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Farm bill preserves fresh produce funding

The Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 with a vote of 64-35. The passage comes after a two-day consideration of more than 70 amendments, pared down from nearly 300 that were submitted.

United Fresh congratulates the Senate on the passage of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 with a vote of 64-35. The passage comes after a two-day consideration of more than 70 amendments, pared down from nearly 300 that were submitted. The bill addresses many priorities critical to United Fresh members, including programs supporting essential research, market promotion and nutrition, and continues their support of specialty crops that was established in the 2008 Farm Bill.

“We congratulate the Senate Agriculture Committee and Senate Leadership for prioritizing this legislation which is so important to the nation’s produce providers,” said Tom Stenzel, United Fresh president and CEO. “The bill supports fruits and vegetables in ways that will boost consumption and help provide healthful options to Americans – through block grants, nutrition programs and pest and disease research. We’re looking forward to working with the House to preserve funding for these critical fruit and vegetable programs.”

The bill maintains 2008 levels of funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), a victory for the more than 3 million school children who receive a fresh fruit or vegetable snack from the program each day. United helped to spearhead creation of the FFVP as an effective way to improve child nutrition, promote consumption of fruits and vegetables and encourage long-term healthy eating habits.

Additionally, United is pleased by the Senate’s acceptance of an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), which calls for a feasibility study of insurance products that could cover recalls, quarantines and market disruptions.

“It’s gratifying to see the Senate Agriculture Committee and the full Senate show such strong support for these important produce industry priorities,” said Robert Guenther, United’s senior vice president of public policy. “We commend the Senate for maintaining their support for programs important to the produce industry and moving through consideration of the bill so quickly.”

As a member of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, United worked closely with senators and produce industry stakeholders to secure support for several programs of particular importance to the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. The nearly 1000-page bill passed by the Senate includes key specialty crop industry priorities such as research, pest and disease mitigation, trade, nutrition, and other programs that enhance the ability of producers to be competitive and meet the needs of American consumers. Highlights of the bill include:

•      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

“The Senate has sent a strong signal to the House that this legislation deserves to be acted on quickly, and we encourage the House to move forward as soon as possible. United will continue to work with Congress to provide the produce industry perspective and raise awareness of the issues most important to our members,” stated Guenther.

The House Agriculture Committee is expected to release their version of the bill in July.

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