Western Growers recently submitted a letter to California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross urging the 2020 Specialty Crop Block Grant program to administer funds to the initiatives most important to fruit, vegetable and nut growers.
“Over a decade ago, we helped to create and over time helped to increase funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant program as part of the Farm Bill,” said Hank Giclas – senior vice president of science, technology & strategic planning at Western Growers – in the letter. “We have long viewed this program as critical to the produce sector in California and throughout the country, so we look forward to sharing our views on the program’s priorities as the Department administers these federal funds.”
Giclas notes that California administers the program with an overly broad lens – often with a large number of stated priorities. He recommends that the 2020 program focus on three main produce sector needs: food safety, mechanization and precision agriculture.
He concludes the letter with a suggestion to improve the “administrative burden, which includes but is not limited to delays in reimbursement, inability to cover administrative costs, process for unexpected expenses and the exhaustive audits during and subsequent to project completion have discouraged participation in the program by our organization and many others.”