Congress Sidelines Specialty Crop Funding

Tax measure extends 2008 Farm Bill, but excludes key specialty crop and Dairy programs.

Published on: Jan 7, 2013

The passage of a fiscal package late January 1st excluded key specialty crop priorities. While the bill does avert the dreaded "fiscal cliff," efforts to roll a new five-year Farm Bill into the bill were rejected in favor of a nine month extension of the 2008 law.

The extension does not include funding for certain expiring programs such as the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and Clean Plant Network. It also would have created a dairy subsidy program to compensate farmers when feed costs are high and milk prices are low. That was nixed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell during the final hours of fiscal cliff talks, a Senate aide said. Dairy processors said the proposed new dairy plan would have interfered too much with the market.

The "fiscal cliff" Farm Bill extension does not include funding for certain expiring programs such as the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and Clean Plant Network.
The "fiscal cliff" Farm Bill extension does not include funding for certain expiring programs such as the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and Clean Plant Network.

"It's disappointing, to say the least," says Mike Stuart, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association president and Alliance Co-Chair. "We had worked very hard with key members in the House and Senate to craft a Farm Bill that was fiscally responsible and gave producers resources, such as research funding for pest and disease programs, that they need to remain competitive and to ensure a safe, healthful supply of fruits and vegetables."

The tax package bill was passed by a vote of 89-8 in the Senate, and was approved in the House with a vote of 257-167.

The Farm Bill will need to be redrafted in the coming months and reconsidered by both chambers before the September 30, 2013 deadline. The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance will continue to communicate the importance of specialty crop programs to lawmakers on Capitol Hill as this process moves forward in the 113th Congress.

"While we are frustrated, we look forward to working with both committees and the dozens of members of Congress who helped complete the 2012 Farm Bill," says John Keeling, National Potato Council executive vice president and CEO, and Alliance Co-Chair. "As has been the case for more than a decade, we will be working to ensure that innovative investments for the 50% of American agriculture represented by specialty crops are fairly accounted for in the Farm Bill."