The Evolution of the Industry’s View on the Farm Bill

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Robert Guenther

“We never wanted to be brought into the farm bill,” says Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association. He is speaking for the fruit and vegetable industry. “We were really focused on not wanting to become a subsidized commodity back in the day. That’s evolved,” he says.

So, why the change? Guenther says it came from a big realization within the industry.

According to Guenther, it seems as if people in the industry realized that there were many pressures coming into the industry, including risk management, lack of research dollars and labor availability. So, people began turning toward the farm bill. “The farm bill has now turned into a potential tool for them (the fruit and vegetable industry) to try to address multiple challenges that they face,” Guenther explains.

For example, regarding nutrition, Guenther says the fruit and vegetable industry has found a tool in the farm bill to increase access for fruits and vegetables in federal nutrition programs. The industry has also looked toward the farm bill to protect it from invasive diseases. “We’re trying to prevent disease issues from coming in, and if they’re here, we’re trying to get rid of them as quickly as possible,” Guenther says.

The farm bill has been a huge provider of research dollars for the fruit and vegetable industry as well. Specialty crop block grants have funded many projects over the years that have helped the industry in different ways. For example, Sonia Tighe of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association used specialty crop block grant funding to expand marketing efforts for Florida peaches. You can read about that project here.

The fruit and vegetable industry went from avoiding the farm bill to heavily relying on it. “Our industry has evolved from 15-20 years ago as to how we saw the farm bill and how it would impact our operations,” Guenther concludes.

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