Feb 4, 2014
Agricultural groups hail passage of farm bill

Specialty crop advocates are hailing the U.S. Senate’s passage Feb. 4, by a vote of 68-32, of the conference report to the Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill). The legislation now goes to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it into law.

“This is a great victory for the apple industry, since the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the Clean Plant Network – both top USApple priorities – lost funding under the latest extension because they did not have a ‘baseline’,”said Jim Bair, president of the U.S. Apple Association (USApple).

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance made the following statement regarding today’s Senate action:

“The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance congratulates the Senate for a strong bipartisan vote today in passing the 2014 Farm Bill. We want to especially applaud the leadership of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Thad Cochran along with their counterparts in the House for the work they have put into this historic legislation over the last four years.

“The farm bill conference report includes an overall increase in investment of 55 percent over 2008 Farm Bill funding levels in critical specialty crop initiatives and programs, including the State Block Grant Program, Specialty Research Initiative, a new fruit and vegetable incentive grant program for SNAP recipients, the pest and disease prevention program along with maintaining funding in the Market Access Program and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program,” the statement said. “In short, this legislation represents the most significant government investment ever into the competitiveness of specialty crop producers and industry members. We look forward to this legislation being sent to the president and becoming law in the very near future.”

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance is a national coalition of more than 120 organizations representing growers of fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, nursery plants and other products. The alliance was established to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crop agriculture and improve the health of Americans by broadening the scope of U.S. agricultural public policy.

The United Fresh Produce Association also hailed the long-awaited passage of the farm bill, on which Congress started having hearings in 2010.

“It provides nearly $4 billion in funding for programs that benefit specialty crop production, including fresh produce,” the statement said. “The funding amounts and policies encompassed in the bill reflect specialty crop priorities for block grants, research, pest and disease mitigation, nutrition and trade. The federal commitment to specialty crop needs included in the bill is unprecedented and builds on the momentum begun under the 2008 Farm Bill.”

“Everybody seems to agree that in the history of Farm Bill reauthorizations, this has been the most challenging and has taken the longest,” said Robert Guenther, United Fresh’s senior vice president for public policy.

“But even though the overall bill took many unexpected twists and turns, one thing was consistent: strong, bipartisan support in the House and Senate for fresh fruit and vegetable policie,” Guenther said. “Throughout the long process, farm bill programs for fruits and vegetables were maintained or strengthened. This is a clear sign that policymakers recognize the importance of our industry to the nutritional well being of all Americans and to the overall U.S. economy. We’ll continue to work with lawmakers to ensure that America’s fruit and vegetable providers operate under government policies that allow them to be as innovative as they can be to enhance their competitiveness and ability to meet America’s nutritional needs.”

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