California among states selected by USDA for participation in the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables

Pilot will support schools’ efforts to procure more fruits and vegetables; Offers new opportunity that supports local producers and local economies.

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WASHINGTON, December 8, 2014 – Today USDA announced the selection of eight states to participate in the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables, as directed by the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill. Under the pilot, California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin will be able to increase their purchases of locally-grown fruits and vegetables for their school meal programs.

USDA Foods – provided by the USDA to schools – make up about 20 percent of the foods served in schools.  States use their USDA Foods allocation to select items from a list of 180 products including fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, poultry, rice, low fat cheese, beans, pasta, flour and other whole grain products.  This pilot program will allow the selected states to use some of their USDA Foods allocation to purchase unprocessed fruits and vegetables directly, instead of going through the USDA Foods program.

“Providing pilot states with more flexibility in the use of their USDA Foods’ dollars offers states another opportunity to provide schoolchildren with additional fruits and vegetables from within their own communities,” said Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.  “When schools invest food dollars into local communities, all of agriculture benefits, including local farmers, ranchers, fishermen, food processors and manufacturers.”

These states were selected based on their demonstrated commitment to farm to school efforts, including prior efforts to increase and promote farm to school programs in the state, the quantity and variety of growers of local fruits and vegetables in the state on a per capita basis, and the degree to which the state contains a sufficient quantity of local educational agencies of various population sizes and geographic locations.

This pilot is designed to support the schools’ pre-existing relationships with vendors, growers, produce wholesalers, and distributors, and increase the use of locally-grown, unprocessed fruits and vegetables in school meal programs. While the pilot does not require sourcing locally grown foods, the project will enable schools to increase their use of locally-grown, unprocessed fruits and vegetables from AMS authorized vendors.  Unprocessed fruits and vegetables include products that are minimally processed such as sliced apples, baby carrots, and shredded lettuce. For more information about the pilot, please visit the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables website.

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE.

* via CDFA Planting Seeds Blog
http://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=7327

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Governor Brown, Secretary Ross recognize December as Farm to Food Bank Month

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Farm to Food Bank Month

California is America’s most robust and bountiful agricultural producer. With over 81,000 farms and approximately 400 crops, agriculture in the Golden State is responsible for feeding much of the nation and world.

As California’s economy recovers amidst one of the worst droughts on record, farmers and ranchers across the state are also doing their part to prevent the spread of hunger and expand access to affordable, nutritious food in their communities.

We owe those within the agricultural sector our gratitude during these challenging times. I urge all Californians to recognize the contributions of California’s agricultural community, as well as the food banks and partner organizations they work with to provide nourishment to the most vulnerable among us.

Sincerely,

EDMUND G. BROWN JR.

December is Farm to Food Bank Month. Help increase farm to food bank donations to 200 million pounds annually by making a product donation or future donation pledge today – contact Steve Linkhart, California Association of Food Banks at (510) 350-9916.

For our friends and foodies– tweet, Instagram or Facebook  – #CAGrown with a pic of California Grown produce and a pound of food will be donated to a local food bank.

* via CDFA Planting Seeds Blog
http://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=7273

World Food Day: October 16

 

World Food Day a reminder of everyday challenges with food access:
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It is encouraging to see World Food Day observed today, a designation made possible by the inspiring work of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The goal of this day is to reach a point in time when people are no longer going hungry. The world produces enough food to feed everyone on the planet. We must find solutions to the ongoing problem of food access.

At CDFA, we work in this area every day in a number of different programs. Our Certified Farmers’ Market program helps with access through the mere presence of farmers’ markets. As the number of markets statewide continues to grow, they make valued contributions to their communities with fresh, nutritious food directly from farms. The fact that many of them now accept CalFresh cards means that some of California’s neediest families are getting the access they need, and CDFA’s Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program helps provide these foods to needy senior citizens.

CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork improves food access from another angle – working with school districts to develop and solidify connections with local farmers, and then helping teachers provide nutrition education to their students. I was very pleased to see these efforts play a role in bringing a truly exceptional honor this week to a group of Contra Costa County students – they were invited to the White House garden to meet First Lady Michelle Obama and help harvest vegetables for the White House kitchen!

Another program that helps with food access and education is CDFA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which provides USDA Farm Bill funds through a competitive grant process for a number of projects benefiting specialty crops. In 2014, California received nearly $20 million for grant distribution. Examples of food-access projects funded this year include programs in Chico and Sacramento seeking to improve access through community gardens for low-income residents and educational opportunities in both nutrition and urban production.

We work with the California State Board of Food and Agriculture to generate donations to our state’s food banks. We declare each December as Farm-to-Food Bank Month and ask our farmers and ranchers to make a donation or a pledge. Last year, they donated more than 127 million pounds of food. That’s great, and much appreciated! However, we still have some ground to cover to reach our goal of 200 million pounds by next year.

We want to thank our partners at California Grown for its commitment to the food bank effort with its “Snap a Selfie” program. California Grown is donating a pound of food to California food banks for every #cagrown selfie that is posted on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook by end of this month. Participants are asked to take a photograph of the CA Grown logo or anything grown or produced in California and then use #cagrown in their post.

In California, it’s believed that almost four-million people are food insecure, which means they could not afford enough food at least once in the previous year. In a state as bountiful as ours, we know we have the means to provide for these families. World Food Day is a reminder that we must do it.

* via CDFA Planting Seeds Blog
http://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=7033

Napa Valley Expo Earthquake Relief Effort

At least $1.2 million in earthquake damages have hit Napa Valley Expo buildings. Concrete end walls are no longer connected to the top of the structures. Structural cracks are visible throughout. Windows are broken. Like a majority of property owners, the Fairgrounds did not have earthquake insurance. Please SHARE then make a donation to Friends of the Napa Valley Expo, 575 Third St., Napa, CA 94559.

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* via Napa Valley Expo Earthquake Relief Effort Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/napavalleyexpoearthquakerelieffund

Livestock Producers Urged to Enroll in Disaster Assistance Program by Oct. 1

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is encouraging producers who have suffered eligible disaster-related losses to act to secure assistance by Sept. 30, 2014, as congressionally mandated payment reductions will take place for producers who have not acted before that date. Livestock producers that have experienced grazing losses since October 2011 and may be eligible for benefits but have not yet contacted their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office should do so as soon as possible.

Livestock-Assistance

The Budget Control Act passed by Congress in 2011 requires USDA to implement reductions of 7.3 percent to the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) in the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, 2014. However, producers seeking LFP support who have scheduled appointments with their local FSA office before Oct. 1, even if the appointment occurs after Oct.1, will not see reductions in the amount of disaster relief they receive.

USDA is encouraging producers to register, request an appointment or begin a Livestock Forage Disaster Program application with their county FSA office before Oct. 1, 2014, to lock in the current zero percent sequestration rate. As an additional aid to qualified producers applying for LFP, the Farm Service’s Agency has developed an online registration that enables farmers and ranchers to put their names on an electronic list before the deadline to avoid reductions in their disaster assistance. This is an alternative to visiting or contacting the county office. To place a name on the Livestock Forage Disaster Program list online, visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/disaster-register.

Producers who already contacted the county office and have an appointment scheduled need do nothing more.

Read the full article here.

* via CDFA Planting Seeds Blog
http://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=6813

Lady Gaga joins California water conservation effort

In partnership with the State of California’s drought awareness program Save Our Water, international pop superstar and five-time Grammy winner Lady Gaga has released a Public Service Announcement (PSA) asking Californians to join the effort and take extraordinary measures to save water during the drought. The PSA is available on SaveOurWater.com, a new site designed to help Californians find ways to conserve at home and at work every day.

The campaign comes as the State Water Resources Control Board voted to adopt mandatory water conservation measures for urban water users and suppliers, including prohibitions on outdoor irrigation more than two days per week, washing hardscapes, sidewalks and driveways with water and using hoses without shutoff nozzles to wash cars.

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Watch the video here.

* via CDFA Planting Seeds Blog
http://plantingseedsblog.cdfa.ca.gov/wordpress/?p=6585