Krysta Harden, chief of staff for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, speaks to members of United’s Government Relations Council  about the Obama administration’s strong support for nutrition programs in the farm bill.
Krysta Harden, chief of staff for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, speaks to members of United’s Government Relations Council about the Obama administration’s strong support for nutrition programs in the farm bill.

Pushing Congress to pass a farm bill this year and taking a closer look at insurance in the specialty crop industry emerged as two hot topics at meetings of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance the week of March 12.

“We are working through what role crop insurance should play in the specialty crop industry,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.

United Fresh provides administrative support for the alliance, a national coalition of more than 140 specialty crop organizations representing 350 specialty crops.

Meeting in Washington, D.C., the alliance discussed strategies to build alliances to help build momentum to pass a farm bill this year, Guenther said.

There are varied ideas about the importance of crop insurance among members of the alliance, Guenther said.

“It is a mixed bag of discussion points,” Guenther said. “Some find value in having that type of risk-management tool, and some quite frankly haven’t really felt it is necessary and address risk management in other ways.”

Some members of Congress want to help the specialty crop industry with risk-management tools from the USDA, Guenther said.

“The theme around this is what we don’t want this discussion to unintentionally lead to products that could be market distorting,” he said. “On the other hand, we do want to make sure there are opportunities to create new worthy products and expand current products that are working for specialty crop growers.”

Other high points of the meeting of the alliance included discussions with Krysta Harden, chief of staff for Secretary Tom Vilsack, about a wide range of USDA programs, Guenther said.