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Fruit and Vegetable Issues in the 106th Congress: A Retrospective

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The FY2001 appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and related agencies (P.L. 106-387/H.R. 4461) was signed into law on October 28, 2000. The act provided $255 million for emergency agricultural assistance (disasters and market losses) for specific fruits, vegetables, and nursery products; $218 million for FDA's part of the President's Food Safety Initiative; $2.5 million for the methyl bromide transition program; and funding for the National Organic Program, among numerous other emergency provisions.

The Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-224/H.R. 2559) became law on June 22, 2000. The law reformed the crop insurance program and approved funds to help fruit and vegetable growers suffering from low market prices and specific crop diseases.

The FY2000 appropriations bill for USDA and related agencies (P.L. 10678/H.R. 1906) was signed into law on October 22, 1999. The act provided $1.2 billion in disaster assistance to farmers who lost crops from natural disasters, including fruit and vegetable growers; $188 million for the President's Food Safety Initiative; $2 million for the methyl bromide transition program; and $200,000 for research on food irradiation. The act also reduced the Department of Labor's approval time for processing farm employers' applications for legal H-2A workers. Proposed amendments on the Market Access Program (MAP) and country-of-origin labeling were defeated.

Subsequently, a supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 3425) was enacted as part of the FY2000 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 106-113) which added $576 million in emergency USDA assistance to the $8.7 billion provided in P.L. 106-78. Included in the $576 million is $186 million for crop disaster assistance, which when added to the $1.2 billion provided by P.L. 106-78, brought the total available for 1999 crop disaster assistance to $1.38 billion. P.L. 106-113 also instructed the Secretary of Agriculture to consider growers of fruits and vegetables when decisions were made as to who would get crop disaster assistance. USDA was also required to help growers of specific produce crops purchase crop insurance for the 2001 crop year.

Other bills proposed but not enacted in the 106th Congress had provisions to increase border inspections of imported food, including fresh fruits and vegetables; to require country-of-origin labeling at the retail level; to counter unfair trading practices, including non-tariff barriers such as sanitary and phytosanitary measures; to ensure that sound science and public discussion are used in decision-making on pesticide registrations; and to reform the agricultural guest worker (H-2A) program.