The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee’s passage of its 2007 farm bill version includes $3 billion over five years in mandatory funding for specialty crop priorities, a component supported by Western Growers, a grower advocate organization based in Irvine, Calif.

“We would like to commend Senate Ag Committee Chairman Harkin, Ranking Member Chambliss, and Senators Conrad, Casey and Crapo for their support of the specialty crop industry and moving our priorities forward in the committee’s Farm Bill mark-up,” said Tom Nassif, Western Growers president and chief executive officer. “We owe a special debt of gratitude to Senator Debbie Stabenow who has been our number one champion throughout this process.”

According to Western Growers, the $3 billion specialty crop funding includes:

- Competitiveness grants, which allow states to invest in projects that support production-related research, commodity promotion and consumption, sustainability, food safety, and other projects that enhance the competitiveness of the specialty crop industry;

- Pest and disease programs to prevent the introduction of pests and diseases of specialty crops;

- Trade assistance to strengthen U.S. specialty crop exports through the elimination of specialty crop trade barriers; and

- The School Snack Program to increase children’s consumption of fruits and vegetables and improve their overall health.

The full U.S. Senate could consider the Agriculture Committee’s farm bill proposal the week of Oct. 29.