U.S. produce lobbies: Specialty crop legislation promotes exports
The Senate passed legislation late Tuesday that lobbyists for the fresh fruit and vegetable industries say will improve the government’s handling of specialty crop exports.
The legislation defined specialty crops as fruits, vegetables, nuts, dried fruits, and nursery crops.
The legislation authorizes an additional $2 million a year to the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crop program, a measure included in the 2002 Farm Bill to help producers, commodity groups, associations and others to challenge unscientific technical barriers to export trade.
The legislation also includes several provisions to deal with sanitary and phytosanitary protocols for shipping specialty crops. The legislation specifically directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to:
* Reduce the backlog in export applications for specialty crops, and report to Congress on its progress.
* Provide Congress a report within 180 days on significant sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to specialty crop exports.
* Enter into an agreement with the National Plant Board to conduct a peer review of the procedures and standards that govern the consideration of import and export requests.
In addition, the legislation authorizes an additional $5 million for research on agricultural commodity pest treatment alternatives to methyl bromide.
Industry groups that lobbied for passage of the Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act include United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, Western Growers, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, Texas Produce Association, U.S. Apple Association, California Citrus Mutual, California Grape and Tree Fruit League, National Potato Council, Idaho Grower Shipper Association, and Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.
The legislation is headed to President Bush’s desk for signature.