USAD Secretary Mike Johanns awarded more than $1.3 million in 26 matching grants to 21 states. The funds will support agricultural market research and demonstration projects.

The grants, provided under the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program, explore new and innovative approaches to marketing U.S. food and agricultural products and help improve the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.

"These 26 projects reflect the new realities of today's increasingly competitive global marketplace," says Johanns. "They are focused on developing innovative, efficient and market-oriented ways to benefit our agricultural sector and support our nation's growing economy in the 21st century."

The projects focus on developing agricultural marketing strategies for an array of areas. Here's a look at USDA's grant awards:

  • Alabama — $14,995 to to identify opportunities for Deep South wildflower seed growers to supply native eco-type seed to state transportation departments for use in landscape projects along roads and highways.
  • Alaska — $59,845 to explore niche regional, national and international markets for Alaska peonies and other cut flowers and develop a marketing strategy.
  • Arizona — $49,275 to conduct a national survey to identify attributes of an effective, private-sector funded state branding program.
  • Arkansas — $30,000 to introduce the new Arkansas Certified Baitfish program to national fish and wildlife administrators, national baitfish distributors, live-baitfish retailers and fishing programs.
  • Colorado — $58,000 to develop an effective prototype marketing and promotion campaign for bison meat that can be replicated in other favorable markets.
  • Florida — $72,000 to survey consumers age 55 and older to identify their attitudes about and preferences for seafood and aquaculture products, and to develop a marketing campaign based on the findings.
  • Hawaii — $50,000 to conduct a pilot project for a statewide food traceability system.
  • Idaho — $54,500 to field test U.S.-grown dry bean seed varieties in Mexico, and to conduct educational seminars for Mexican growers and cooperatives to review the results and explain how to import the seed.
  • Kentucky — $33,375 to improve the accuracy and usefulness of U.S. market goat grades to provide graders and buyers with a more accurate tool to evaluate live goats and give producers an economic incentive to improve the quality of their goats.
  • Maryland — $50,000 to facilitate increased use of locally produced foods in Maryland hospitals.
  • Massachusetts — $33,825 to determine the regional demand for HACCP-certified bagged salad greens and to assess the capability of local growers to supply this market.
  • Massachusetts — $61,600 to develop a marketing strategy that will enable nursery operators to address shifts in demand due to changing consumer preferences, and environmental regulations regarding water use and invasive plants.
  • Michigan — $47,410 to support the growth of the region's urban wood industry that supplies locally produced "green" building materials from waste wood such as those from trees damaged by the emerald ash borer.
  • Mississippi — $55,875 to conduct consumer and chef focus groups in three target cities to gather data on their acceptance and willingness to pay for U.S. farm-raised freshwater prawn that will serve in developing future marketing efforts.
  • New Jersey — $85,000 to prepare produce growers to meet emerging food-safety trends and access commercial markets through training on the state's food-safety certification program.
  • New Mexico — $58,550 to develop a comprehensive regional marketing program for red chilies.
  • New Mexico — $46,545 to assess the national market for New Mexico-grown natural dye plants and natural dye plant products.
  • North Carolina — $61,400 to determine key factors that influence current and anticipated consumer purchases of nursery products and landscape services to help the state's nursery sector update its marketing strategies and better plan future product and service offerings.
  • Ohio — $49,225 to to explore opportunities for sales of locally grown and processed products in school vending machines, and to conduct a pilot project in a university setting.
  • Ohio — $56,715 to evaluate the current marketing strategies and practices of Ohio food producers, and to determine if and how a web-based marketing system can improve the effectiveness of their marketing efforts.
  • Oklahoma — $56,365 to develop food distribution models for small, medium and large producers, and to create safe handling guidelines to foster use of locally grown and produced food products in school systems throughout the state.
  • Oregon — $43,000 to explore opportunities for Oregon producers to supply ingredients or produce processed products for sale to public schools and to conduct a pilot project involving several products tailored to meet the needs and requirements of participating schools.
  • Washington — $55,000 to use health-based research in support of a program to expand use of red raspberries in the production of new and existing processed products.
  • Washington — $65,000 to conduct national surveys of consumers and health professionals to gain insight into their knowledge, preferences and demand for cranberries and cranberry products, and to use the results to improve the industry's marketing strategies and educational programs.
  • Washington — $63,500 to educate food product research and development professionals about the technical aspects and uses of various forms of dry peas, lentils and chickpeas to enhance the nutritional value of existing products and create new products using these ingredients.
  • Wyoming — $23,000 to foster development of the specialty food sector in Wyoming and to train producers and processors on food-safety principles.

Source: USDA