FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE)- The largest federal grant ever awarded to a Central Valley group was announced on Friday.

The Fresno-Merced Future of Food Innovation (F3) Coalition was selected as one of the recipients of federal funds that will go into modernizing the local ag industry, totaling $65 million.

The group received the highest cash award out of more than 529 communities that applied for funding from the federal government under the Build Back Better Regional Challenge.

A coalition of city leaders formed the F3 initiative aimed at giving support for those in the ag industry. A total of $1 billion dollars was awarded to 21 finalists.

“This is big news for us, this means that local small businesses farm workers, food workers, those who need access to training, to increase their skills to be able to make more money all that’s included in this program,” said former Fresno mayor and current President & CEO of Central Valley Community Foundation Ashley Swearengin.

Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula says this is historic for the Central Valley.

“As the breadbasket of the world, it’s important for us to have food security, and believe that these types of investments that help us create what the future of food looks like are imperative to help us survive and to thrive,” says Dr. Arambula.

Another goal of the initiative is higher pay and resources for those who put food on our tables.

“So it’s a tremendous imbalance, and these grant dollars are all geared toward improving the innovation in the industry, growing higher quality jobs, and making sure that the people paying the price to feed the rest of the country has access to opportunity that benefits their families,” said Swearengin.