The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, a national coalition of more than 120 organizations representing growers of fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, nursery plants and other products, commends House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson for releasing the Committee’s version of the 2012 Farm Bill. It also applauds the Committee’s diligent efforts to complete action on the measure and move it to the floor of the House of Representatives for passage.
The Alliance welcomes the Committee’s continued commitment to policies that enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of specialty crop agriculture. These commitments reinforce many of the policies that were included in the Senate-passed legislation.
Included in the House version are provisions funding key specialty crop priorities such as:
- Specialty Crop Block Grants at $70 million per year;
- Specialty Crop Research Initiative at $25 million in FY13; $30 million in FY14-15; $65 million in FY16; and $50 million in FY17;
- Plant Pest and Disease programs at $71.5 million starting in FY13. This is an increase over the Senate version;
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program at 2008 Farm Bill levels;
- Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion program;
- Section 32 specialty crop purchases at 2008 Farm Bill levels; and
- DoD Fresh Program at 2008 Farm Bill levels.
These funding commitments demonstrate that the House recognizes the value of these programs and their tremendous importance to the specialty crop industry.
Members of the Alliance are disappointed, however, to see the House language makes a significant policy change to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, a landmark program which has demonstrated the benefits of providing access to healthful fresh produce to millions of America’s school children. The Alliance believes that by proposing to eliminate the program’s focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, the House Farm Bill undermines the program’s benefits for up to 4 million low-income elementary students. The Alliance has long advocated that the integrity of the program’s mission is essential to promoting healthful eating habits in children. We will continue to work with our industry allies in Congress to ensure that the integrity of the program and its original mission of promoting fresh fruits and vegetables are upheld as the Farm Bill works its way through Congress and to the president’s desk.
The Alliance remains committed to working with broader agriculture interests to urge lawmakers to pass the 2012 Farm Bill before the current law expires on Sept. 30 this year.