The produce industry should treat the failed farm bill with mild disappointment.
The latest farm bill stalled June 20 when the House of Representatives voted it down 234-195.
It was brought up by Republican leadership, but it failed to garner support from many Democrats because of feeding program cuts and from conservative Republicans because it didn’t reduce farm subsidies enough.
In mid-June, the Senate passed its farm bill version, but in the days before the House vote, President Obama said he would veto the House’s version because of its cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, food stamps.
Growing SNAP rolls are a touchy subject in Congress and society, and the produce industry would be wise to stay out of that debate, except to point out that extra fruits and vegetables make any feeding program healthier, regardless of its size.
A likely scenario now is a one-year extension of the current bill. Without a farm bill in place, some in agriculture are in serious trouble, but the produce industry isn’t.
The failure to pass a new farm bill represents a lost opportunity for fresh produce to become a more important player in government spending, but it’s not lost forever.
The specialty crop industry has made solid progress on the Market Access Program, specialty crop block grants and the school-based fruit and vegetable snack program.
Supporting expansion and access to healthier food like fresh fruits and vegetables is a bipartisan winner, which will get its time in Washington, D.C., even if it’s taking longer than we hope.
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