With the state of California facing a huge deficit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has stepped in to help fund the state’s on-going battles against invasive pests.

“As the nation’s leading agricultural state, California is the first line of defense for our country’s food supply,” California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary Karen Ross said in a news release. “USDA’s announcement of more than $14 million for projects in California … means the protective system can extend and improve its ability to detect, analyze, contain and eradicate high-priority pests and diseases.”

More than $1.3 million of the USDA funds are targeted at the European grapevine moth and the light brown apple moth, pests that could cause major problems for fresh produce grower-shippers.

“The funding is slim, but sufficient for our needs,” said Larry Hawkins, Sacramento-based spokesman for the USDA.

Among the joint state and federal efforts against the light brown apple moth is a one-square-mile sterile release evaluation program launched the week of June 13 in Long Beach, he said.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is heading the program.

“We picked Long Beach, because APHIS needed a place that is isolated, but infested,” Hawkins said.

Long Beach fit the bill in that the closest other apple moth infestation is in Monterey County, some 300 miles from Long Beach, he said.

Efforts to eradicate the European grapevine moth appear to be gaining momentum.

“The very good news on the grapevine moth side is that there have been no new detections in Fresno, Madera, San Joaquin, and Mendocino counties this year,” Hawkins said. “Come the 2012 season, with luck they should be able to go about business as usual.”

The grapevine pest has popped up in two new California counties.

“The downside is in Santa Clara County where a detection was made late last year near Gilroy and more were found early this year,” Hawkins said.

A moth also was found in May in a trap in Nevada County in the Sierra Nevada Mountains northeast of Sacramento, he said. The pest may represent an isolated case.

“We’re understanding better the connections between grapes in Napa County and the way the commodity moves,” Hawkins said. “Occasionally a truckload of bins is moved outside of the county for crush and that may account for erratic detections.”

Perhaps because the state’s citrus industry has stepped forward to fund efforts to control the Asian citrus psyllid, the pest that can carry the terminal disease huanglongbing, none of the USDA funds targets the psyllid.

However, $3.4 million will help fund dog detector programs, which have been effective in detecting psyllids.

“They use them (the dogs) at airports and express mail carriers such as Federal Express and UPS, which has been productive because a huge volume of material comes in there and federal agricultural inspectors just don’t have a presence at all.”

The state also will benefit from an additional $6.9 million to help cover the costs of exotic pest surveys in the California and other states.

“Those survey programs for invasive pests are for early detection,” Hawkins said.