New Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s teleconference call on Jan. 26 included a very important piece of news, one that should lead to sighs of relief throughout the produce industry. During the call, in which Vilsack outlined his top priorities as head of USDA, he announced that he was rescinding a proposal made by the previous administration that would have cut $3.2 million in Specialty Crop Block Grant Funding. That money would have then been used to fund oversight and enforcement for mandatory Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL). Following Vilsack’s announcement, United Fresh Produce Association’s senior vice president of public policy Robert Guenther released a statement: “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.” You can find more information on Vilsack’s teleconference, including updates on Farm Bill implementation, new research and development opportunities, and more by clicking here.
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