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NDTO News Article

What is a Specialty Crop?

The term “specialty crop” can be confusing, conjuring up images of organic mushrooms and small plots of herbs. While these two items are included within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s definition of a specialty crop, so are other rather common crops, like potatoes. The USDA has devoted over $62 million this year to enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops. So what are they?

USDA goes by the Farm Bill’s definition of a specialty crop, which is “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture.)” Through its Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, the USDA is encouraging farmers to cultivate plants used by people for food, medicinal purposes, and/or aesthetic gratification. Examples include honey, sweet corn, ginseng, hops and flowering trees. Processed products that consist of specialty crops by more than 50% by weight, exclusive of added water, are also included. A complete list is available here.

This above definition leaves a certain amount of room for interpretation as it’s nearly impossible to list all plants grown for food, medicine and landscaping. In North Dakota, the most popular specialty crops are beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas. These crops are targeted in the North Dakota Trade Office’s Specialty Crop Program, a reimbursement program funded by the Specialty Crop Block Grant that assists specialty crop companies with international trade mission expenses. However, any specialty crop as defined by the Farm Bill falls under the NDTO’s program.

NDTO’s Specialty Crop Program will be helping to fund a trade mission to the Philippines in March 2017. All North Dakota companies are invited.

For more information on the NDTO’s Specialty Crop Program, or to join the Philippines Trade Mission, contact NDTO at