Groups Challenge Grant for Pro-Pesticide Campaign

A. G. Kawamura
California Department of Food and Agriculture
1220 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Al Montna
California Board of Food and Agriculture
1220 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Sent via email & regular mail.

Dear Messrs. Kawamura and Montna,

We are writing to express our serious concern about the recent decision of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to award a Specialty Crop Block Grant of $180,000 to the Alliance for Food and Farming, an industry communications group. According to CDFA documents, the group intends to use the money to “correct the misconception that some fresh produce items contain excessive amounts of pesticide residues” and to counter “claims by activist groups about unsafe levels of pesticides.”

The federally-funded Specialty Crops Block Grant (SCBG) Program in California is a valuable effort intended to support research, marketing and nutrition programs that help make produce, nuts and flower crops more competitive, accessible and in the case of research, more sustainable. While we strongly support this program, we object to the department’s decision to fund an industry communications initiative against legitimate public interest concerns related to pesticide residues on food. The award of this grant strikes a blow to California’s expanding organic produce industry and places the department in opposition to the public’s interest in reducing pesticide exposure. This action also represents a fundamental failure to implement a fair and balanced grant selection process.

Pesticide residues are a genuine problem: both peer-reviewed literature and the USDA food residue test database have found them on many conventionally-grown foods. Scientists have expressed valid concerns about the health risks posed by some of these chemicals. It is inappropriate for state and federal officials to categorically take the side of conventional agribusiness in this scientific and policy debate by funding a public relations effort designed to attack public interest organizations.

We ask that CDFA and USDA retract this award and take action to ensure that future grant-making serves the interests of all Californians.

We urge the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the State Board of Food and Agriculture to investigate fully the decision to award public funds to the Alliance for Food and Farming. We ask the department to initiate a public process to revise its grant selection criteria in order to ensure a more balanced and beneficial use of marketing dollars. We believe that these funds should be used to overcome the real barriers to greater consumption of fruits, nut and vegetables, especially those products which are locally-grown and are organically and sustainably-produced.

We request a full explanation of the state’s decision-making process for the Specialty Crop Block Grants and urge the California Department of Food and Agriculture to establish a more balanced Technical Review Committee, with fair representation of public interest groups and the organic specialty crop sector.


Kari Hamerschlag
Senior Analyst
Environmental Working Group

Tracey Brieger
Californians for Pesticide Reform

Gina M Solomon M.D., M.P.H.
Senior Scientist
National Resources Defense Council

Robert Gould, MD
Physicians for Social Responsibility San Francisco

Elanor Starmer
Western Region Director
Food and Water Watch

Leslie Mikkelsen
Managing Director
Prevention Institute

Dan Jacobson
Legislative Director
Environment California

Armando Nieto
Executive Director
California Food and Justice Coalition

Rebecca Spector
West Coast Director
The Center for Food Safety

Margaret Reeves
Senior Scientist
Pesticide Action Network

Tina Andolina
Legislative Director
Planning and Conservation League

Michael Green
Executive Director
Center for Environmental Health

Bill Magavern
State Director
Sierra Club California

Paul Towers
State Director
Pesticide Watch Education Fund

Larry Jacobs
Jacobs Farm / Del Cabo

Judith Redmond
Full Belly Farm

Jennifer Clary
Water Policy Analyst
Clean Water Action

Sarah Sharpe
Environmental Health Director
Fresno Metro Ministry

Martha Argüello
Executive Director
Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles

Jane Williams
Executive Director
California Communities Against Toxics

Kristie Knoll
Knoll Farms

Dave Henson
Executive Director
Occidental Arts and Ecology Center

Ronnie Cummings
Executive Director
Organic Consumers Association

Deby DeWeese
Sisquoc Citizens Concerned About Pesticides

Caroline Farrell
Executive Director
Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment

Action Now
Mitzi Shpak
Executive Director

Linda Kite
Executive Director
Healthy Homes Collaborative

Adriana Esparza
Campesinas Unidas

Debbie Freidman
Chair Person
Mothers of Marin Against the Spray

Winnemem Wintu Tribe
Marc Franco

Marylia Kelley
Executive Director
Tri Valley Cares Livermore

Catherine Garoupa White
Central Valley Air Quality Coalition

Joan Poss
Fresno Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides

Susan JunFish
Board President
Parents for a Safer Environment

Teresa DeAnda
El Comite para el Bienestar de Earlimart

Melanie Cheng
Om Organics

Erin Switalski
Executive Director
Women's Voices for the Earth

Gail Myers
Executive Director
Farms to Grow Inc

Miriam Torres
Southern California Program Director
Environmental Justice Coalition for Water

Nan Wishner
Board Member
Stop the Spray East Bay

Anne Katten
Pesticide and Work Safety Specialist California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation

Irma Medellin
El Quinto Sol

Bradley Angel
Executive Director
Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice

Grayson Neighborhood Council
Rosenda Mataka

Stacy Weinberg Dieve
Sustainable Fairfax

Christopher Gavigan
Executive Director
Healthy Child Healthy World

Daniela Ramirez
Executive Director
Organization en California de Líderes Campesinas

Deb Self
Executive Director

Marilyn Lynds
Moss Landing Heights Neighborhood Association

Laurel Firestone
Community Water Center


Jose Luis Olmedo
Executive Director
Comité Civico del Valle

Governor Schwarzenegger – via regular mail
Senator Boxer – via email
Senator Feinstein – via email
Representative Cardoza – via email
Representative Costa – via email
Representative Baca – via email
Representative Farr – via email
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez – via email
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg – via email
Senator Dean Florez, Chair, State Senate Ag Committee - via email
Assembly Member Cathleen Galgiani, Chair, Agriculture Committee - via email
Ms. Rayne Pegg, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator – via email & regular mail

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