Specialty Crop Spending Needs Scrutiny

While fruit and vegetable associations enjoyed sweet victory with the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill, the first such legislation to include money for specialty crop programs, the battle is far from over.


That was clear this past Wednesday, as the House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture held a hearing to review implementation of Title X of what is formally called the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. Chairman Dennis Cardoza of Modesto, CA, called the hearing to examine the implementation of Farm Bill provisions regarding specialty crops, organic agriculture, and plant pest and disease management.

"I appreciate the testimony provided today by representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding the specialty crop portion of the Farm Bill," said Cardoza. "It is clear that USDA has much more work to do to fully implement Congress’s direction in the Farm Bill, and I intend to hold additional hearings into these issues."

Cardoza’s colleague, Subcommittee Ranking Member Jean Schmidt of Ohio, agreed. "Specialty crop and organic producers across the nation have the opportunity to benefit from the Farm Bill, but only if the integrity of the programs is protected," she said. "It is crucial that we all do our part by ensuring these programs are implemented in a timely and appropriate manner."

The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 is the first Farm Bill to contain a separate title for issues related to specialty crops and organic agriculture. The bill dedicated almost $3 billion in funding over five years to these areas, including nutrition, farmers markets, plant, pest and disease management, trade, and conservation.

Information on the Horticulture and Organic Agriculture title of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 can be found on the Committee website at: http://agriculture.house.gov/inside/Legislation/110/FB/Conf/Title_X_fs.pdf.

A full transcript of Wednesday’s hearing will be posted on the Committee website at a later date.