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State board to open World Ag Expo

USDA Under Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt to discuss specialty-crop project.

Tim Hearden

February 12, 2024

2 Min Read
Karen Ross speaking
California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary Karen Ross, center, speaks during a Board of Food and Agriculture meeting in Tulare, Calif., in early 2020.Tim Hearden

A new USDA initiative to boost the competitiveness of specialty crops in the West will be the key discussion topic as the California State Board of Food and Agriculture helps kick off the World Ag Expo on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

In its first meeting at the farm show since 2020, the board will hear remarks from Jenny Lester Moffitt, the USDA’s under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs, on the agency’s Specialty Crop Competitiveness Initiative.

The initiative was announced in November as a way to improve production and processing practices as well as enhance marketing opportunities. The agency is seeking input from specialty-crop industries as it evaluates existing programs and appraises challenges faced by the industry.

The 10 a.m. meeting will help open the three-day farm show at the International Agri-Center in Tulare, Calif., and will also feature panels of representatives from The Wonderful Company, the California Fresh Fruit Association, the California Table Grape Commission, Western Growers, the Community Alliance with Family Farms and other organizations, according to the state Department of Food and Agriculture.

The meeting will be held in the Tulare County Cooperative Extension auditorium at the front of the expo, 4437-B South Laspina St., Tulare, and will be streamed online.

““The USDA is taking significant steps to invest in the nation’s agricultural sector to improve opportunities and livelihoods for farmers, ranchers and farmworkers,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, a former USDA under secretary. “As the nation’s leading agriculture state, California has strong potential to leverage the Specialty Crop Competitiveness Initiative to further ongoing innovation, sustainability and climate action on our working lands.”

Research projects

As part of its initiative, the USDA published a Specialty Crops Resource Directory as a one-stop shop for the sector. The directory contains a comprehensive snapshot of USDA’s resources and services for specialty crop producers and businesses, according to the agency.

The USDA is also looking for comment submissions by March 8 and has launched a new specialty crops-dedicated website designed to provide information on the initiative.

In addition, the agency announced it is spending a combined $70.2 million on 21 research and Extension projects nationwide that address key challenges for both conventional and organic producers, according to a release.

The state board’s meeting will highlight the first day of the three-day World Ag Expo, which bills itself as the “Best Farm Show on Dirt.” The 57th annual expo will feature more than 1,200 exhibitors on 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space as well as more than 100 special events, seminars and demonstrations and a top-10 new products contest.

Organizers say the 2023 show drew 108,233 attendees from 49 states and 56 countries.

The show will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15. Cost is $20, with kids 6 and under admitted free.

For the full schedule of events, click here.

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