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USDA awards California agriculture $17 million
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California specialty crop farmers were given a financial boost after the United States Department of Agriculture announced on Friday that the state was awarded $17.3 million in federal specialty crop grant funds.

“The block grant is an excellent program to support California’s vital specialty crop industry,” said California Department of Food and Agriculture 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.”

Out of the top five states, California received the most money with Florida falling in second with $4.7 million, Washington in third with $3.7 million and Texas and Oregon tied with $1.7 million, according to a CDFA press release. California is the nation’s largest producer of specialty crops — including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, nursery crops and floriculture — making up 40 percent of the United States’ total specialty crop production.

Some projects that California has in mind for the grant money are: field testing for carbon offset and greenhouse gas emissions for wine grape growers to drive climate protection and innovation and the management of Asian Citrus Psyllid in organic citrus; conducting a global analysis and prioritization of leading and emerging export market opportunities for specialty commodities; and developing marketing best practices for California kiwifruit.

Other projects are a Woodland community garden and the development and validated practical strategies to improve microbial safety in composting process control and handling practices.

These projects will help California specialty crop producers deal with current major challenges such as drought, climate change, pests, food safety and domestic and international market development, according to a CDFA press release.

With these funds, California will also focus on food safety related projects within the specialty crop sector. CDFA partnered with the Center for Produce Safety to evaluate and create recommendations for the safety projects. There are nine food safety projects created to help prevent past events and minimize future outbreaks with proactive approaches. The total nine projects will cost $1.4 million.

Funds will also be awarded to support a program to assist Sacramento Valley beginning farmers with training and experience in the classroom and on the ground.

The total amount invested in California’s specialty crops is more than $23 million with California voluntarily matching grant funds at $5.9 million. Many grant applicants provided matching funds toward their projects, but it was not required.

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.