The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee’s approval of federal farm program legislation is drawing praise from groups representing western agriculture.
The committee Tuesday approved the five-year Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 measure by a 15-5 vote. The measure now moves to the full U.S. Senate for consideration.
Specialty crops - including fruit, nuts, vegetables and other crops - are a major component of western agriculture. The Specialty Crops Alliance (SCA) embraces the legislation.
“We’re encouraged at this very positive step,” said Mike Stuart, a SCA co-chair, and president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association.
“By investing in key priorities of the specialty crop industry, this bill will help put more fruits and vegetables on Americans’ plates and fosters strong local economies. We urge the Senate to keep up the momentum by passing this bill,” Stuart said.
The SCA says the legislation includes these specialty crop provisions based on a five-year law:
- 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 FY2015-16; $65 million in FY2017; and $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 the 2008 farm bill level;
- Fresh fruit and vegetable program funding at 2008 levels; and
- Section 32 specialty crop purchases funded at 2008 levels.
California Citrus Mutual (CCM) is pleased with most of the content in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s bill. CCM President Joel Nelsen urges Congress to fund programs in their respective farm bills which target invasive species, including the deadly citrus disease Huanglongbing.
CCM is a citrus producer trade association whose members comprise 60 percent of California’s $2 billion citrus industry.
“We need a farm bill,” echoes California Rice Commission President and Chief Executive Officer Tim Johnson. He calls the Senate Ag Committee measure a “step in the right direction.”
Johnson says the proposed agriculture risk price loan programs for commodities, including rice, would provide growers with additional flexibility.
“We really don’t see any scenario where direct payments will continue to be part of the farm bill safety net,” Johnson said.
The measure will be more about risk management, Johnson says, whether through a price loss program or a floor to be triggered to provide an adequate level of protection if prices drop significantly.
Arizona Farm Bureau President Kevin Rogers cast the organization’s support behind the Senate measure.
“This is a well-crafted farm bill.”
Rogers says the proposal represents the concerns of the nation’s farmers, and abides to crop insurance and risk management priorities.
“I urge Congress to pass a farm bill as soon as possible this year,” Rogers said.