Industry group aids minor crops in state
Ever wonder which of California's 350 or more commercial crops are designated as specialties?
Consider the roster of the California Specialty Crops Council (CSCC), a working partnership of 22 crops and organizations with needs and concerns that don't necessarily match the interests of the major crops.
Located in the Heritage Complex that is part of the World Ag Expo grounds in Tulare, the CSCC pursues an agenda of people-to-people communication that is leading to better understanding between farmers who produce the specialty crops and those responsible for regulations and restrictions that apply to those crops.
The council embraces the needs of organizations such as the California Date Commission, the California Raisin Advisory Board, the Dried Bean Advisory Board, the California Strawberry Commission, the California Pepper Commission, the California Garlic and Onion Research Advisory Board and the California Fresh Carrot Advisory Board. Organizations that have joined recently include the California Flower Commission and the California State Beekeepers Association.
In March, representatives of several CSCC members joined Executive Director Lori Berger on a trip to Washington, D.C., where they took part in meetings with several government agency representatives who deal regularly with issues of regulation and trade peculiar to the specialty crops.
Berger, with a Ph.D and identification as both a certified pest-control adviser and a certified crop-care adviser, is adept at understanding the needs of growers of the specialty crops. Also, she encourages the agency personnel to emphasize reality in the pursuit of compliance. "Both agencies and grower representatives gained a great deal of understanding of each other's needs," she said of the March trip to the nation's capital.
In July, several government agency representatives from Washington, D.C., and Sacramento will take part in the council's annual three-day tour of areas in California where many specialty crops are produced. It will begin in Central California, move to the Salinas Valley and finally to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The normally office-bound workers will observe production practices for stone fruit, strawberries, garlic, pears, raisin grapes, leafy green vegetables, fresh tomatoes, peppers and more. Several stops will allow the public servants to discuss production issues directly with growers and processors in the field.
Before that, a workshop has been scheduled in San Francisco in June where growers, researchers and regulatory personnel will discuss maximum residue levels related to foreign trade.
Established in 2000, the council has gained significant recognition in a number of areas in a short time. It has participated on several grant panels of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, and has received approximately $1 million in grant funds to support cross-commodity outreach in the areas of integrated pest management.
The council shares specialty crop perspectives with the EPA and USDA leadership through its appointment to the EPA's pesticide program dialogue committee.
It has been a consistent voice for common-sense use and regulations regarding crop protections tools, including the vital fumigant methyl bromide, used by several council members.
Operating as a nonprofit organization, the council evolved from the California Minor Crops Council, a program established in the 1990s by the California Agricultural Issues Forum. The council's enhanced framework allows it to schedule quarterly meetings of its technical committee, conduct webinars for members and concerned associates every other month, and pursue outreach objectives as determined by its board of directors, which meets two or three times a year.
The heartbeat of the council is in addressing specific technical needs of specialty crop growers, processors and marketers. In the vast panorama of California's huge agricultural economy, the council occupies a strategic, unique and, yes, special place.
CONTACT Don Curlee at email@example.com