Wednesday, April 25, 2012 by Tom O'Brien
Senate Agriculture Committee to consider farm bill
The Senate Agriculture Committee is expected to take up the farm bill, the massive reauthorization of federal farm programs, soon. Though it began as a reconsideration of price support programs, the farm bill has become the primary congressional vehicle on food and agricultural policy. In the last farm bill (enacted in 2008 and expiring this September), the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance successfully advocated for the inclusion of programs targeted to the needs of produce and other specialty crops.
Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan championed specialty crop agriculture in the 2008 bill; this time, she chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee. Recently Chairwoman Stabenow released a draft of the bill, known as “the chair’s mark.” A review of this draft reveals the proposal continues the tremendous gains specialty crops received in the last farm bill, but in a far more difficult budgetary environment. It increases spending for block grants to states to support specialty crops and the plant and disease program known as “10201.”
The draft maintains nutrition programs such as the snack program and USDA purchases of fruits and vegetables for school meals. The bill reauthorizes the research program designed to target research needed by specialty crops and even attempts to address concerns the coalition has raised to better align that research with industry needs.
The farm bill journey has many steps to go. It is not known if the work may be completed before the existing bill expires, but the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, which includes PMA, will continue fighting for the priorities for the fruit and vegetable industry. Chairwoman Stabenow’s bill is a significant start.
To make your voice heard in Washington on this critical legislation, visit PMA’s Advocacy Action Center to contact your Congressional leaders.