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Domestic promotion program, help with regulations sought.

Farm Press Staff

March 1, 2024

2 Min Read
Table grapes
Table grapes.Tim Hearden

As the USDA focuses on specialty crop competitiveness, California’s table grape industry could use such things as a domestic market promotion program similar to one the agency conducts overseas and help with regulations, an industry leader said recently.

A dedicated market promotion program modeled after the successful Market Access Program would allow commodity groups to apply for funds to boost demand for their crops within the U.S., said Ian LeMay, incoming president of the California Table Grape Commission.

In addition, the USDA could help specialty crop farms overcome pests and diseases by facilitating priority review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of alternative pre- and post-harvest compounds and treatments, collaborating with state agencies, LeMay said.

The leader made his comments to Jenny Lester Moffitt, USDA under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs, and the California Board of Food and Agriculture in mid-February. The board was meeting in Tulare, Calif., in conjunction with the World Ag Expo.

“The vitality of the specialty crop industry hinges not only on a strong domestic market, access to export markets, and research and innovation in multiple categories, but also on the strategic adaptation of existing USDA programs,” LeMay said in prepared remarks.

Competitiveness initiative

The USDA’s Specialty Crop Competitiveness Initiative was announced in November as a way to improve production and processing practices as well as boost marketing opportunities. The agency is seeking input from specialty-crop producers as it evaluates existing programs. The panel including LeMay was one of several to testify at the meeting, the state board’s first in conjunction with the farm show since 2020.

The grape commission also recommended an increase in the USDA’s annual financial commitment for the purchase of fruits and vegetables to distribute to those who are food insecure. A pilot program that expands procurement to include fresh fruits and vegetables in international food aid programs is also sought, LeMay said.

The CTGC also advocates support for legislation establishing a fund for mechanization research and for the development of a grant program to help growers adopt new technology.

“Competitiveness has long been a commission priority,” LeMay said. “We hope that the state board sees value in the recommendations and includes them in its feedback to USDA.”

Source: California Table Grape Commission

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