We Need to Fight for Fruit and Vegetable Growers in the Next Farm Bill

Image by USDA

Washington is currently consumed with the intrigue surrounding a new administration and all things Trump. Behind the scenes, the business of running the government and improving policies that impact our daily lives continues, even if it doesn’t rise to the level of “Breaking News” on the cable outlets.

Though the current farm bill seems to have only just been completed, it is more than halfway through its intended lifespan and the process of creating a new one is gaining momentum. By Fall of 2018, this bill will expire and likely be extended or replaced by a successor.

Commodity groups, activist organizations, think tanks, and a host of other interested parties are already organizing themselves to bend the next farm bill in their favor.  The National Potato Council (NPC) joined with other fruit and vegetable organizations prior to the 2008 Farm Bill to form the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA). The goal of the group is to provide a powerful unified voice to Congress and the administration on farm bill policies and thereby ensure that every future bill enhances the competitiveness of the specialty crop industry.

The Alliance, which NPC co-chairs, represents the broad interests of the specialty crop industry, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and horticulture products. Though the specialty crop sector is still a relative newcomer to the farm bill, our impact has been immediate and obvious. In the last 10 years, the Alliance has used its combined voice to create programs such as the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops program and others to direct resources to a previously under-served sector of agriculture.

In all, more than $2 billion in cost-shared federal funds are now delivered in partnership with the fruit and vegetable industry in order to combat pests and diseases, provide tools to compete against foreign subsidized producers in export markets, and enhance the healthy options in school children’s meals. The return on investment for the U.S. economy from these programs is substantial and increasingly necessary in the rapidly-evolving agricultural marketplace.

Our success in this upcoming cycle is dependent on the active participation of producers across the U.S. We are confident the SCFBA has the technical tools to create strong policies that support our industry. As we saw in this most recent election, nothing should be taken for granted in Washington, D.C. A motivated group of individuals can accomplish previously unthinkable goals. NPC is leading the way for the specialty crops to build on past farm bill victories.