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$16.3 million to go to California specialty crops

$16.3 million to go to California specialty crops

The $16.3 million will go to fund California projects ranging from development of almond, stone fruit, and walnut rootstocks with improved resistance to soilborne pathogens to increasing the water-...


POSTED October 20, 2009 11:44 p.m.
California has long led the nation when it comes to specialty crop agriculture. Now the state is first on the United States Department of Agriculture’s list to receive Specialty Crop Block Grant funding.
The USDA announced on Oct. 15 that the California Department of Food and Agriculture had been awarded $16.3 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants, the lion’s share of the $49 million total doled out in the grant program. Florida ranked second in funding, taking home $4.07 million.
Project-specific organizations will provide an additional $8.4 million in Specialty Crop Block Grant matching funds, totaling a $24.7 million investment in California’s specialty crops.
“California grows, exports and consumes more specialty crops than any other state in the nation,” said California Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura. “Farmers are the original innovators, and these grant projects represent the kind of creativity and advancement that will help California agriculture remain the nation’s primary source of specialty crops.”
The USDA defines specialty crops as “fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).” California grows more than 350 different specialty crops and accounts for more than 40 percent of the United States’ total specialty crop production, according to the CDFA.
The block grant program is intended to increase the competitiveness of such crops through funding programs focused on ag education and outreach, trade, market enhancement, nutrition, plant health and pest challenges, food safety, environmental concerns, and food security. The 55 California projects selected for funding were chosen through a competitive review process.
In particular, the $16.3 million will go to fund California projects ranging from development of almond, stone fruit, and walnut rootstocks with improved resistance to soilborne pathogens to increasing the water-use efficiency for growing specialty crops in a drought environment. Conservation tillage, best management practices for beekeeping, and several UC Davis and UC Merced research programs are also funded.
“The specialty crop funding is very important to California,” said California Farm Bureau Federation President Doug Mosebar. “It provides multiple benefits in the form of research funding, nutrition, advancing trade opportunities, and creating incentives for conservation practices. It’s singly important because it helps farmers and ranchers to help themselves. For over 50 years, California has led the nation in food production. The specialty crop programs will help us advance programs to maintain that leadership position for years to come.”  
According to Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D – Merced), who chairs the Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture and lobbied for the funds, hard work in Washington had secured the Specialty Crop Block Grant funds despite these tight fiscal times. Specialty crops have not received as much funding in the past, Cardoza said.
“We worked very hard to make this funding available,” said Cardoza said. “For far too long, California’s crops have not received their due recognition. This is a great day for California agriculture. I could not be more pleased to see the many long hours we spent working on this legislation in Washington producing direct tangible results for California farmers.”
Detailed information on all 55 California projects is available online at http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/Specialty_Crop_Competitiveness_Grants/docs/SCBGP_Project.pdf
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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