The Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act of 2004
The Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-465), legislation to boost the marketing of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery crops to American consumers and international markets, was signed by President Bush in December 2004. This bill represents the first major federal funding program for the fresh produce industry and sets a potentially historic precedent. The bill was sponsored by Representatives Doug Ose (R-CA) and Cal Dooley (D-CA) in the House, where it was passed on October 7 and was championed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in the Senate.
The Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act of 2004 authorizes $54 million annually for five years to enhance the competitiveness of each state’s fresh produce crops. The majority of the funding will come in the form of block grants through the state departments of agriculture. None of the millions of dollars earmarked for the produce industry will come in the form of direct subsidies. Instead, the funding will assist the produce industry through technical assistance, specialized research programs, regulation review, education, improved food inspection facilities and similar initiatives. The bill was cosponsored by 122 members of Congress representing farmers across the nation who grow more than 250 fresh produce crops ranging from lettuce in California to melons in Arizona to blueberries in Maine.
This bill was signed into law too late to be included in the 2005 appropriations cycle (federal appropriations are completed a year in advance of use). Actual funding through the Congressional Appropriations Committees will first be up for consideration in 2005.
FY 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Act
The $388.4 billion FY 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Act, which lumps several annual spending bills together, was signed by President Bush on December 9, 2004. It is important to note that all discretionary programs–except for Defense and Homeland Security–were subject to a .83% (8/10ths of a percent) reduction from current appropriated levels. Items of note include:
- Farm to Cafeteria, as authorized in the Child Nutrition Act passed in 2004, was not funded in this round of appropriations;
- The WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) was funded at $20 million, and the Senior FMNP was funded at $15 million, a reduction in funds from last year ($7.9 million less for WIC, $1.7 less for Senior);
- Attempts to make Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) voluntary and to exempt confined animal feeding operations from Clean Air Act standards both failed;
- Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) successfully advocated for a study by the Institute of Medicine on the nutritional value of foods sold in schools, which will lead to recommendations on nutritional standards for foods sold in competition with school meals. This measure was one of several attempts to address competitive foods that did not make it into the Child Nutrition Act;
- Conservation Security Program received $205 million;
- Value Added Producer Grant Program received $15.5 million;
- The Environmental Quality Incentive Program was allocated $1.0 billion;
- Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) program was funded at $5.3 billion;
- The federal School Lunch Program got $6.8 billion;
- School Breakfast Program was funded at $1.925 billion;
- Child & Adult Care Food Program received $ 2.059 billion;
- Summer Food Service Program secured $283 million;
- Organic Research Grant Program received $1.9 million
- Organic Production and Marketing Data Initiative received $500,000;
- Agriculture Marketing Service is provided $2 million to fund oversight of the Organic Standards.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2004.