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Fruits and Vegetables: Issues for Congress

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Although fruits and vegetables are not among crops normally receiving farm subsidies, there are a number of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) activities and programs that provide support to fruit and vegetable growers. These include crop disaster assistance and, in recent years, market loss assistance payments. The government also supports these crops through federal marketing orders, the Market Access Program (MAP), food safety activities, research programs to improve crops and to help develop safe pesticides (e.g., alternatives to methyl bromide), and research and inspection activities to prevent foreign pests and disease from entering the country and to manage and eradicate them if they are introduced. The primary law that exclusively serves the produce industry is the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act of 1930 (PACA).

Farm bills also contain provisions that affect this industry. The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107- 171/H.R. 2646) was signed into law on May 13, 2002. The Act maintains: the restriction on planting of fruits and vegetables by commodity program growers; increases funding for the Market Access Program; provides technical assistance on barriers to specialty crop exports; provides funding for several nutrition programs that encourage the domestic consumption of produce; a new research program to improve harvesting productivity for fruits and vegetables; a program to authorize some uses of methyl bromide and search for alternatives; and requires a report on improvements to crop insurance for specialty crops. It also provides market loss assistance to apple growers and New York onion growers; provides disaster assistance to tree growers; authorizes a marketing order for caneberries; increases Section 32 funding including $200 million annually to purchase fruits and vegetables; establishes programs to help organic producers; authorizes a Cranberry Acreage Reserve Program; and provides for temporary followed by mandatory country of origin labeling.

FY2002 agricultural appropriations legislation(P.L. 107-76/H.R. 2330) included $75 million in market loss assistance for apple growers; $344.7 million for FDA food safety activities and $352 million for FDA inspections and import monitoring. It also increased funding for research on emerging diseases and pests of plants and invasive insect species that affect fruits and vegetables; and provided $2,498,000 for the Methyl Bromide Transition Program. Funding for APHIS programs that benefit fruits and vegetables was increased by $55.7 million. These spending levels remain in effect as long as the government is operating under continuing resolutions in FY2003. Several bills that related to issues of foreign agricultural workers’ immigrant status and wages were proposed but not passed in the first session of the 107th Congress.

The alleged dumping of foreign fruit and vegetable commodities into the U.S. market is an issue of concern to the produce industry, although no legislation was proposed in the 107th Congress to address the issue. However, some growers were successful in obtaining Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission acceptance of their antidumping petitions.