Rep. Glenn 'GT' Thompson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry, held a public hearing to review the U.S. Forest Service's proposal to manage groundwater resources on Natural Forest System land.
Subcommittee Examines Effects of Farm Policy on Specialty Crops
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Robin Hayes, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture, chaired a hearing to review how farm policy affects the specialty crop industry, namely fruits, vegetables, wine, nuts, nursery crops, and dry beans. These crops, and other horticultural crops, are exempt from traditional commodity programs. Witnesses representing a variety of horticultural crops outlined a variety of issues facing the industry including the need for research, the role of these crops in renewable fuels, nutrition, risk management tools, and conservation and market access.
Subcommittee Chairman Hayes applauded the industry for working together on several key issues facing the entire industry. “I would like to commend the specialty crop industry for building a coalition and working together on farm bill initiatives. Given the diverse nature of this industry, I appreciate your efforts to come together and agree on some consensus policy recommendations. I recognize there may be a few differences of opinion but, by and large, you have worked to become a more united voice,” said Chairman Hayes.
Specialty crops are produced in all 50 states. California, the nation’s largest agriculturally producing state, is the sole U.S. producer of a large number of specialty crops including almonds, artichokes, clingstone peaches, dried plums, figs, olives, persimmons, pomegranates, raisins, seed, ladino clover, sweet rice, and walnuts. “This is an historic opportunity to ensure the economic vitality of specialty crops to benefit our local farmers and all Americans. I want to thank Chairman Hayes for today’s hearing and I look forward to making specialty crops production a centerpiece of the next farm bill,” said Rep. Richard Pombo.
All of today’s witnesses highlighted the need for more specialty crop-devoted research and development dollars to improve the competitiveness of the specialty crop industry. “Specialty crop producers, who produce approximately half of the value of U.S. agriculture, currently receive a fraction of the support received by program crops,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Ed Case. “While most specialty crop producers aren’t looking for subsidies, they do need assistance with agricultural research, pests and diseases, marketing, and infrastructure development. It is critical that we insert some equity for specialty crop producers in the next farm bill.”
The Subcommittee’s jurisdiction includes livestock; poultry; meat; seafood and seafood products; inspection, marketing, and promotion of such commodities; aquaculture; animal welfare; grazing; fruits and vegetables; marketing and promotion orders. Earlier this year, Chairman Hayes convened two field hearings to review various aspects of his Subcommittee’s jurisdiction. The Subcommittee will continue to gather input and feedback throughout the remainder of the year.
“I believe the best ideas do not come from Washington. They come from folks like yourself who have common sense ideas and who work hard to provide for your families and give back to the rural communities,” said Chairman Hayes. “The best way for us to do our job is to get direct feedback from the producers who use the programs in the farm bill and can tell us what is working and what we may need to change or consider in the next farm bill.”
Witness testimony is available on the Committee website, and a full transcript of the hearing will be posted on the Committee website in 4-6 weeks.
Mr. Kevin Van Dyke, President, Skinner Nurseries, St. Augustine, Florida, on behalf of the American Nursery and Landscape Association
Mr. Phil Brumley, Almond and Rice Producer and Second Vice President, San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation, Escalon, California
Mr. Ervin Lineberger, Lineberger's Killdeer Farms, Berry, Vegetable, and Muscadine Grape Producer, Kings Mountain, North Carolina
Mr. Dean Okimoto, President, Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, Waimanalo, Hawaii
Mr. R. Jay Taylor, Chairman, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, Palmetto, Florida, on behalf of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance
Mr. Paul E. Dolan, III, President, Mendocino Wine Company, Ukiah, California, on behalf of the Wine Institute
Ms. Cynthia A. Brown, President, U.S. Dry Bean Council, Menomonie, Wisconsin