Better late than never.
That’s what the produce industry can say regarding the 2014 farm bill that achieved passage by the U.S. Senate in early February.
Although the industry may not be getting everything it wanted, there’s plenty to celebrate.
Specialty crops rank among the biggest victors in the new bill that industry lobbyists have been working on since the last one passed in 2008, with industry-friendly funding including:
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program — $150 million per year;
- Healthy Incentives Program — $100 million program (over five years) for programs to increase fresh produce purchases by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants;
- Specialty Crop Block Grants — includes $72.5 million 2014-17 and $85 million in 2018; and
- Plant Pest and Disease Program — $62.5 million 2014-17 and $75 million in 2018.
The finished bill’s funding for these fresh produce priorities at sustained and in some cases increased levels suggests a level of lobbying clout and a needed shift in thinking about federal nutrition and ag policies in Washington.
The industry — thanks in part to groups like the United Fresh Produce Association, Western Growers and many others — made its voice heard on Capitol Hill, perhaps a positive omen with what’s likely to prove a divisive and bruising legislative brawl over immigration reform and related guest worker provisions for agriculture.
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