Courtesy of Steve Lyle with CDFA

State receives $23.8 million in federal grant funds

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced funding for the 2023 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). California received $23.8 million out of approximately $72.9 million awarded nationwide.

The SCBGP provides grants to state departments of agriculture to fund projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will fund 46 projects, including the following:

Climate – Processing Tomatoes
The University of California, Davis, was awarded $396,176 to identify drivers of drought resilience and quantify their relevance to water-shortage scenarios in field experiments on California processing tomatoes. Note – California grows more than 95 percent of all processing tomatoes in the US.

Nutrition and Education
1.    18 Reasons, a non-profit organization, was awarded $450,000 to focus on providing hands-on, cooking-based education utilizing specialty crops to low-income families who are disproportionately affected by food insecurity and diet-related nutrition disparities in the San Francisco Bay area.
2.    The non-profit organization Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles was awarded $499,982 to provide sixth through twelfth grade students, adults, and caregivers with culturally relevant specialty crop education which showcases California’s seasonal variety and specialty crop growers, especially targeting underserved communities and Title I schools.

A project focused on equity was awarded to the California Bountiful Foundation —  $435,867 to support a farmer-to-farmer specialty crop mentoring and education program for beginning specialty crop farmers throughout California, with an emphasis on reaching underserved farmers to enhance their competitiveness and opportunities for success.

The Buy California Marketing Agreement was awarded $2.5 million to implement a multi-platform digital campaign, which will include retail and foodservice promotions, to enhance support from the retail and food service trade and increase consumer demand for California’s specialty crop products throughout California.

Other projects focus on increasing sales of specialty crops by leveraging the unique qualities of specialty crops grown in California; increasing consumption by expanding the specialty crop consumer market; providing nutritional education for consumers; training growers to equip them for current and future challenges; investing in training for growers, producers, and operators to address current and future challenges; and conducting research on organic and sustainable production practices, conservation and environmental outcomes, and pest control and disease.

In addition, CDFA is continuing its partnership with the Center for Produce Safety in the evaluation and recommendation of food safety related projects. These projects represent an ongoing effort to address food safety practices and minimize outbreaks of foodborne illness with proactive research.

The 2023 SCBGP project abstracts are available online: 2023 SCBGP Project Abstracts.