During a hearing called by the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, legislators heard from specialty farmers and ag groups about the way forward for specialty crops in the 2013 Farm Bill.
Participants in the hearing, including specialty growers William Brim and Sarah Frey-Talley, addressed several key issues – specialty crop block grants, research, nutrition programs, food safety and disease management.
American Farm Bureau Vice President Barry Bushue also addressed the committee, focusing on extension of Farm Bill 'safety net' programs, and the Farmers Market Promotion Program.
Both Frey-Talley and Brim began their testimony explaining the importance of the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, which promotes the competitiveness of specialty crops. Brim said the program addresses grower needs at the state level, and supports funding for 2,500 projects that cover all aspects of growing and marketing specialty crops.
Though the funding was passed out of committee for the House's 2012 Farm Bill, Brim urged the subcommittee to retain the funding provisions at at least the current level.
Frey-Talley urged also for research through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, another hot topic.
"The work that is done in SCRI will yield benefits for producers across the country as projects address challenging issues such as improving production efficiency, improving crop characteristics, addressing pest and plant disease, response to food safety hazards and innovation and technology," she noted in her testimony.
Frey-Talley suggested retaining the $50 million authorized in last year's committee-passed farm bill, and adjusting the review process for grants.