U.S. farmers grow more than 350 types of fruit, vegetable, tree nut, flower, nursery, and other horticultural crops in addition to the major bulk commodity crops. Specialty crop producers are ineligible for federal commodity price and income support programs. Unlike federal support for commodity crops, support for specialty crops spans a wide range of other existing USDA programs. These include marketing and promotion programs, crop insurance and disaster assistance, plant pest and disease protections, trade assistance, and research and extension services, among other support.

Despite this wide range of program support, overall program spending on all specialty crops remains a small fraction of that spent on all commodity crops, even when considering both mandatory and discretionary funding.

Some of the programs supporting specialty crops are longstanding farm support programs that benefit all agricultural producers and are regularly contained within omnibus farm legislation. However, several programs addressing specialty crops specifically were established following the enactment of the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-465), which was enacted outside a farm bill year. Many of the programs in the 2004 act were further expanded and reauthorized in the 2008 farm bill.

But officials representing the specialty crop industry say in order to keep their operations above water, they require a stronger voice in Congress and some guarantees that program spending cuts that could devastate the industry in the years ahead aren’t enacted. Expansion of the Specialty Crop Caucus, they hope, will help to keep focus on the issues and challenges the industry faces this decade.

Members of the Specialty Crop Caucus for the 113th Congress include:
Doc Hastings, WA-04
Jim Costa, CA-16
Mike Michaud, ME-02
Reid Ribble, WI-08
Colleen Hanabusa, HI-01
Jerry McNerney, CA-11
Mike Simpson, ID-02
Greg Walden, OR-02
Mike Thompson, CA-01
Bill Owens, NY-23
Earl Blumenauer, OR-03
Jeff Denham, CA-19
Kurt Schrader, OR-05
Robert Aderholt, AL-04
Mike McIntyre, NC-07
Julia Brownley, CA-26
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, WA-05
Vern Buchanan, FL-16
Tom Rooney, FL-17
Dan Benishek, MI-01
Richard Hanna, NY-22
Brian Higgins, NY-27
Paul Gosar, AZ-04
Juan Vargas, CA-51
Zoe Lofgren, CA-19
Suzanne Bonamici, OR-01
Jim McGovern, MA-02

Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson will also serve on the Specialty Crop Caucus, but will continue to be co-chairman of the House Sugar Caucus as well.

 

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"American farmers grow high quality, safe fruits and vegetables that are enjoyed both domestically and worldwide," Simpson said. "Our specialty crop growers face challenges similar to other agriculture sectors, such as business trade and labor policies. It is important to form ag caucuses in order to share information, develop policy strategies for efforts impacting specialty crops, and coordinate our efforts to represent our constituencies."

Barry Bedwell, President of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, is also a 113th Congress Caucus member.

With approximately one half of the value of all crops grown in the U.S., specialty crops represent not only a very positive impact on jobs and the economy but also a focus on eating more fruits, nuts and vegetables that will fight obesity and lead to a healthier society,” Bedwell said after the appointments were announced.

None of the 27-member caucus is from the U.S. Southwest.