PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Specialty Producers Association (SDSPA) is working to determine the economic and employment role of crops besides the standard ones like corn and soybeans.
Through its economic impact survey, the organization is looking for a clearer picture of South Dakota’s specialty crop market. Specialty crops can range from fruits and vegetables to trees, herbs, flowers and honey.
According to Laura Kahler, the SDSPA’s event and project coordinator, the need for this survey came out of a lack of solid information about specialty produce in the state.
“With the traditional corn and soybean type of crops, the USDA’s ag census provides a fairly clear snapshot of what’s happening in the industry,” Kahler said. “The ag census does gather data on specialty crops, but it isn’t set up as well for the specialty crop scale and production.”
Some of the questions from the survey are about the different kinds of crops specialty producers are growing, the amount they harvest, how many employees they have and how much revenue they bring in.
“One important aspect that we’re hoping to have a clearer idea of is what type of specialty crops are being grown and that impact on the South Dakota economy,” Kahler said.
While the survey focuses on the economic role of specialty crops, the SDSPA plans to use the information to improve its education and awareness of the practice.
“Specialty crops are often seen as just a hobby, but they are an important revenue for many farms, ranches and small growers, and in some cases, they’re the main income source,” Kahler said. “They also provide jobs for others in the community.”
The survey is being funded through a specialty crop block grant, which is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that is administered in South Dakota through the state’s Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. According to the USDA, the purpose of the grant program is to “enhance the competitiveness” of specialty crops.