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'Buy California' Sends Out RFP

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State officials are set to release a 35-page request for proposals to find an agency that can encourage residents to buy more California-grown agricultural products.

The account budget is estimated to be more than $10 million over the next three years, said Lynn Morgan, marketing branch chief for the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The RFP is expected to go out late this week or early next. A question-and-answer session with interested shops will follow. Bids are due by March 18. Morgan said the review process would last approximately 40 days.

The selected agency will work on the campaign with graphic design, public relations and merchandising and sales firms. RFPs for those pieces of business are also being issued, Morgan said.

The "Buy California" program was established last year to "give a boost to the state's agricultural industry," said Morgan.

While California is the largest agricultural state in the U.S., producing more than 350 commodities, Californians eat 24 percent less fresh fruit and vegetables than the level recommended by health ex perts, according to the CDFA.

In addition, California farmers are losing market share to foreign competitors.

"It's not a matter of people buying less [California-grown products than before]," said Morgan. "Preliminary consumer research shows that consumers would be more willing to buy California-grown products if they knew they were California-grown. And some studies show they may be willing to pay more for them—it's a local pride thing."

Some 16 state organizations have signed on to participate in the program, Morgan said. They include the California Table Grape Commission, the California Salmon Council, the California Forest Products Commission and the California Apple Commission.

"We intend to promote all California products in general, none specifically," said Morgan.

This initial campaign will target Californians exclusively. However, the effort could be expanded beyond the state within the next few years, Morgan said.

Funding for the program comes from a combination of state and nonstate sources. Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill in July to provide a $5 million state contribution. Members of the agricultural industry are also contributing.