The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA) applauded the passage of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 in the Senate today. The 64-35 vote comes after a two-day consideration of more than 70 amendments, pared down from the nearly 300 that were submitted. 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.

“We appreciate the hard work of Majority Leader Reid, Republican Leader McConnell, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, and Ranking Member Roberts for getting this challenging but vital farm bill over the Senate finish line,” said John Keeling, National Potato Council executive vice president and CEO and co-chair of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance. “The policies of the Farm Bill passed by the Senate will help protect the tens of thousands of jobs associated with the specialty crop industry and will help create more. And it further strengthens the access of all Americans to the specialty crops that enhance their daily lives.  We look forward to ensuring that the voices of employers, workers and families dependent on a strong specialty crop industry are heard as the House makes progress on its Farm Bill.”

"At a time when it's critically important for Americans to be eating more fruits and vegetables, Senate passage of this bill is great news for consumers," said Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and co-chair of the Alliance. "Besides preserving jobs, it helps to ensure access to a plentiful supply of healthful specialty crops. What's more, this bill addresses some of the continual significant challenges specialty crop growers face in the production and marketing of their crops in an increasingly global marketplace. We look forward to working with the House as it takes up its version of the bill."

“For specialty crop producers across the country the Farm Bill represents an opportunity to create a healthier life for Americans across the country,” said Tom Nassif, president and CEO, Western Growers and co-chair of the Alliance. “Farm Bill funding helps fuel innovations in farming that will help our producers grow and harvest an abundant supply of specialty crops utilizing fewer natural resources. This is an opportunity to help our industry in the short and long-term as well as help secure the jobs of millions of American workers who support agriculture and reduce the federal deficit. Now that the Senate has completed its work, we look forward to seeing Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson move the farm bill through the House Agriculture Committee.”

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 1,000-plus page 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 in FY13; $30 million in FY14-15; $65 million in FY16; $50 million in FY17
•      Plant Pest and Disease Program funded at $60 million in FY13-16 and $65 million in FY17
•      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
•      Hunger-Free Communities Grant Program for fruit and vegetable SNAP incentives
•      Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program
•      Section 32 specialty crop purchases funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels
•      DoD Fresh program fully funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels

The House Agriculture Committee is expected to release its version of the bill in July.