The 2014 farm bill provides nearly $4 billion in funding for programs that benefit U.S. fruit and vegetable production, including block grants, research, pest and disease mitigation, nutrition and trade.
From the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, here are some highlights of what the bill has to help U.S. fruit and vegetable growers and to bolster fruit and vegetable consumption.
$125 million in citrus research funding
The citrus research initiative will focus on diseases such as citrus greening and will be overseen by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in consultation with industry stakeholders from Florida, California and Texas. A committee of nine representatives from those states will make funding decisions that must be approved by the secretary.
$72 million to $85 million for Specialty Crop Block Grants
The block grants are administered by USDA via state departments of agriculture for local and regional efforts to enhance producers’ ability to compete in the marketplace and provide consumers with a safe and abundant food supply.
The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program supports initiatives to:
- Increase nutritional knowledge and specialty crop consumption
- Improve efficiency within the distribution system and reduce costs
- Promote the development of good agricultural, handling and manufacturing practices while encouraging audit fund cost-sharing for small farmers, packers and processors
- Support research through standard and green initiatives
- Enhance food safety
- Develop new and improved seed varieties and specialty crops
- Control pests and diseases
$200 million per year for the Market Access Program
This program helps growers expand to new markets and be competitive internationally. Through the MAP, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service partners with U.S. agricultural trade associations, cooperatives, state and regional trade groups, and small businesses to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities that help build commercial export markets for U.S. agricultural products and commodities.
$150 million for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program
This program helps develop healthy eating habits in children by providing fresh fruits and vegetables in schools. The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 authorized the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Pilot program in four states and one Indian Tribal Organization. The program later expanded into other states and reservations. Now it is in selected schools in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
$100 million for projects that encourage food stamp recipients to buy fruits and vegetables
The Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program is designed to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) by providing incentives at the point of purchase. A new program would award grants to some farmers markets and grocery stores that match food stamp dollars if recipients buy fruits and vegetables. It also includes funding to help finance the building of grocery stores in low-income areas that don’t have many retail outlets.