What Defines a “Speciality” Crop?

Recently I held a poll about what folks would like to see more of on this here blog. One of the winners was specialty crops. I found this interesting, as I didn’t clarify the crop as being animal or plant, but also because it’s one of the areas I know least about. Granted, having raised rabbits, I’ve been a “specialty producer” in the past. However, that led me to wonder, “What defines a specialty crop?”

Is it something we don’t encounter in everyday life? Is it something we do, and take for granted? Just out of curiosity, I Googled “speciality crops” and the first result was to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Their definition goes as follows:

The Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act of 2004 and the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 have defined specialty crops as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).” Eligible plants must be intensively cultivated and used by people for food, medicinal purposes, and/or aesthetic gratification to be considered specialty crops. Processed products shall constitute greater than 50% of the specialty crop by weight, exclusive of added water.
detailed definition of specialty crops was also developed for the purposes of this program and other U.S. Department of Agriculture programs.
The tables below list plants commonly considered fruits and tree nutsvegetablesculinary herbs and spicesmedicinal plants, as well as nursery, floriculture, and horticulture crops. There is also a separate list of ineligible commodities. These lists are not intended to be all inclusive, but rather to provide examples of the most common specialty crops. This web page will be updated as U.S. Department of Agriculture receives new questions about the eligibility of various crops.
So, that’s the USDA’s definition of specialty crops. To see the page where that was obtained click here. Further digging in Google unearthed several speciality crop programs in agricultural schools and universities. Towards the top of the Google search were North Carolina and Colorado.
When I think of specialty crops, there are two things I think of. Don’t ask me why I think of these things, I just do. They are herbs, and almonds. As I prepare for my trip to California this summer, I also understand that I’ll be in the heart of almond country. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to learn first-hand about the almond growing industry. Until then, I think I have some learning to do to bring myself, and you, the readers, more information on the things you want to hear about.
So, with that definition in mind, I’ll be moving forward. I hope I can shed some light on the world of “specialty crops” and bring insightful information and opinions to the table.

3 thoughts on “What Defines a “Speciality” Crop?

  1. Hey Kelly,

    When I think of specialty crops, I think California. Here’s a link for the program I’m apart of as I continue on my PhD in agronomy.


    The program is apart of the “Specialty Crops Research Initiative” and we’re developing advanced sensing and management techniques for tree nut crops like almond, walnut, pistachio and pecan.

    Thanks for shedding light on speciality crops!


  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention What Defines a “Speciality” Crop? « kellymrivard.com -- Topsy.com

  3. Pingback: 5 Specialty Crops I Could Not Live Without « kellymrivard.com

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