Congress Offers Funds for Specialty Crops

December 17, 2004 - 13:40

Flower, fruit, vegetable and nut farmers across the country may be getting approximately $54 million under legislation approved by the United States Senate to promote live product through research, technological improvements, advertising and other methods, according to the Associated Press (AP)).

This bill would allow Congress to offer federal funds to all 50 states for otherwise unsubsidized crops. California's share would be the largest because the state has the highest specialty-crop production, according to the AP and the Society of American Florists (SAF) in its weekly newsletter.

The Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act of 2004 flew through the Senate before the winter recess. At an earlier date, the act had already passed through the House of Representatives, the next step is to have it signed by President Bush.

“The term specialty crops refers to fruits, vegetables, nuts and nursery products like flowers and Christmas trees — all farm crops except traditional row crops like wheat, soy beans and corn. Specialty crops account for about 50 percent of farm crops nationwide and contribute nearly $60 billion to the economy,” read the AP article.

According to the AP, The Specialty Crops Act includes $44.5 million for grants to state departments of agriculture to promote fruits and vegetables through programs such as new crop production tools and research and education. The bill would use approximately $5 million for research into alternatives to methyl bromide since the worldwide ban is quickly approaching. The rest of the money would go to a pest and disease response fund within the U.S. Treasury, a Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops program and an Agriculture Department inspection and training facility.

According to SAF’s E-Brief weekly newsletter, “It's important to note, however, that the bill simply ‘authorizes legislation,’ allowing these amounts in a USDA budget. Congress must still allocate the money each year. In the current era of fiscal austerity and tight agriculture budgets, Congress may not actually fund the programs. Decisions as to which segments — vegetables, fruits, nuts, flowers, etc. — would benefit from the funding would be made at a state level.”

For more information, contact Lin Schmale at SAF at (800) 336-4743 or lschmale@safnow.org.

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