The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded matching grants that support agricultural market research and demonstration projects, including nearly $200,000 for three projects in California.

The grants totaled $1,334,000, and were awarded to 19 states, including California. These grants, provided under the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program, will be used to explore new and innovative approaches to marketing U.S. food and agricultural products and to improve the efficiency and performance of the marketing system. USDA awarded the following grants:

• $88,250 to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, in cooperation with the California Association of Food Banks, to develop protocols for harvesting field-packed cull crops for distribution through a statewide network of food banks, creating a new market for produce growers and improving the nutritional status of low-income individuals.

• $50,000 to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, in cooperation with Los Rios Community College District, the California Centers for International Trade Development – Cal AgX, the Specialty Crop Trade Council, the Dried Fruit Association of California, and the California Dried Plum Board, to implement a strategic plan to market dried fruit in Mexico and through southwest U.S. retail and wholesale outlets that cater to Hispanic consumers.

• $60,000 to the California State University, Fresno, to assess the impact of changes in agricultural transportation technology, infrastructure and cost on the future regional and international competitiveness of the California specialty crop industry.