specialty crop

Funding Questionable for New Specialty Crop Farm Bill Programs

DanAgri-Business, Farm Bill, Funding, Legislative, Specialty Crops

specialty crop

by Sabrina Halvorson

The specialty crop industry wants farm bill funding for research and new programs, but lawmakers ask, where’s that money coming from?

Dave Puglia, president and CEO of Western Growers and co-chair of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance says it’s hard to say what is the most important of all the priorities for specialty crops in the farm bill. However, he said there are some important goals.

“It’s hard to pick among your children. The specialty crop Farm Bill Alliance is 125 organizations, 19 of us on the steering committee. We have 109 proposals into Congress,” he said while speaking at the Food and Ag Policy Summit in Sacramento, California on Monday. “We’ve all been meeting with the chairs and ranking members of the committees and other members of the committees to make sure they have clarity on what those 109 proposals entail. I would just put it this way. I think going into any farm bill cycle where the specialty crop industry still has a toehold, and doesn’t necessarily have the strongest toehold politically, the first order of business is: no going backward.”

Puglia said his second most important goal was to find new money for new research and programs that would directly benefit specialty crops such as research into automation. Still, he said that is going to take some work, as he learned at a meeting with Michigan Senator and chair of the Senate Ag Committee, Debbie Stabenow.

“She immediately looked at myself and a couple of my colleagues who were with me from the alliance and said, ‘There won’t be any new money, so don’t ask.’  And she’s our great champion for specialty crops,” he said. “I love Senator Stabenow, but I just couldn’t sit there and hear that after seeing the federal government come up with $3.5 trillion in the last two years that wasn’t there prior.”

Yet, speaking Tuesday at the Midwest Agriculture Summit held in Fargo, North Dakota, former long-time Congressman Collin Peterson reiterated that there won’t be any new money.

“I think the biggest issue now is all these groups that want to get in the bill, all these folks who want more money, and where’s that going to come from? The Republicans are not going to stand for any extra revenue, in my opinion. That’s off the table,” Peterson said. “And so, if we’re going to cut spending, it’s very difficult to take money cut from one part of the farm bill and try to add it to the other part.”

Meanwhile, Puglia isn’t giving up. He asks lawmakers to look seriously at the proposals the alliance put forward around things such as automation, mechanization, research into biologicals, and more.

You can hear more about the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance and its requests for the farm bill in this interview with Robert Gunther, chief public policy officer of the International Fresh Produce Association and secretary of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance.

Sabrina Halvorson
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.

Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet News Hour and The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.