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Congress Reviews Research Programs, Specialty Crops

Congress Reviews Research Programs, Specialty Crops
Research touted as important element that needs to be included in next Farm Bill.

In another audit hearing the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development examined USDA research programs on Thursday. This marks the ninth hearing in the audit series that is designed to provide committee members with a greater understanding of farm policy. Subcommittee Chairman Tim Johnson, R-Ill., says the only way to meet the growing demand for food will be through technological advances. Given that there will be fewer resources with which to write the next Farm Bill, he says his subcommittee has a responsibility to improve the administration of research programs to make the most efficient and effective use of the funds available.

Ranking Subcommittee Member Jim Costa, D-Calif., says research has been a core mission of USDA for 150 years, and that it has helped America's farmers thrive. He believes it's critically important that ag research programs remain strong so land grant universities and other ag schools can continue their important work on behalf of American agriculture.

Meanwhile in the Senate, Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., says specialty crops and organics are bright spots in the nation's economic future. But she says that critical support for research and risk management will be key to continuing growth in the sectors. She says focus must be placed on research and other critical tools that assist growers with pest and disease prevention and risk management.

Stabenow says specialty crop and organic growers are making a major contribution to the American economy. Sales of U.S. specialty crops top $60 billion annually. Organic sales also continue to grow, reaching nearly $29 billion in 2010. According to Stabenow it's important that these important producers are heard as the next Farm Bill is being written.

Stabenow made her comments during a Senate Agriculture hearing focused on the role specialty crops and organics play in American agriculture.

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