Specialty crop growers say farm bill is woefully short

Specialty crop growers stressed their needs for the 2023 Farm Bill during a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

Charles Wingard is Vice President of Field Operations for his family’s fresh vegetable operation Walter P. Rawl which farms across South Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, and testified on behalf of the International Fresh Produce Association.

“Our industry represents 44 percent of the total US farm crop income, however, our support in the current farm bill is only 2.1 billion or 3.5 percent of the total crop expenditures in the farm bill,” he shares.  “USDA says we should make half of our plate fruits and vegetables—the farm bill is woefully short.”

Wingard asked the committee to oppose any changes to the definition of specialty crops in the legislation, find ways to make fruits and vegetables more accessible in nutrition programs, expand the Specialty Crop Block Grant program to at least $100 million annually, and the highlighted importance of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

Nicholas Carter, owner of Mud Creek Farm in Indiana and co-founder of Market Wagon, says current crop insurance programs don’t work for specialty crop growers, especially small farms like his.

“The requirements for yield history and cost justification just don’t align with the realities of a small farm growing specialty crops,” he says.

Dr. Margaret Worthington with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and American Seed Trade Association highlighted several ways current policies are conflicting for plant breeders, burdensome for growers, and likely will cause more consolidation.

View the hearing here.

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