The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance commends the efforts of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and the Senate Agriculture Committee in advancing the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 in a 15-5 vote. The Committee’s proposed Farm Bill includes many of the key priorities for specialty crop producers.
The Alliance has worked closely with key policymakers on the Committee to secure support for programs of critical importance to the fresh fruit and vegetable industry.
The bill includes research, pest and disease mitigation, trade, nutrition and other priority programs that help to ensure producers can compete in the marketplace and meet the needs of American consumers.
“We’re encouraged at this very positive step,” says Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and a co-chair of the Alliance. “By investing in key priorities of the specialty crop industry, this bill will help put more fruits and vegetables on Americans’ plates and foster strong local economies. We urge the Senate to keep up the momentum by passing this bill.”
The proposals of greatest benefit to the fresh produce industry included in the legislation with a five-year authorization are:
- Specialty Crop Block Grants funded at $70 million per year;
- Specialty Crop Research Initiative funded at $25 million in fiscal year 2014; $30 million in FY 2015-16; $65 million in FY2017; $50 million in FY2018;
- Coordinated Plant Management Program funded at $60 million in FY2014-2017 and $65 million in FY2018;
- Market Access Program and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops fully funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels;
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program fully funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels
- Section 32 specialty crop purchases funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels; and
- DoD Fresh program fully funded at $50 million per year consistent with 2008 levels
“Fruit and vegetable growers in this country welcome the kind of assistance government provides for things beyond the control of farmers such as funds for food safety enhancement, pest and disease intervention and eradication and increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables that contribute to healthy diets that fight against chronic disease,” says Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers and Alliance co-chair. “The resources made available in this bill will go far to help develop better ways to grow, distribute and safe guard nutritious food Americans need for good health.”
The Senate action restarts a farm bill legislative process that stalled last year when the House failed to consider the measure approved by the House Agriculture Committee.
“This bipartisan action by the Senate Agriculture Committee begins a process that will be taken up by the House Agriculture Committee later this week that can result in passage of legislation that removes the uncertainty over federal farm and nutrition policy that has lingered under the short-term extension previously approved by Congress,” says John Keeling, executive vice president and CEO of the National Potato Council, also an Alliance co-chair.
The legislation now goes to the full Senate for debate. The House Agriculture Committee is expected to take action on its version of the bill on Wednesday.