February 1, 2023
Washington, DC -- International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) today announced its support for the recommendations delivered to Capitol Hill by the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance. IFPA looks forward to working with the Alliance on the reauthorization of the critically important 2023 Farm Bill. The recommendations represent a year-long effort to address the vital need for ongoing and additional investment and support for the U.S. specialty crop agriculture community.
“The Farm Bill is the single largest investment of federal resources in the fresh produce industry and sets American agriculture and food policy for the next five years,” said IFPA Chief Public Policy Officer Robert Guenther. “With the Farm Bill expiring in September, IFPA and industry allies will work to protect current investments, look for new opportunities, and build critical relationships that position the fresh industry to continue building strong support for our efforts.”
Approximately $800 million is allocated through the Farm Bill annually to programs that help drive the competitiveness of the fresh produce industry. There are more than 25 programs in the current bill that provide resources and policy tools for fresh produce.
As Secretariat of the SCFBA, IFPA provides leadership and active support for the Alliance’s recommendations which encompass 109 recommendations across eight Farm Bill titles. Among the recommendations put forth by the Alliance, IFPA is pleased to see the following recommendations included:
- Nutrition funding. As part of implementing the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Heath fruit and vegetable moonshot recommendations, IFPA will prioritize time-sensitive regulatory and legislative priorities, including produce prescriptions and allowing more fruits and vegetables in nutrition access and federal feeding programs. IFPA will seek to improve consumer labeling transparency through the Food and Drug Administration and secure and develop data that will solidify its policy and regulatory priorities and impact decision-makers about the need to increase access to fresh produce in these nutrition programs.
- Research priorities. The Farm Bill must fully investment in the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which addresses key challenges of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of food and agriculture. Additionally, IFPA will focus on the establishment of a standalone Mechanization and Automation Research and Development Program. This research exists across many programs and consolidating those efforts into one program will reduce redundancies and provide the fresh produce industry more opportunities for engagement and oversight.
- Food Safety Modernization Act research and support. To help the fresh produce industry continue its science-based compliance efforts with the FSMA, additional investment is needed in technical assistance (through the Cooperative Extension Service and National Institute on Food and Agriculture). IFPA will advocate for new mandatory funding for both bodies to help specialty crop producers comply with FSMA obligations.
- Enhancing Rural Development Programs. The rural development title of the Farm Bill provides for a variety of programs from loans and guarantees to grants for businesses, housing, and utilities. IFPA will focus on ensuring equitable access for specialty crop growers to these programs, reforming loans, and competitive grants to remove barriers to participation, and prioritization of funding for on- and off-farm housing for workers.
- Market Access Programs. Both the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) have served as the backbone for expanding international markets for fresh produce. These programs have been incorporated into the 2023 recommendations including targeted increases in resources and ensuring programs such as TASC remain focused on specialty crop commodities.
The SCFBA also put forth a wide range of recommendations and principles relating to potential new Farm Bill initiatives on climate change and how those initiatives could benefit specialty crops. The principles shared include the need for public and private specialty crop research on climate change; that new climate programs should be voluntary, and funding should not be diverted from current Farm Bill programs; programs should be available to producers of all sizes, types, and geographies; and that Congress consult with industry prior to implementing any new climate initiative affecting specialty crop producers.
“IFPA is already working on sustainability and climate change in partnership with its members and allies on USDA climate-smart grants and engagement with the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance,” Guenther said. “It’s critical that IFPA is the strongest voice for our industry on climate and sustainability issues. Policies and programs regulating water and air quality, species protection, and resource access and availability directly affect the viability and success of the fresh produce and floral sector. IFPA will lead engagement with all federal agencies and Congress that regulate resources and the environment to ensure that fresh produce and floral perspectives are heard, decisions are sound, and agency actions reflect the needs of our industry.”