UPDATED: Senate considers farm bill

05/21/2013 01:16:00 PM
Tom Karst

The House version of the farm bill eliminates the “fresh” designation of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program and would allow both processed fruits and vegetables to be purchased for the program, while the Senate retains the stipulation for fresh produce. In a news release, members of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance expressed disappointment in the policy change and vowed to work with members of Congress to restores its focus on fresh That issue will like be resolved in conference committee, Quarles said.

DiSogra said May 23 that one amendment to the Senate farm bill seeks to open up the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to frozen and canned fruits and vegetables.

Quarles said both bills would have an undersecretary of trade established at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Members of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance and other agriculture groups support that change, Quarles said.

“Given the amount of focus that specialty crops have on trade-related matters, people think that should be a pretty positive step,” he said.

There are some funding differences between the two bills.

In the House version of the farm bill, Specialty Crop Block Grants were funded at $72.5 million in fiscal 2014 to 2017, bumping up to $85 million in fiscal year 2018. In the Senate version, Specialty Crop Block Grants were funded at $70 million per year.

The House farm bill funds the Specialty Crop Research Initiative at $50 million per year for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, then increases levels to $55 million in 2016-17 and $65 million in fiscal year 2018. In the Senate’s farm bill, the program is funded at $25 million per year in fiscal year 2014, increasing to $50 million in fiscal year 2017.


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