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Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Davis Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Subcommittee Hearing: The Next Farm Bill: Specialty Crop Policy

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good afternoon and welcome to today’s Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research subcommittee hearing. Today’s hearing continues our series where each of the six subcommittees look at all aspects of the next farm bill.

As we begin this work, the Committee will consider the needs of stakeholders who depend on farm bill programs. Today, we are focusing on issues important to specialty crop producers. At the time of the most recent agriculture census in 2012, the value of farm-level specialty crop production totaled nearly $60 billion, representing about one-fourth of the value of U.S. crop production. The sheer diversity of the category, ranging from fruits and vegetables, to tree nuts, nursery crops, and floriculture, makes the task of developing specialty crop policies particularly challenging.

The 2014 Farm Bill developed and extended many highly successful programs that have helped the specialty crop industry. A great example is the Specialty Crop Block Grant program, through which mandatory funding is distributed to all 50 states, with specialty-crop-intensive states receiving more funding. It has given states the flexibility they need to tailor their funds to their specific regional needs.

Another example of a successful specialty crop program within the farm bill is the Plant Pest and Disease Prevention Program. Specialty crop producers are constantly bombarded by new pests and diseases. The Plant Pest and Disease Prevention Program provides early plant pest detection and surveillance through APHIS. It also funds a system of “clean plant centers” that safely distribute disease-free, or “clean” plant material to producers of nursery stock for high-value, high-risk crops such as apples, peaches, berries and citrus. Commercial growers of these crops benefit from access to healthy stocks of new varieties in the event of their plants being compromised by disease.

Additionally, while new stocks are helpful, when devastating diseases hit—and the witnesses here today know that they do hit often—research is crucial to finding a cure or an eradication pathway. The Specialty Crop Research Initiative in Title 7 of the farm bill sets aside mandatory funding to make sure that specialty crops are not left on the sidelines when it comes to research funding.

I do believe it’s important to highlight that other subcommittees’ work directly impacts specialty crop producers. As just one example: we have made significant strides over the past several years in expanding crop insurance coverage to a variety of specialty crops.

While I am proud of the successes we have enjoyed up to this point, we live in an ever-changing world. To that end, I look forward to reviewing current programs and hearing about improvements needed in the next farm bill.

With that, I’d like to turn it over to Ms. Lujan Grisham for any comments she’d like to make.