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Senate Passes Farm Bill

The U.S. Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill Dec. 13, which includes more funds for the fruit and vegetable industry.

“Today’s action by the U.S. Senate represents another victory in recognizing the importance of specialty crops in national farm policy,” said United Fresh Senior Vice President of Public Policy Robert Guenther. “This Farm Bill bolsters the competitive standing of our industry in today’s global marketplace, and helps launch the next generation of children on a lifetime of healthier eating. We strongly encourage quick action by Congress to appoint a conference committee so differences between the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill can be worked out in an efficient and fair manner,” Guenther said.

Fruit and Vegetable Industry Priorities Included in the Senate Farm Bill

-Expansion of the USDA Fruit & Vegetable Snack Program to more than 4.5 million schoolchildren across all 50 states. This program will be a cornerstone of public health efforts to help children develop a life-long healthier lifestyle through consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

-Expansion of Specialty Crop Competitiveness projects focused on regional and local priorities for specialty crop producers. These projects have been successful in improving food safety, investing in infrastructure, enhancing market opportunities and supporting research aimed at specific industry needs.

-Investment in prevention and mitigation protocols to combat invasive plant pests and diseases, which cost the economy millions of dollars per year and threaten the future of many fruit and vegetable commodities.

-Enhanced critical trade assistance and market promotion tools that will grow international markets for specialty crops.

-Significant new investment in research to improve the safety, quality, affordability and access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

One amendment that was eliminated in the Senate version of the Farm Bill was the Klobuchar Amendment, which would have created a more stringent Adjusted Gross Income test for eligibility in the commodity programs. Under this amendment, a full time farmer would have to have an AGI below $750,000, while a part-time farmer would need an AGI below $250,000 to qualify for program benefits, according to USDA. The AGI limitation for conservation programs would remain unchanged from the underlying bill, and savings attributed to the lower AGI threshold would be devoted to increases in spending for beginning farmers, rural broadband grants, energy, conservation and research.

Originally posted Monday, Dec. 17, 2007

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