Fight Over The Farm Bill

Fruit and vegetable growers want a piece of the buy, but there’s not enough to go around, says wheat leader. Bill Spiegel and Lon Tonneson

Published on: Feb 6, 2006

Sparks flew between the representatives of the National Association of Wheat Growers and the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Industry after they appeared on a farm panel at the North America Grains conference in San Antonio, Texas.

The disagreement could hint at what’s ahead as commodity groups lobby a new farm bill.

Keira Franz, communications head for the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, says fruit and vegetable producers will want a share of farm program benefits.

"We have a trade deficit in fruits and vegetables. Forty-five percent of the average consumer's fruits and 15% of his vegetables are imported from other countries. That trade imbalance leaves the fruit and vegetable industry in precarious shape and seeking consideration equal to the traditional farm bill crops as debate heats up.”

The fruit and vegetable industry wants planting flexibility, increased fresh fruit and vegetable access to all Americans and expanded Market Access Programs from the USDA.

But there’s only so much money to go around, says Sherman Reese, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers.

After the panel discussion, he told Franz that she needed to bring more dollars into the ag budget, not try to extract a share of the current budget.

“You have to increase the pie,” he says. “There isn’t enough to divide up anymore.”