By Clint Thompson
The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA), which comprises more than 200 specialty crop organizations representing growers of fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, nursery plants and other products, have released its recommendations for the 2023 Farm Bill.
In a letter to Agriculture Committee leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, the SCFBA co-chairs emphasized that investments in the competitiveness and sustainability of the U.S. specialty crop industry will produce a strong return for all Americans, not just producers.
The co-chairs include Mike Joyner, President of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association; Dave Puglia, President and CEO of Western Growers; and Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council, along withRobert Guenther, Chief Public Policy Officer for International Fresh Produce Association, who serves as secretariat for the Alliance.
“It is the result of a year-long process to come up with recommendations that are unanimously supported by the U.S. specialty crop industry,” Quarles said. “Fruit and vegetable organizations across the country sat down in January a year ago and started going through every title of the farm bill, providing advice, updates, recommendations on how to make the farm bill more relevant for fruit and vegetable producers. It took us almost 13 months to get there, but we got the recommendations out and we think that if they’re implemented, this is going to allow the fruit and vegetable industry to be vastly more competitive in the grower marketplace.
The SCFBA’s 2023 Farm Bill recommendations represent the most comprehensive set of ideas from the coalition to date, including 109 specific recommendations covering eight Farm Bill titles.
The recommendations prioritize a set of core principles:
• Healthy Americans: Expanding access and availability to safe, wholesome, healthy and affordable foods, as well as trees, flowers and plants, will encourage lifelong healthy eating habits, mental and physical well-being, and help address national priorities such as obesity, heart disease, and food and nutrition insecurity.
• Competitiveness and Sustainability: In recognition of its significance to American agriculture, the American food supply, and the communities it supports across the United States, a proportional share of farm bill resources and mandatory spending should be allocated to specialty crop priorities.
• Trade and Foreign Competition: Establishing a competitive playing field for American specialty crop producers includes assisting American producers with unfair foreign competition, promoting American specialty crops in foreign markets and eliminating trade barriers that discriminate against American specialty crop exports.
• Research and Innovation: A sustained federal investment into research and innovation must be of a meaningful scale to catalyze opportunities for the industry, alleviate existing challenges and propel the U.S. specialty crop industry to a new level of global competitiveness.
• Natural Resources and Climate: Recognizing the diverse nature and unique challenges involved in specialty crop production enhances the ability of specialty crop producers to participate fully in all USDA conservation programs as well as any initiatives to address global climate change.
Specialty crop production, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, nursery and greenhouse commodities, contributes significantly to the U.S economy, accounting for $64.7 billion in farm gate value and 30% of farm cash receipts for crops.
Source: Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance Press Release