IRVINE, California, December
21, 2004, from a press release: President George W. Bush
today signed the Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act, landmark legislation
revolutionizing federal funding policy for the nation's specialty
crop industry. The SCCA authorizes $54 million annually for five
years to enhance the competitiveness, both domestically and internationally,
of each state's fresh produce crops, mostly through block grants
to the state departments of agriculture.
"The signing of this bill is a significant victory for growers
and consumers alike," said Western Growers President Tom Nassif.
"As a model for federal agricultural funding, none of the millions
of dollars earmarked for the produce industry will come in the form
of direct subsidies. Instead, the funding will be an investment
in the produce industry to enhance exports through technical assistance,
specialized research programs, conservation, education, promotion,
improved food inspection facilities and similar initiatives. It
marks the nation's first major federal funding program for the fresh
Western Growers, its members, and other industry partners, worked
for nearly three years to win congressional approval for the legislation.
The co-authors of the bill are Reps. Doug Ose and Cal Dooley, both
of California. The SCCA passed the House of Representatives in October
2004, and the U.S. Senate earlier this month. 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 law will ensure a reliable and safe food supply and is
an important boost for the nation's health and nutrition,"
Nassif continued. "It will go a long way toward promoting the
increased consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts and will
help raise awareness of the critical role fresh produce plays in
our lives. We look forward to the implementation of this historic
and very positive legislation."
Some of the features of the Act include: the quantification of the
clean air benefits of specialty crops; the enhancement of fresh
produce quality; new crop protection tools and pest management systems;
and research on the impact of foreign pest and disease invasions
and effective solutions. In addition, technical assistance for specialty
crops to help enhance exports will be increased and plant inspection
programs will also be bolstered.
Western Growers and its 3,000 members played a significant role
in the passage of the legislation, as did a broad alliance of organizations
representing specialty crops throughout the nation.
"We could not have achieved this historic victory without the
cooperation of a powerful alliance of organizations representing
fresh produce," said Nassif. "This is a tribute to the
strength of that alliance as much as it is a landmark piece of legislation.
We thank our members, our partners, our co-sponsors in Congress
and all those who contributed to this effort."