U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said he was rescinding a decision by the previous administration that would have moved $3.2 million in Specialty Crop Block Grant money to fund oversight and enforcement responsibilities for mandatory COOL.
Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy at United Fresh, released the following statement on this decision:
“We are extremely pleased that Secretary Vilsack has made this decision and reversed what would have been bad public policy all the way around." The Specialty Crop Block Grant program is an extremely important tool for producers across the country and was enacted by Congress in the 2008 farm bill with mandatory funding. It is incomprehensible that the previous leadership at USDA would place the entire burden of funding COOL enforcement on our sector, when COOL applies to meat and seafood as well. If USDA believes additional funding is required for COOL enforcement, we strongly believe Congress should appropriate funding solely for that purpose.
Vilsack’s policy reversal comes on the heels of former Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer informing House and Senate agriculture leaders in December that he was moving forward with this process despite strong objections by United Fresh and others. The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance sent a letter to Schafer expressing strong opposition to this decision. United Fresh also worked closely with President Obama’s transition team to ensure this issue was address early on in the new administration.