On June 21st the U.S. Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, commonly referred to as the 2012 Farm Bill, by a vote of 64-35. We are now waiting to see what the U.S. House will do and hope to see the House Agriculture Committee release its mark in the next week or two. Once we know where the House stands in regards to funding levels and priorities a clearer picture of the funding support for specialty crops, over the next 5 years, will come into focus.
What we know now are the funding levels the Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill includes for the specialty crop provisions, which are important to our industry and include:
- Specialty Crop Research Initiative
- Elevated to mandatory funding
- $200 million over 5 years
- Specialty Crop Plant Pest and Disease Program and the National Clean Plant Network
- $305 million over 5 years
- Specialty Crop Block Grants
- $350 million over 5 years
These allotments to specialty crops represent a significant increase in federal investment over the 2008 Farm Bill. These increases are reflective of the fact that this historically underserved area of agriculture represents a high return on investment for crops that constitute nearly half of farmgate receipts, a very true story that is regularly shared with members of Congress by the American Nursery & Landscape Association and its partners in the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance.
However, the funding levels that are included in the Senate version of the Farm Bill may represent a high water mark in comparison to what we might see proposed by the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. We will be keeping a close eye on the Committee’s efforts and work with its members and staff to ensure that specialty crop issues are prominently considered during their deliberations and in writing the bill.