Skip to content


USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) Provides Millions In Fed Funding To Institutions, Like Cornell University, To Study Ways To Improve Capital Region Crops 

A Matching Requirement For SCRI Threatened Millions For NYS; In Greene County, Schumer Discusses Successful Push To Fix Program In Budget Extension

Schumer: Vital Fix To SCRI Gives Greene County Apple Industry The Nutrients To Keep Growing

Standing at the Boehm Farm and Orchard in Greene County, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today touted his recently-secured fix to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) as part of the federal budget extension. Schumer detailed how a matching requirement for SCRI limited access to millions of dollars in grant funding for researchers, including the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who had to provide an equal amount of matching funds to their own projects, which is often not possible for researchers working with constrained budgets. This would’ve reduced access to funding to study specialty crops like apples and how to increase crop yields, boost resiliency and adjust to other 21st century challenges. Schumer explained that this would have been a major detriment to Upstate New York apple producers, like Boehm Farm and Orchard, which are a major component of New York State’s vibrant agricultural economy. To address this issue that threatened Upstate New York’s access to this critical funding, Schumer successfully fought for a provision in the budget extension to eliminate this matching requirement, to ensure that the state’s specialty crop industry continues to have the support it needs to thrive and boost New York’s agricultural economy.

“New York State is the second-largest apple producer in the country, with apple farming having an estimated economic impact of $574 million to the state, and much of it is thanks to family farms like Boehm Farm. Even though we produce the highest quality product around, for the industry to continue being grown and cultivated, it depends on critical USDA research funding being sent to first-rate organizations like Cornell,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why, in the recently-passed budget extension, I fought relentlessly to pass a provision to eliminate a matching requirement for the vital Specialty Crop Research Initiative that threatened access to millions of dollars in funding for research on topics like how to increase crop resilience to disease, how to boost yield and so much more. The apple farming industry is at the very core of Greene County’s economy, I’ll continue working to see that no one takes a bite out of the resources it needs to thrive.”

Schumer pointed to a 2016 grant from the SCRI as a means of showing its value and importance to apple production in New York State. Cornell University received $4,218,618 through the program to advance research in the commercial apple industry. This funding allowed Cornell to invest in new candidate rootstock and work to identify new genetic markers to select improved plant traits. These rootstocks can reduce the need for crop fumigation, improve disease resistance, reduce fruit disorders, and make orchards both more economically and environmentally sustainable. Considering that 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, this research provided to them through Cornell can make a major difference to their bottom lines. Schumer explained that without the SCRI, Cornell would have struggled, financially, to execute such valuable research for apple farmers and other specialty crop producers.

New York is the second-largest apple producer nationwide, harvesting a total of 29.5 million bushels annually from over 650 farms and roughly 55,000 acres across the state. According to the New York Apple Association, there are 600 commercial apple growers, with the industry providing 10,000 direct jobs to New Yorkers, and another 7,500 indirect jobs. According to a March, 2019 study from Cornell University, “Improving economic contribution analyses of local agricultural systems: Lessons from a study of the New York apple industry”, New York apple farming has an economic impact worth $574 million to the state. Schumer explained that with so much of the New York agricultural economy depending on apple farming, particularly in areas like Greene County, the need to continue funding research related to the specialty crops is essential.

The USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) was created in order to improve the quality and efficiency of farms through innovative research. Eligible projects must address research subjects like plant genetics to improve crop characteristics, invasive species, new technology, food safety hazards in production and more. Over the past 5 years, roughly $30 million in SCRI grant funding has been awarded to Cornell University for specialty crop-oriented projects.

Boehm Farm is a family farm in Greene County that has been growing apples since 1903, for well over 100 years. The farm grows 19 different types of apples, including Cameo, Cortland, Empire, Fiji, Gala, Ginger Gold, Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp, Ida Red, Jona Gold, Jona Mac, Late Gala, Mac, Macoun, Nutsy, Red Delicious, Snow Sweet, Spy and Zestar apples.

The farm also grows the specialty crops of peaches, pumpkins, cherries and plums, all of which will also benefit from SCRI funding.