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SACRAMENTO, CA -- The California Department of Food & Agriculture and the University of California at Davis-based Center for Produce Safety have signed a no-cost agreement to enhance the department's food safety grants process and leverage additional funding.

"The Center for Produce Safety's exemplary grant-review process adds substantial technical expertise to this program," CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura said in an April 8 press release. "Add to that their ability to provide matching funds for these projects, and it's easy to see how this agreement will help strengthen the safety of our food supply."

"Food safety is a focal point for consumers," the center's executive director, Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, added in the release. "Both of our organizations are dedicated to ensuring the highest possible confidence in California's food supply, and this partnership will accelerate the research and other projects that will help us achieve that common goal."

CDFA recently announced a specialty crop grants program that will award up to $15 million to projects that enhance the competitiveness of California's specialty crops. The department intends to dedicate a portion of this funding to projects that improve food safety; exact amounts will depend on the strength of the various proposals and on final notice from the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding available funding. The department receives funding for this grant program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its Agricultural Marketing Service.

Under the agreement, the Center for Produce Safety will issue a request for food-safety grant proposals, assemble an appropriate technical review committee to conduct reviews, and submit recommendations for funding to CDFA. The two organizations will later collaborate on the announcement and dissemination of research results.

For the purposes of this program, specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.

Prospective applicants for food safety grants may contact the center at 916/757-5777 or visit www.cps.ucdavis.edu. Prospective applicants for other specialty crop grants may contact CDFA's Federal Funds Management Office at 916/657-3231 or grants@cdfa.ca.gov.