The California State University and Fresno Foundation, in partnership with the California Dairy Innovation Center (CDIC), announced the receipt of a $1.8 million award from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to create a “Pacific Coast Coalition” to support dairy businesses in California, Oregon and Washington in the development, production, marketing and distribution of dairy products. Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives provide direct technical assistance, educational support, and grants to dairy businesses, according totThe California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), Tracy, Caliif.

The Pacific Coast Coalition will be led by host California State University, Fresno, and will implement programs in partnership with CDIC and collaboration with Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, the University of California–Davis, Humboldt State University and Oregon State University. The CDIC and its steering committee will serve as an advisory board to the coalition, bringing a comprehensive business perspective and assisting with a sub-awards program that will make $300,000 in grant funding available to regional dairy businesses for innovation-related investments annually for three years, the CMAB said.

Through this program, Fresno State and collaborating institutions will deliver hands-on technical assistance to dairy businesses, providing access to laboratory space and equipment to facilitate development and innovation. The coalition has a strong focus on education as well and will offer learning opportunities on technical topics and related areas of interest such as supply chain innovation, distribution, packaging, marketing and branding strategies.

Developing the regional workforce by offering online and bilingual programs will be key to offering opportunities for growth to the region’s diverse population while meeting the dairy industry’s needs, the CMAB noted. Recognizing the necessity of collaboratively addressing the significant issues facing the Pacific Coast region’s dairy industry, Fresno State will leverage its technical expertise and research capabilities in value-added dairy innovation with a remarkable set of academic and business partners.

“This collaboration is why the CDIC was created, to support collaboration and attract investment in California’s dairy industry,” said John Talbot, CEO of the CMAB. “We’re pleased to join the group of existing coalitions in Wisconsin, Vermont and Tennessee, to advance our industry nationwide.”

California leads the nation in milk production and milk is the No. 1 agricultural commodity in the state. California also is a leading exporter of dairy products, the CMAB noted. The Pacific Coast region is home to hundreds of dairy businesses that are well positioned to serve the needs of growing markets in Asia and Latin America.

“The Pacific Coast Coalition will contribute to our competitive advantage in global markets and directly benefit our regional businesses. It will be instrumental to stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship, strengthening the development of our workforce pipeline, and ultimately leading to the increased use of our milk in value-added products,” added Talbot.