The Western Pistachio Association (WPA), representing U.S. pistachio growers and processors, has been awarded $500,000 through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The grant was awarded to support the pistachio industry’s efforts to rebuild consumer confidence in light of last spring’s nationwide voluntary recall of pistachios due to potential food safety concerns. Though no illnesses were linked to the precautionary recall, consumer and food industry confidence was shaken by sweeping warnings in the media. The grant funds will support a program that will focus on restoring this trust through a multi-faceted educational program highlighting the health and safety of U.S. pistachios.

Through this multi-year program, the WPA will communicate to consumers the industry’s ongoing efforts to improve food safety practices relating to growing and processing U.S. pistachios. Funds will also be used to promote the numerous health and nutrition benefits of pistachios that have been documented in numerous research studies.

This award is a part of $16.3 million granted to California groups through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Overall, 55 California based groups received Block Grant funds. Nationally, $49 million was awarded to farm groups. Western Pistachio Association Executive Director Richard Matoian noted, “These funds will help promote all the positive practices the pistachio industry has adopted to ensure a safe and healthy product, while promoting the nutrition benefits of U.S. pistachios. The funds will be used efficiently and effectively to enhance consumer awareness of the healthfulness of U.S. pistachios.”

The Western Pistachio Association is a grower based agricultural trade association representing pistachio growers in California, Arizona and New Mexico. The organization works on issues vital to growers and activities that affect the U.S. pistachio industry. Pistachio nutrition research and promotion of the heart-healthy properties of pistachios are key activities conducted by the Association. Collectively, California, Arizona and New Mexico represent 99.99 percent of the nation’s pistachio production. California comprises 98.5 percent of the total with 198,500 acres planted throughout 22 counties. There are more than 600 growers within the pistachio community, and the annual “farm gate” value of pistachios represents $540 million to the California economy.

The Association has recently launched a new promotion campaign introducing www.TheGreenNut.org to consumers that encourages them to go green with pistachios for better health.