Specialty Crops Advance in Senate Farm Bill

United Fresh congratulates the Senate on the passage of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 with a vote of 66-27. The bill addresses many priorities critical to United Fresh members, including programs supporting essential research, market promotion and nutrition, and continues their support of specialty crops that was established in the 2008 Farm Bill.

“We congratulate the Senate Agriculture Committee and Senate Leadership for moving forward with this legislation that is so important to the nation’s produce providers,” says Tom Stenzel, United Fresh CEO. “The bill supports fruits and vegetables in ways that will boost consumption and help provide healthful options to Americans – through block grants, nutrition programs and pest and disease research. We’re looking forward to working with the House to preserve funding for these critical fruit and vegetable programs.”

“It’s gratifying to see the Senate Agriculture Committee and the full Senate restore confidence and support to the industry that has been waiting since the expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill,” says Robert Guenther, United’s senior vice president of public policy. “We commend the Senate for maintaining their support for programs important to the produce industry.”

As a member of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, United worked closely with senators and produce industry stakeholders to secure support for several programs of particular importance to the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. The bill passed by the Senate includes key specialty crop industry priorities such as research, pest and disease mitigation, trade, nutrition, and other programs that enhance the ability of producers to be competitive and meet the needs of American consumers. Highlights of the bill include:

  • Specialty Crop Block Grants funded at $70 million per year
  • Specialty Crop Research Initiative funded at $25 million (FY2014); $30 million (FY2015-2016); $65 million (FY2017); $50 million (FY2018)
  • Coordinated Plant Management Program funded at $60 million (FY2014-2017) and $65 million (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
  • DoD Fresh program fully funded at $50 million per year consistent with 2008 levels

“The Senate has sent a strong signal to the House that this legislation deserves to be acted on quickly, and we encourage the House to move forward as soon as possible. United will continue to work with Congress to provide the produce industry perspective and raise awareness of the issues most important to our members,” says Guenther.

The House Agriculture Committee approved their version of the Farm Bill on May 16. The full House is scheduled to consider the legislation the week of June 17

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