Trade Groups Cheer Senate Farm Bill Passage

The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) expressed satisfaction in response to the U.S, Senate’s passage last week of the 2012 farm bill.

“PMA commends the Senate for their attention to the needs of specialty crops throughout the 2012 farm bill,” said Bryan Silbermann, president and CEO of Newark, Del.-based PMA. “This success would not have been a reality without the leadership of Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, … 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 crops.”

Continued Silbermann: “The 2012 farm bill includes increased spending for state block grants to support specialty crops, and the plant and disease program known as ‘10201.’ The bill also maintains nutrition programs such as the snack program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s purchases of fruits and vegetables for school meals. Also included is the reauthorization of the research program designed to target research needed by specialty crops, even attempting to address concerns the coalition has raised to better align that research with industry needs.”

Officials from the United Fresh Produce Association also applauded the Senate Agriculture Committee and Senate leaders "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), which Stenzel said was 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 Fresh applauded 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 SVP 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.

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

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