USDA Deputy Under Secretary Ann Wright met with state and local officials at New Roots Community Farm this morning to discuss research aimed at invasive species.

Wright, the Deputy Under Secretary for USDA’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs, visited San Diego’s New Roots Community Farm, a project of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), to highlight USDA grant funding for invasive species research in California. USDA awarded $152,250 in Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funds to the California Department of Food and Agriculture in September. Part of the funds will go to the California Invasive Species Advisory Committee.

Invasives, such as the yellow star thistle weed, quagga mussels, huanglongbing/citrus greening disease or the European grape vine moth, costs the California specialty crop industry $3 billion annually, according to the University of California-Riverside. The university also estimates that the state gains a new invasive species every 60 days.

Currently, more than 50,000 square miles of California land is under state or federal quarantine, partly attributable to invasive pests.

“Invasive plants and animals are a major threat to food and fiber production, costing California, our nation’s largest agricultural resource, billions of dollars every year,” Wright said. “By conducting research on controlling and managing weedy and invasive species we help protect the productivity of California’s farmers and ranchers.”

The goals of this project are to work through the 24-member California Invasive Species Advisory Committee to develop a statewide list of invasive species; develop a statewide strategic action plan for invasive species; develop and implement an outreach plan to increase public awareness of invasive species impacts to specialty crops; and deliver a one-year implementation assessment of the strategic action plan.