Nov 15, 2023
Bill seeks protections for specialty crop exports

U.S. senators and representatives have introduced legislation designed to help farmers fight trade barriers to sell specialty crops in export markets.

The Specialty Crops Reporting on Opportunities and Promotion Act (Specialty CROP Act), introduced on Nov. 14, has already received support from several specialty crop organizations.

The legislation responds to “continued high tariffs, burdensome labeling requirements and other trade barriers that restrict U.S. products from accessing foreign markets,” according to a news release from U.S. Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).

Sen. Mike Crapo
Sen. Mike Crapo

Crapo and Ron Wyden, (D-Oregon), chair of the committee, introduced the Specialty CROP Act in the Senate; Reps. David Valadao (R-California), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon), and Elissa Slotkin (R-Michigan) introduced the House companion bill.

“From high tariffs to onerous labeling requirements, America’s specialty crop growers face a range of barriers imposed by foreign nations that hinder their ability to export their high-quality products around the world,” Crapo said in the release.  “Improving the USDA’s Specialty Crop Report will arm producers and trade negotiators with detailed and up-to-date information, helping break down longstanding trade barriers, diversify export markets and expand export opportunities for Idaho’s specialty crop producers.”

The legislation calls for changes to the annual U.S. Specialty Crops Trade Issues Report, including:

  • Requiring participation and engagement from the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
  • Highlighting specific trade barriers that limit the export competitiveness of specialty crops in specific markets, including tariff and non-tariff barriers.
  • Adding an assessment of whether each trade barrier is subject to a U.S. free trade agreement or international agreement.
  • Noting specific actions taken, or expected to be taken, by the U.S. government to address or resolve each trade barrier.
  • Requiring a request for comment from both the public and the Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee for Trade in Fruits and Vegetables.

While the report would continue to be public, the bill allows for a “classified annex in order to protect U.S. national security and economic strategy.” It also specifies that specialty crops will continue to be defined as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops including floriculture.”

‘Blockades in foreign markets’

Wyden said the “world is hungry” for U.S. produce.

“But all too often our farmers and producers are stymied by unreasonable blockades in foreign markets,” Wyden said in the release.  “Our bipartisan bill will help rural Americans by identifying unfair foreign trade barriers and creating specific plans to cut through that red tape.”

Rep. David Valadao
Rep. David Valadao

Valadao said California growers have faced many challenges in recent years, from supply chain backlogs at ports, rising input costs, labor shortages and drought.

“Many of our California-grown specialty crops rely on customers overseas, but too often face unfair trade barriers that make it difficult to stay competitive,” Valadao said in the release.  “This bill will better identify trade obstacles so that American-grown specialty crops have fair access to foreign markets.”

Slotkin said Michigan’s specialty crops are vital to the state’s economy and growers.

“This bipartisan bill will help growers access foreign markets, while also analyzing potential barriers to success — a straightforward, common-sense step that will support our agriculture community,” she said in the release.

In Oregon, blueberries, hazelnuts and other specialty crops are significant export crops.

“The Specialty CROP Act will improve the USDA’s existing specialty crops trade report to better translate its findings into meaningful action and policy.  I’m pleased to introduce this important bipartisan legislation with Senator Wyden and several colleagues in the House and Senate,” Bonamici said in the release.

Specialty crop industry support

“U.S. specialty crops are increasingly challenged in foreign markets by creative protectionist tariff and non-tariff barriers.  The legislation championed by Senators Wyden and Crapo seeks to call out and identify remedies for these impediments as a first step in eliminating them on behalf of U.S. family farmers.  We strongly support this commonsense effort to level the playing field,” — Kam Quarles, Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance co-chair and National Potato Council CEO.

Casey Cronquist
Casey Cronquist

“Maintaining and expanding access to overseas markets is critical for apple, cherry, and pear growers in the Pacific Northwest.  The legislation introduced by Senators Wyden and Crapo will help us understand the trade barriers in export markets and identify solutions to ensure growers remain competitive around the world,” — Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council.

“The global demand for blueberries continues to increase year-over-year. However, technical barriers and high tariff rates put U.S. blueberry producers at a competitive disadvantage in key export markets.  This bill will not only help identify specific barriers affecting specialty crops, but also encourage productive engagement between the industry, administration, and Congress on real solutions that will drive the growth of U.S. specialty crop exports,” — Kasey Cronquist, president of the North American Blueberry Council.

Read the text of the legislation here.

Read a one-page summary of the bill here.

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