A Democrat once said that George W. Bush was born on third base and went through life thinking he hit a triple.

Fresh produce and the farm bill: not born on second baseWell, to borrow that imagery, we can say the fresh produce industry is standing on second base in the game that is the farm bill reauthorization process. And the industry is in scoring position because of hard work, not dumb luck or a sense of entitlement.

It took the industry a good measure of cohesive coordination to win gains in the 2008 farm bill. The Congressional Budget Office estimates  that mandatory outlays in the horticulture and organic agriculture title cost about $102 million annually from 2010 through 2012.

While it may only be the first inning of the 2012 reauthorization effort, it appears the "all together now" approach is paying dividends in 2012.

The Senate Agriculture Committee's work on the farm bill is meeting with favorable reports so far. The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance - the core of the industry's effort to be heard - came out with a press release that summarized the benefits to the industry as follows:

•    Specialty Crop Block Grants funded at $70 million per year
•    Specialty Crop Research Initiative funded at $25 million in FY13; $30 million in FY14-15; $65 million in FY16; $50 million in FY17
•    Plant Pest and Disease Program funded at $60 million in FY13-16 and $65 million in FY17
•    Market Access Program and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops fully funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels
•    Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program fully funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels
•    Hunger-Free Communities Grant Program for fruit and vegetable SNAP incentives
•    Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program
•    Section 32 specialty crop purchases funded at 2008 Farm Bill levels
•    DoD Fresh program fully funded at $50 million per year consistent with 2008 levels

Check this GAO report for a comprehensive look at issues lawmakers are facing with the 2012 farm bill.

TK: How soon is soon? That's what we continue to wonder regarding the timing of the release of FDA's produce safety rule. Jerry Hagstrom has reported that FDA official Michael Taylor has said the produce rule will drop very soon and feature a 120-day comment period.


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