Specialty Crop Research Void

Michigan Musings

Farm Bill Extension does not provide funding for programs without a baseline; fruit and vegetable crops will suffer.

Published on: March 4, 2013
Now, without farm bill funding, researchers are losing valuable time in finding a solution to exterminate or at least control the bug, halting the work of USDA Researcher Dr. Tracy Leskey and many others. "The impact on those types of programs and research are certainly not moving us forward, only pushing us back," Smith says.

The Senate-passed farm bill was favorable to SCRI, but without a House vote, it's unlikely the program will see any dollars this year, although some hope a place-holder for funding in the future will be established.

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance -- a national coalition of more than 120 organizations representing growers of fruits, vegetables, nuts, nursery plants and other products -- expressed disappointment with the Farm Bill extension's exclusion of specialty crop priorities, but vowed to continue to communicate the importance of specialty crop programs to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Smith says she's not sure how they will proceed moving forward, but Michigan Apple Committee will continue to fund research at Michigan State University, albeit a drop in the bucket to what was normally leveraged through the national coffers.

It's a double whammy for Michigan apple growers, who lost their entire apple crop to relentless and uncharacteristic warming and freezing pattern in the spring of 2012.

However, Smith says growers are forever optimistic. "We're happy to put 2012 in our rear view mirror. It did bring us together with other industries, including the low interest programs and opportunities available to growers. These growers are amazing and they have the best attitudes. We have well-rested trees, and growers are anticipating a great crop, and are making marketing plans, strategically planning and looking at how we can move the industry forward -- growers, shippers, packers and processors. The 2012 crop gave us a broad look at the industry and the opportunity to refine and refocus our goals for the future."