The Senate Agriculture Committee voted 16-5 to pass the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012. This marks the beginning of efforts to reauthorize the 2012 Farm Bill which is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2012. For the fresh fruit and vegetable industry and United Fresh members, this bill answers the call over the last year to continue to build on the investments made in the 2008 Farm Bill.
“While this is just the “first inning” of a long and difficult Farm Bill process, it is extremely important that the Senate Agriculture Committee has confirmed what our members have been saying for quite a long time: investments in fruit and vegetable producers translate into a healthy industry – from field to table – while creating job opportunities and improved nutrition for consumers,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh. The Farm Bill proposal includes the following fruit and vegetable programs: Funding of $150 million annually for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program:
- Annual funding at $50 million per year for DoD Fresh program to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to schools and service institutions
- Investment of $70 million annually for the Specialty Crop Block Grant program
- The Specialty Crop Research Initiative was funded at $25 million per year ramping up to $50 million by 2017
- Increased funding of $60 million in 2013 up to $65 million 2017 for pest and disease management programs
- The Market Access Program ($200 million per year) and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops ($9 million per year) were fully funded
- Hunger-Free Communities Grant Program for fruit and vegetable SNAP incentives was funded at $100 million over 5 years
- Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program was funded at $100 million over 5 years
- Section 32 specialty crop purchases funded at $406 million per year in mandatory purchases
As a member of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, United Fresh worked closely with key policymakers on the Committee and those with significant produce industry interests to secure support for several programs of particular importance to the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. This culminated on April 2 when 32 U.S. Senators sent a letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee demanding funding investments in specialty crops when the 2012 Farm Bill come up for consideration before the Committee.
“We applaud Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Roberts for listening to their Senate colleagues and industry stakeholders by making important policy investments in the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012,” stated Guenther.
The legislation must now go to the full Senate for debate and votes and then on to the House of Representatives for consideration, which is currently expected to occur sometime this summer.