EWG reviewed the program’s track record over a three-year period to assess whether its funding projects were in line with the top 12 priorities outlined in “Ag Vision,” a strategic plan adopted in 2010 by the CDFA. The analysis showed that the specialty crop grants paid for dozens of worthwhile projects that did align with Ag Vision, particularly in environmental stewardship, food safety and pest prevention. But it also pointed out that several priorities were critically underfunded, including support for beginning and disadvantaged farmers, farm workers, outreach and information dissemination to growers, improving local and regional infrastructure and adaptation to climate change. Just 1 percent of the funding went towards organic agriculture, missing an important opportunity to help growers meet soaring consumer demand.
The report recommends increasing overall support for marketing but concludes that too much funding went to projects focused on image-building efforts that will have little impact on growers’ profitability or on improving Americans’ diets. The findings highlighted a number of questionable projects funded in 2009 and 2010, before Secretary Ross took office. These included a $180,000 grant to the Alliance for Food and Farming to support a controversial campaign that targeted EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, as well as two 2010 grants totaling $940,000, both managed by Western Growers on behalf of the California Specialty Crop Communications Alliance, that focused on social media and promotional campaigns. These and similar grants funded in 2009 supported the public relations efforts of a much broader agriculture industry coalition, the California Agriculture Communications Alliance, which is trying to promote a positive image to consumers increasingly concerned about agriculture’s negative impact on health and the environment.
TK: The EWG analysis may or may not be solid in the main, but the fact it singles out the Alliance for Food and Farming as a “questionable project” is a tip off that the EWG would like nothing more than to shout down any voice that is raised in opposition to its alarmist tactics to confuse consumers about the safety of fresh produce.