USDA Announces Availability of Funding for Projects to Address Specialty Crop Export Challenges

May 21, 2024

U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis M. Taylor today announced the availability of funding for the first five projects under the new Assisting Specialty Crop Exports (ASCE) initiative.  

The ASCE initiative is part of USDA’s commitment, under the Biden-Harris Administration, to create more, new and better markets at home and abroad for U.S. producers and agribusinesses. The innovative partnership between USDA and the specialty crops sector will focus on projects to address the non-tariff trade barriers that hinder U.S. exports of fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, horticultural crops and related products. 

“Today, USDA is committing more than $20 million to support U.S. specialty crop exporters in their efforts to overcome trade barriers and open overseas markets,” Under Secretary Taylor said. “We’re excited to be accepting proposals from partners interested in implementing projects that will target cross-cutting issues that were identified in our discussions with a diverse set of stakeholders. U.S. specialty crop exports totaled $25.8 billion last year, increasing the bottom line for our producers and driving economic development in their local communities and beyond. With the ASCE initiative, we look forward to expanding specialty crop exports and generating even greater benefits.”

The project opportunities for which USDA is accepting applications are: 

Sustainable Packaging Innovation Lab – to support research and implementation projects that advance U.S. specialty crop exports through innovative solutions to emerging overseas regulatory requirements for packaging and labeling;

Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) Regional Harmonization – to address existing and potential trade needs in Asia, Latin America, and Africa related to MRLs for U.S. specialty crops entering these regions, while supporting development of risk-based and trade-facilitative policies that are consistent with international standards such as Codex; 

Import MRL Guideline Implementation in Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economies – to support establishment of import MRLs in key U.S. export markets through the adoption and implementation of official APEC MRL guidelines that facilitate trade and are consistent with international standards such as Codex;

Data Generation for Codex and Harmonized MRL Setting – to reduce the number of missing and misaligned MRLs by supporting collaborative research and data generation capacity for the establishment of Codex MRLs; and

MRL Quick Reference Sheets for Specialty Crops – to develop a set of quick reference sheets for specialty crop exporters that include MRLs for the top foreign markets.

After touring the packaging materials lab at the University of Wisconsin-Stout today, Under Secretary Taylor said, “The work being accomplished by these students and researchers will help create innovative, sustainable packaging materials that will help specialty crop exporters meet the requirements of our trading partners and extend the shelf-life of their products to ensure cost-competitive, highly nutritious American products move safely  from our farm to consumers’ plates globally.”

For more information about the ASCE initiative and the current funding opportunity, visit:

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, and building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices. USDA is making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America.

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