The California Department of Food and Agriculture launched a Web site to inform farmers and ranchers of the more than $1.3 million in federal grant funds awarded in October through the California Specialty Block Grant Program to 12 innovative agricultural projects that will increase market demand for the state’s specialty crop industry and further research initiatives on covered commodities.

The Web site, linked from the department’s homepage at www.cdfa.ca.gov, includes information on the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program’s 2007 competitive grant awards, administrative resources for awardees and updates on future funding opportunities.

California is the largest producer of fruits, vegetables, nuts and nursery crops in the U.S. and has several different commodities that are grown only in the state. To enhance the many efforts and opportunities agriculture provides, the grant projects were selected in relation to their direct benefit to the greatest number of specialty crops produced throughout the state. The criteria for project areas included research, agricultural education, nutrition, food safety, and pest and disease eradication pertaining to specialty crops.

The California Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service which made available until April 2008, more than $6.8 million in funds to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. specialty crops.