The United States House of Representatives has voted to approve the Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act (H.R. 3242) in an historic victory for the nation’s produce industry.
Industry stakeholders, led by Western Growers, celebrated the vote as a turning point in Congress for a segment of agriculture that has been neglected in the past.
“This bill represents nothing less than recognition of our industry’s place in the debate over future funding for agriculture as well as a significant immediate boost for the nation’s fresh produce industry,” said Tom Nassif, president of Western Growers.
HR 3242, sponsored by Reps Doug Ose (R-CA) and Cal Dooley (D-CA), authorizes $54 million annually to improve the quality and safety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts. The bill has garnered 123 co-sponsors from throughout the United States, representing growers of more than 250 specialty crops.
The legislation is significant because none of the millions of dollars in funding will be distributed as an agricultural subsidy. The grants will instead strengthen the specialty crop industry through research, enhancements of food inspection, improved training, and other tools to enhance competitiveness of each state’s fresh produce commodities.
Western Growers is a trade association whose 3,000 members grow, pack, and ship 90% of the fresh vegetables and nearly 70% of the fresh fruit and nuts grown in Arizona and California, about one-half of the nation’s fresh produce.