US: Senate approves multi-million dollar speciality crops grants

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US: Senate approves multi-million dollar speciality crops grants

Block grants of US$70 million per year for specialty crops have been approved by the U.S. Senate in the forthcoming five-year farm policy bill.

Lobbying by the Speciality Crop Farm Bill Alliance -  representing more than 120 organizations of growers, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts and nursery plants - appears to have paid off.

Western Growers CEO and co-chair of the alliance Tom Nassif, said the bill offered the opportunity for Americans to lead a healthier life.

"Farm bill funding helps fuel innovations in farming that will help our producers grow and harvest an abundant supply of specialty crops utilizing fewer natural resources.

"This is an opportunity to help our industry in the short and long-term as well as help secure the jobs of millions of American workers who support agriculture and reduce the federal deficit."

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack praised the Senate's "bipartisan spirit" in approving the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act.

"I am grateful for the Senate’s progress toward providing a reformed safety net for producers in times of need, supporting agricultural research and trade promotion, honoring World Trade Organization commitments, furthering the bio-based economy, conserving our natural resources, strengthening local and regional food systems, and promoting job growth in rural America."

Produce and Marketing Association president and CEO Bryan Silbermann welcomed the bill's treatment of speciality crops.

"This success would not have been a reality without the leadership of Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and chair of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, who continued the breakthroughs for specialty crops made in the last farm bill, but in a far more difficult budgetary environment.

"The efforts of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance also deserve recognition, once again successfully advocating for the inclusion of programs targeted to the needs of produce and other specialty crop."

The 1,000-plus page bill includes key specialty crop industry priorities such as research, pest and disease mitigation, trade, nutrition, and other programs help producers to be competitive.

It also maintains programs such as the snack program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s purchases of fruits and vegetables for school meals.

The Environmental Working Group was disappointed amendments to cap crop insurance subsidies and eliminate, or reform, new revenue guarantees were not debated.

The House of Representives' Agriculture Committee is expected to release its version of the bill in July.

Related stories: Opinion: crop insurance subsidies are harming U.S. farming

U.S. ag committee farm bill supports speciality crop investment

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