WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced) said the California Department of Food and Agriculture was awarded $18.7 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
The funding will support 73 separate projects in California to help growers of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, wine grapes, and horticulture, in addition to funding for disease prevention and agriculture education training.
As chairman of the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture, Cardoza worked to include the Specialty Crop Block Grant program in the 2008 Farm Bill, according to a news release from his office.. The USDA awarded a total of around $55 million and funded 740 projects across the country.
California received almost 34 percent of the awarded funding, more than any other state. The grants will support a host of partnership programs with grower associations, local initiatives and the University of California, the news release said. The California grant programs include research, food safety, pest and invasive species management and marketing programs that encourage the purchase of California’s agriculture products. Notable projects include:
Development of an On-line Traceability Tool for California Tomato Farmers: The California Tomato Farmers received $350,000 to develop an on-line food safety database to allow for efficient traceback of their productd in the event of a food safety event, which will allow California tomatoes to either be quickly ruled out as the source or to have the source quickly pinpointed so the entire industry is not implicated. This will foster greater collaboration and transparency between the industry and their customers, giving California tomatoes a competitive edge against foreign suppliers who offer lower prices but limited food safety assurance.
Reducing the Environmental Regulatory Burden on Specialty Crop Producers: The Ag Innovations Network received $119,780 to reduce the cost of regulatory compliance for California specialty crop growers by working with environmental, agricultural, and other interested groups to identify a broadly supported set of solutions.
Integrated Pest Management for Light Brown Apple Moth in California Ornamental Nurseries: The University of California at Davis received $255,598 to develop and demonstrate improved Integrated Pest Management strategies and tools that nursery operators can implement to control the Light Brown Apple Moth.
Broad Spectrum Rootstocks to Manage Disease and Pest Infestation in Orchard and Vineyard Crops in California: The University of California at Davis received $445,843 to develop transgenic citrus, grapevine, walnut, and almond rootstocks that provide broad-spectrum resistance to related bacterial pathogens, testing, and validation of the disease resistance provided by these rootstocks.
Drought-Tolerant Lettuce and Spinach Varieties for Adaptation to Climate Change: The USDA Agricultural Research Service received $333,838 to screen, study, and develop drought-tolerant lettuce and spinach germplasm and cultivars with higher water use efficiency, which will help enhance water conservation, reduce production costs, and improve the profitability and sustainability of lettuce and spinach crops in California Food Safety Manager Certificate Program for California Strawberry Farms: The California Strawberry Commission received $299,450 to create a food safety certificate program for strawberry growers and high level supervisors, providing them with an advanced understanding of food safety practices for strawberry production.
Implementing the California Standard to Increase Navel Orange Consumption: California Citrus Mutual received $96,062 to increase navel orange consumption through an intensive educational campaign including print media, news releases and internet outreach that will educate buyers and customers about the new California Standard and how it helps assure consumers receive a better tasting navel orange.