Specialty crops in limbo after U.S. farm bill extension
In part of a greater fiscal agreement, the House and Senate voted for a nine-month extension of the 2008 bill rather than implementing a new five-year package. The bill will now need to be redrafted and approved before Sept. 30 when the fiscal year comes to an end.
California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen explained the disappointment felt by many fruit and vegetable producers.
“What we have right now is a very vague step that Congress took. We in the specialty crop industry have not been told exactly what is being continued and what is being continued with funding. It’s disappointing. We had a very balanced farm bill that treated the specialty crop industry fairly,” Nelsen told www.freshfruitportal.com.
“I’m waiting to see something in print so we can make the determination of whether this extension is a true extension of the farm bill or if it’s a cherry-picked extension.”
Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association President Mike Stuart seconded disappointment that debate will be forced to start over again.
“We had worked very hard with key members in the House and Senate to craft a Farm Bill that was fiscally responsible and gave producers resources, such as research funding for pest and disease programs, that they need to remain competitive and to ensure a safe, healthful supply of fruits and vegetables,” Stuart said in a press statement.
At the bill’s current state, programs such as the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, the Clean Plant Network and certain research initiatives have expired and will require reevaluation.
United Fresh Produce Association’s Ray Gilmer explained that the new agreement will come with a tighter hold on the pocket book, although he doubted any major programs would be forced to end.
“We’re basically rewriting a new farm bill that has to be passed by the end of September of this year. And the risks are that given the budgetary question right now, it may be difficult to maintain the kind of funding levels for many programs, such as research, that we were able to win in the 2012 bill,” Gilmer said told www.freshfruitportal.com.
“I think that’s one of the largest concerns we have is that we’re having to go back and rework a bill that already pretty much got through Congress but in a much more severe budgetary environment.”
The new Congress begins session on Thursday, Jan. 3.