California producers will be benefitting from significant specialty crop investment made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Nearly $170 is being invested through USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) to support U.S. farmers growing fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery crops. Of the total funding support being provided, California has received $54.5 million for SCBGP projects in 2021. The SCBGP provides grants to state departments of agriculture to help support industry initiatives. More than $880 million has been issued through the program since 2006.
Approximately 100 projects will be funded through the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) as part of the program. Grant awards have been issued ranging between $50,000 and $5 million. Recipients of the specialty crop investment include non-profit and for-profit organizations, government entities, and colleges and universities. CDFA focused on certain priorities when assessing proposals for specialty crop investment through the program. Organizations that support beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and initiatives to increase nutrition education and access were prioritized.
Some of the projects that are being funded through CDFA include efforts to increase demand for processing peaches and pears, as well as California figs. Several educational initiatives are also being funded including the development of informational resources in Spanish, wildfire mitigation programs and materials, as well as a continuation of high-skilled job training and placement.
Multiple types of groups and institutions will be using the grant funding to help enhance the overall specialty crop industry. The Western Agricultural Processors Association will be developing safety training for postharvest tree nut hulling and processing. UC Davis was also awarded grant funding for multiple different projects which include the promotion of pollinators, and efforts to increase consumption of specialty crop products. Other academic projects include improved breeding efforts of lettuce, evaluation of biodegradable plastic mulches, and the development of strategies to manage Huanglongbing.