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House Approves $54 Million for Specialty Crops

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Oct. 7 that will bring $54 million a year for five years to specialty crop programs.

The Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act, introduced by Rep. Doug Ose, R-Calif., will use an annual $54 million to improve the quality, safety and future productivity of the fresh fruit, vegetable and nut industries. States’ departments of agriculture will use about $44.5 million of that annual amount for block grants. About $5 million per year will go toward specialty crop research.

John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, said the extra funding will help improve the specialty crop industries.

“It will allow us to be able to do things we couldn’t do before,” he said.

Bakker said the asparagus industry “can certainly use the help right now.” He said foreign imports have hurt the U.S. industry and money from the bill might go toward helping automate the nation’s producers.

“We’ve certainly been looking at programs to aid packers, canners and freezers in buying equipment,” he said.

Ose’s bill replaced the heavily-debated original bill, which called for $500 million in annual mandatory funding. At press time, the Senate was expected to pass the bill by Oct. 9, the end of the 108th Congressional session.

The last specialty-crop assistance package approved by Congress gave $169 million in block grants to growers in 2001.

Originally posted Monday, Oct. 18, 2004

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