The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance applauds the diligence of House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, Ranking Member Collin Peterson and the House Agriculture Committee for completing work on 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.

“We're very encouraged that work on the farm bill is continuing,” said Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and Alliance co-chair. “For agriculture and the jobs it creates, it’s critical that Congress avoids an extension and passes a farm bill by September 30.”

The Alliance, a national coalition of more than 120 organizations representing growers of fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, nursery plants and other products, commends the Committee’s continued support of policies that enhance the competitiveness and sustainability of specialty crop agriculture.

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.

“We’re pleased that the House Agriculture Committee has preserved policies that positively impact the employers, workers and families dependent on a strong specialty crop industry in it’s version of the Farm Bill,” said John Keeling, National Potato Council Executive VP and CEO, and Alliance co-chair. “Swift consideration of this bill in the House will secure the tools producers need to put more fruits and vegetables on Americans' plates and allow the agricultural economy to keep moving forward.”

“Specialty crop growers across the country moved one step closer today to securing critical federal programs that will help growers intervene against invasive pests and diseases; develop the next generation of drought, pest or disease resistant crops; provide technical assistance to expand international trade; develop other innovation techniques and technology; and encourage further consumption of fruits and vegetables,” said Tom Nassif, Western Growers President and CEO and Alliance co-chair. “All of us in the specialty crop industry now call upon the House leadership to move this bill and advance it to a conference with the Senate in order to complete a farm bill this year.”

Members of the Alliance are disappointed, however, to see the House bill 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 eliminating the program’s focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, the House Farm Bill undermines the program’s benefits for up to 3 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.