(Feb. 1, 2023) – The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA), a national coalition of more than 200 specialty crop organizations representing growers of fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, nursery plants and other products, has released its recommendations for the 2023 Farm Bill.
The SCFBA was established to advocate for broad-based Farm Bill policy initiatives to address the unique needs of a diverse sector of the agricultural economy, known as specialty crops, and to aid their overall competitiveness in the face of increasing imports and rising global pressures on American exports. It is led by Co-Chairs Mike Joyner, President of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association; Dave Puglia, President and CEO of Western Growers; and Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council, along with Robert Guenther, Chief Public Policy Officer for International Fresh Produce Association, who serves as secretariat for the Alliance.
“These recommendations are the most comprehensive and ambitious in the two-decade history of the Alliance,” the Co-Chairs said in a joint statement. “Their implementation will enhance the competitiveness of the U.S. industry for years to come.”
In a letter to Agriculture Committee leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, the SCFBA Co-Chairs emphasized that investments in the competitiveness and sustainability of the U.S. specialty crop industry will produce a strong return for all Americans, not just farmers. The SCFBA’s 2023 Farm Bill recommendations, which can be viewed in full at the link, represent the most comprehensive set of ideas from the coalition to date, including 109 specific recommendations covering eight Farm Bill titles.
The recommendations prioritize a set of core principles:
• Healthy Americans: Expanding access and availability to safe, wholesome, healthy and affordable foods, as well as trees, flowers and plants, will encourage lifelong healthy eating habits, mental and physical well-being, and help address national priorities such as obesity, heart disease, and food and nutrition insecurity.
• Competitiveness and Sustainability: In recognition of its significance to American agriculture, the American food supply, and the communities it supports across the United States, a proportional share of farm bill resources and mandatory spending should be allocated to specialty crop priorities.
• Trade and Foreign Competition: Establishing a competitive playing field for American specialty crop producers includes assisting American producers with unfair foreign competition, promoting American specialty crops in foreign markets and eliminating trade barriers that discriminate against American specialty crop exports.
• Research and Innovation: A sustained federal investment into research and innovation must be of a meaningful scale to catalyze opportunities for the industry, alleviate existing challenges and propel the U.S. specialty crop industry to a new level of global competitiveness.
• Natural Resources and Climate: Recognizing the diverse nature and unique challenges involved in specialty crop production enhances the ability of specialty crop producers to participate fully in all USDA conservation programs as well as any initiatives to address global climate change.
Specialty crop production, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, nursery and greenhouse commodities, contributes significantly to the U.S economy, accounting for $64.7 billion in farm gate value and 30 percent of farm cash receipts for crops.
The release of SCFBA’s recommendations follows the release of the organization’s statement of principles in August 2022 and a July statement and letter to the leadership of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees officially opposing any attempt to expand the definition of specialty crops beyond the commonly understood meaning set forth in the Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act of 2004 or to direct specialty crop funds to non-specialty crops, including natural stone, wild rice and hemp.