Californian to advise Vilsack

Karen Ross, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, has been named a senior adviser to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

In 13 years at the helm of CAWG and as a state Board of Food and Agriculture member, Ross has been an advocate on issues relating to invasive pest protection, sustainable agriculture, climate change, research, cooperative extension and promotion of California products, according to a news release.

The exact nature of Ross' new job hasn't been disclosed, according to the San Francisco Business Times. The appointment won praise from the California Cattlemen's Association.

"Karen is and has been a strong leader who is absolutely committed to ensuring the future success and sustainability of California agriculture," the CCA noted in its legislative bulletin.

-- Tim Hearden

Rangeland summit set

The fifth annual California Rangeland Conservation Coalition summit will be Jan. 7-8 in Sacramento.

The event allows ranchers, land managers, agency officials and conservationists to learn about cooperative conservation, research results and working landscapes, according to the California Cattlemen's Association.

The event includes a tour of Northern California's working rangelands.

Information: Contact the CCA office at 916-444-0845.

-- Tim Hearden

Oak regeneration focus of class

An oak regeneration and rangeland monitoring workshop will begin at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9, at a ranch east of Santa Margarita, Calif.

The seminar at the Sinton Family's Canyon Ranch will focus on ranching sustainability self-assessments, California oak restoration and other issues.

Cost is $15 and includes light morning refreshments and lunch.

Information and directions: Call 805-781-5938 or visit http://cesanluisobispo.ucdavis.edu.

-- Tim Hearden

Winegrape quality good

As harvest has come to a close, winegrape growers in California report excellent quality despite a mid-October storm that raised concerns about fruit damage.

The storm that arrived Oct. 13 caused minor losses to grapes that had not yet been harvested, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Farmers who had contracts to sell their grapes had a good year, but those without contracts found fewer buyers because of sluggish demand for some wines, the Farm Bureau reported.

-- Tim Hearden

Commission offers grants

The California Table Grape Commission is offering 10 mini-grants to teachers through its Innovation in Teaching program.

The grants are available to elementary, junior-high and high-school teachers in the state's grape-growing regions. The grants -- $500 each -- will support a range of classroom projects.

Past grants have gone to class projects addressing plant health and bee pollination, a solar-energy race, a museum field trip and an interactive classroom store. Grants have gone to teachers around the San Joaquin Valley.

Applications are due Jan. 18.

-- Wes Sander

Universities win research funding

Washington and California universities received grant awards of $14.1 million through the 2008 Farm Bill's Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

USDA estimates the value of U.S. specialty crops at nearly $50 billion. The program supports research, education and extension services. At addresses improvement of plant characteristics, pests and diseases, efficiency and productivity and food safety.

University of California-Davis received $3.9 million for quality and safety research. University of California-Berkeley received $1.9 million to address pests.

Washington State University won $8.1 million for projects addressing commodity characteristics and production techniques.

-- Wes Sander

Food Biz Boot Camp to start

The Sustainable Business Cluster Team will sponsor a Food Entrepreneurs Workshop: Food Biz Boot Camp starting next month.

The 40-hour workshop will be Jan. 26-27, Feb. 26-27 and March 26-27 and is hosted by Oregon State University Department of Food Science at Weigand Hall on the Corvallis campus. It will feature speakers from local food product companies as well as from Oregon State University and the Linn-Benton Community College culinary arts and business development programs.

Topics to be covered include market analysis, business planning, understanding shelf-life requirements, selecting a manufacturing site, understanding regulations and best practices. The series will also address sustainability, start-up funding, growth and networking.

The fee will be $275. Limited scholarships will be available for qualified participants.

Information: Contact John Sechrest at the Corvallis-Benton Chamber Coalition, sechrest@corvallisedp.com, or Bruce Hecht of the Natural Step Network brucehe@peak.org.

For a complete speaker list and registration go to: http://foodbiz.corvallisedp.com.

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