Last fall, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, told a group of produce industry leaders that he was proud of his work as architect of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for schools.

It has risen from a $6 million pilot program in 2002 to $150 million in the current farm bill, and maybe higher in the one that is expected to be voted on in the Senate in mid-June.

But Harkin says the school program should be open only to fresh fruits and vegetables. No dried, processed, canned or frozen. He knows it may hurt some feelings, but the line must be drawn somewhere or the program strays too far from its purpose.

This stance may again be under fire in the Senate, as a Wisconsin senator offered an amendment that would allow all those other forms into the school snack program.

Overall, the fresh produce industry, or specialty crops, in Washington lingo, has done very well in recent farm bills and looks to improve its lot this summer, without opening the Pandora’s box of subsidies and crop insurance.

The industry’s Capitol Hill-based representatives will no doubt monitor the bill’s progress.

It remains far from an ideal piece of legislation, which would recognize fruits and vegetables’ place as half a plate of every meal consumed.

But gains are being made by the industry each year, so it shows that hard work and careful attention are paying off.

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