Produce industry concerned over farm bill changes

The House version of the farm bill makes a significant policy change to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program by eliminating the program’s focus on fresh fruits and vegetables.

United Fresh congratulates House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, Ranking Member Collin Peterson and the House Agriculture Committee for advancing the “Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act” (FARRM). The Committee’s proposed Farm Bill was passed with a vote of 35-11 and reinforces many of the commitments that were included in the Senate-passed legislation.

Included in the House version are many provisions that support the efforts of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance. These programs include: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.

In addition, the bill advanced by the House also includes an amendment that will help strengthen the risk management tools for specialty crop providers. Representative Dennis Cardoza’s (D-Calif.) amendment calling for a feasibility study of providing risk management for those adversely affected by food safety recalls is similar to the language adopted by the Senate.

Unfortunately, the House bill makes a significant policy change to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program by eliminating the program’s focus on fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Opening this program to all forms of fruits and vegetables undermines the goal and focus of the program, which is to provide a fresh option to more than 3 million American school children,” explained Robert Guenther, United’s senior vice president of public policy. “On a business level, this change has the potential to decrease fresh produce growers’ opportunities to provide fresh produce to children that likely would not otherwise have access,” he stated. “Congress needs to hear from producers and parents that understand the value of this program, and this will definitely be a major issue we address at this year’s Washington Public Policy Conference in our one-on-one meetings with congressional offices.”

The Washington Public Policy Conference, Oct. 1-3, brings produce industry leaders together to influence policy and drive progress on critical issues. Two days of meetings with lawmakers will give attendees the opportunity to explain the importance of providing fresh fruits and vegetables to children, which is a powerful message coming from a constituent.

United Fresh remains committed to working with agriculture allies to urge lawmakers to pass the 2012 Farm Bill before the current law expires on Sept. 30 this year.

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