California leads the nation in funding in a specialty crop block grant program announced today by the USDA. A total of $55 million was awarded nationwide, with California receiving nearly $17.3 million.
Projects were funded in eight categories – Plant Health and Pest Challenges; Environmental Concerns and Conservation; Food Safety; Agriculture Education and Outreach; International Trade; Market Enhancement and Promotion; Food Security; and Healthy Eating. Projects were selected through a competitive review process.
"The block grant funding is an excellent program to support California's vital specialty crop industry," says CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura. "This money will be put to good use by many deserving recipients – all looking for ways to enrich the role agriculture plays in our lives."
Projects include field testing a carbon offset and greenhouse gas emissions model for California wine grape growers to drive climate protection and innovation, and the management of Asian Citrus Psyllid in organic citrus. In the area of International Trade, a project was funded to conduct a global analysis and prioritization of leading and emerging export market opportunities for specialty commodities. In the area of Market Enhancement, a project will develop market-based best practices for California kiwifruit. Other projects include a Woodland community garden, and developing and validating practical strategies to improve microbial safety in composting process control and handling practices. Funds were also awarded to support a program to assist Sacramento Valley beginning farmers with training and experience both in the classroom and on the ground.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture partnered with the Center for Produce Safety (CPS) in the evaluation and recommendation of food safety-related projects. Recent events highlight the importance of food safety to the specialty crop sector. These projects represent an effort to handle past events and minimize future outbreaks by proactive research. Nine food safety projects were funded for a total of $1.4 million.
The federal block grant program was designed to provide grants to states solely to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. Specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops, including floriculture.
The total amount of funding available nationally was $55 million. California's $17. 28 million leads all states, with Florida ($4.7 million), Washington ($3.7 million), Texas ($1.7 million) and Oregon ($1.7 million) rounding out the top five states. California is the nation's largest producer of specialty crops, accounting for 40% percent of United States specialty crop production. Arizona received more than $1.1 million.
Many grant applicants provided matching funds towards their projects, although it was not a required. The total amount of matching funds in California's projects is $5.9 million. As a result of this leverage, the total amount being invested in California's specialty crops is more than $23 million.
Abstracts of California's 63 grant projects are at www.cdfa.ca.gov/exec/pdfs/grantrecipients2010.pdf