Southeastern Peach, Nectarine, and Plum spray guide for options.  Please also pay attention to the suggested spray material choices, such as Captan and sulfur.  Sulfur is a good choice for this time of year, because it is relatively inexpensive and does a great job to cover the young fruit and protect it.  The downside is that it has a shorter efficacy length, meaning that you will have to spray more often than if you used a synthetic chemical like Captan.  Additionally, as we head into the bloom period and leaves begin to push open on the tree, be sure to begin your fertilization and irrigation regimes.  We still can get some rain during this time of year, so take that into consideration when you set up or run your irrigation programs.  For help on irrigation requirements, you can check the FAWN site for information on the evapotranspiration (ET) for the day or week.  Although we do not have an irrigation scheduler for peaches at this point, there is a citrus irrigation scheduler that may be helpful.  However, some growers are cutting the recommended amount for irrigation to peaches by various percentages according to their soil type and tree response.

A group at UF have a project in conjunction with the SWFWMD to investigate peach irrigation and reduction of water applications after harvest.  We are working with growers to establish best management practices for irrigation management, knowing that the afternoon thunderstorms often rolling through in June, July, and August can stymy our plans.

As always, be sure to let your county extension agent or myself know of any questions you have!  We are here to help.  Good luck and enjoy the beautiful blossoms!