The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance commended House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, Ranking Member Collin Peterson and committee members for passing their version of the farm bill.
The committee’s approval of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 by a bipartisan 36-10 vote is the second positive step for specialty crops, coming just a day after the Senate Agriculture Committee passed its version of the farm bill. The full House is expected to take up the bill in June.
Included in the House version are provisions funding key specialty crop priorities such as:
- Specialty Crop Block Grants funded at $72.5 million in fiscal 2014-2017 and $85 million in FY2018
- Specialty Crop Research Initiative funded at $50 million in FY2014-15; $55 million in FY 2016-2017; and $65 million in FY2018
- Coordinated Plant Management Program funded at $62.5 million in FY2014-2017 and $75 million in FY2018
- 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
- Section 32 specialty crop purchases at 2008 levels
- DoD Fresh program fully funded at $50 million per year consistent with 2008 farm bill levels
However, members of the Alliance are disappointed over language in the House bill that signals a significant policy change to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, a program that provides healthful fresh produce to up to three million school children.
“Most of the goals and critical priorities that the specialty crop community has been fighting for over the years have been strengthened or maintained by the House Committee bill, and we thank the Committee for its work,” said Western Growers’ President and CEO Tom Nassif, a co-chair of the Alliance. “We would be remiss, however, in not mentioning that we hope the full House strengthens provisions around crop insurance for our industry as well as the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.”