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Specialty crop groups hopeful farm bill inroads are being made

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance says there are several newly introduced measures that could support growers if included in the next farm bill.

CEO of the National Potato Council Kam Quarles is the co-chair of the coalition that represents more than 200 specialty crop groups. He tells Brownfield creating stronger risk management tools is their top priority.

“Specialty crops have not benefited from some of the insurance products in the way that our program crop colleagues have, we really want to change that going forward,” he says.

Newly introduced legislation would remove some income limitations to participate in conservation programs while another program expands disaster assistance.

Quarles points to a cost-share program created in the Specialty Crop Mechanization Assistance Act of 2023 that could increase the efficiency of a limited workforce.

“Our assumption is that our ag labor force is not going to get a lot bigger,” he says.  “You’ve got a horrible stalemate in Congress related to ag labor reform. We want to make our existing, very valuable workforce that much more productive.”

An expanded specialty crop block grant program, as proposed in a bill from Representatives Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon, would increase resources for state-specific grant projects.  Another measure the alliance supports would create a domestic market development program.

Quarles tells Brownfield more than 85 percent of the legislation is dedicated to nutrition spending and Congress needs to support efforts to source domestically produced food when possible.

“Taxpayer-funded dollars should go to support those American-grown products first before you start considering other options,” he says.

Quarles says more than $1.2 trillion was spent on nutrition programs over the lifetime of the 2018 Farm Bill.

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