(May 9) House and Senate negotiators celebrated the completion of the farm bill conference on May 8, and the legislation calls for $1 billion for fruit and vegetable snack programs in schools over the next 10 years.

“I’m a happy man,” said conference chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who confirmed the snack program was a part of the bill.

The farm bill also provides the first-ever title for specialty crops, Harkin noted, and funds specialty crop priorities at more than $1 billion over 10 years.

“This is a bill that should pass by large margins in both Houses and goes more than half way (with White House concerns),” he said. “It is a bill I hope the President will sign."

However, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer reiterated Bush’s disapproval May 8, citing lack of farm program reforms and its overall budget.

“The president will veto this bill,” Schafer said in a statement.

The farm bill produced by the conference is expected to provide between $2.5 billion and $3 billion for specialty crop priorities over 10 years, said Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh.

The bill could be considered by the Senate and House by mid-May, he said.

If President Bush does veto the bill, Guenther said industry lobbyists and United Fresh would work to overturn the veto.

Mike Stuart, president of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland, Fla., said he would like to see the language of the farm bill before commenting extensively. However, he said was encouraged by the completion of the bill and support given to the specialty crop industry not only in the specialty crop title but also in the nutrition and conservation titles.