Senate Supports Specialty Crops With Passage of Farm Bill

The following is a press release from the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance.

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance is a national coalition of more than 120 organizations representing growers of fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, nursery plants and other products. The alliance was established to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crop agriculture and improve the health of Americans by broadening the scope of U.S. agricultural public policy.  WineAmerica is a member of the coalition and we have worked with our coalition partners to maintain strong support for specialty crops on Capitol Hill.

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA) applauded the passage of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 in the Senate today with a vote of 66-27. The bill addresses many of the critical priorities outlined by the SCFBA and continues the support of specialty crops that was established in the 2008 Farm Bill.

“This bill makes a strong investment in specialty crops, including critical funding for Specialty Crop Block Grants and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. The Senate has worked hard to produce a bill that will put more fruits and vegetables in schools, enhance our efforts to fight invasive pests and diseases, and help us to market our crops. Now we’ll focus our efforts on an equally successful outcome as the House takes up its bill,” said Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and co-chair of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance.

“We are very pleased by the strong vote in favor of the Farm Bill in the Senate,” said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers and co-chair of the Alliance. “This bill provides the specialty crop community with necessary resources 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. We hope that the House of Representatives moves expeditiously next week to likewise pass its version of a bill.”

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance is grateful to the Senate Agriculture Committee for bringing a comprehensive bill to the floor and to the key policymakers who worked with the Alliance to secure support for several programs of particular importance to the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. The bill includes key specialty crop industry priorities such as research, pest and disease mitigation, trade, nutrition, and other programs help 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 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.

“This is an important step in the effort to finalize critical federal farm and food policy. The House Agriculture Committee has approved a solid bill that should be approved by the full House so that the measures can proceed to conference to work out any remaining differences,” said John Keeling, National Potato Council executive vice president and CEO and co-chair of the Alliance.

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