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Loss of specialty crop grants could affect almond board


SACRAMENTO - Congress' unwillingness to include certain specialty crop grants in a nine-month farm bill extension could impact some of the Almond Board of California's research.



The board uses state and federal block grants to leverage such research as finding disease-resistant rootstocks, said Bob Curtis, the board's associate director of agricultural affairs.



Without funding from the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, the rootstock study and other research could be put in jeopardy, Curtis said.



"We will go ahead and pursue our core priorities," he said. "But not having the money, obviously we can't move as far and as fast on some issues if we have to pull all the weight ourselves."



Curtis said the board often partners with other organizations or businesses to leverage funding, which in turn improves its chances of receiving grant funds.



Congress included a nine-month farm bill extension as part of the "fiscal cliff" budget package approved Tuesday. A new farm bill will need to be drafted in the coming months and reconsidered by both chambers before a Sept. 30 deadline, explains the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance.



The loss of specialty crop block grant funding won't directly affect the California Walnut Commission, executive director Dennis Balint said. However, the commission is concerned that the loss of funding could affect universities, he said.



"As a result, some of the things we do may increase in cost, but we won't know that until it happens," Balint said. "It's much too early in the process. I know everyone's analyzing it ... I don't think I'm the only one who's expecting more changes as time goes on."



-- Tim Hearden



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