WASHINGTON — It’s been a long time coming, but the produce industry appears optimistic that Congress will be able to pass a 2014 Farm Bill early in the new year.
When interviewed earlier in December, both United Fresh and the Produce Marketing Association said the House and Senate were making progress on the bill.
“Congress is in the process of finalizing a conference report on the 2014 Farm Bill. That bill, if everything goes well, will have a very positive impact on the fruit and vegetable industry,” said Robert Guenther, senior vice president for public policy at United Fresh.
While parts of the Senate and House versions are still being negotiated, there doesn’t seem to be much contention over aspects of the bill important to the produce industry.
“What’s striking is how similar — for all their differences on other points — how similar [the House and Senate versions] were on produce industry priorities on addressing … the specialty crop research initiative, block grants to help with the competitiveness of specialty crops, the plant pest issues that USDA deals with. So those have not been much in the way of discussion among the negotiators; they’ve been focusing much more on their differences between the two bills,” said Tom O’Brien, the Produce Marketing Association Washington representative.
As of earlier in December, both United Fresh and PMA said it looked like the bill may be passed in January.
Overall, there haven’t been many lasting effects from Congress choosing to extend the Farm Bill in 2012 instead of passing a new bill.
“For the most part that kind of kept everything in place. The one place it didn’t was certain programs ... that included the specialty crop research initiative so that’s gone without funding for the past year and that’s been significant,” said O’Brien.
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