U.S. Rep. John Salazar (D-CO) joined Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Rep. Adam Putman (R-FL), Rep. Randy Kuhl (R-NY), Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in introducing the "Equitable Agriculture Today for a Healthy America Act" (EAT Healthy America Act).
This bill would support specialty crop growers by increasing market access, encouraging and facilitating consumption of nutritious agricultural products, funding research programs and increasing opportunities for family farmers in conservation programs.
"This is a historic opportunity to ensure the economic vitality of specialty crops to benefit our local farmers and the health of all Americans," Rep. Salazar said. "I am committed to incorporating initiatives that keep our local family farmers competitive in the global market while providing a healthy food supply for our families. The EAT Healthy America Act will - for the first time - give specialty crop producers in Colorado, California, Florida and many other states equal access to vital conservation programs."
"It is critically important to promote a viable and competitive agricultural industry, and the Specialty Crops industry should be given the recognition it deserves. This bill will help promote the very best in specialty crops production," Salazar added.
Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery products. Examples of these crops in Colorado include potatoes, lettuce, apples, and almonds.
The EAT Healthy America Act focuses on the following issues:
Competitiveness: Increases access to valuable export markets by increasing the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops program and the Market Access Program and by raising the profile of specialty crops within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other key federal agencies. Expands the Specialty Crop Block Grant program to assist local growers with the specific investments they need to increase competitiveness. The Specialty Crop Block Grant would cost $500 million during fiscal years 2008-2012.
Renewable Energy Development:
Requires the USDA to develop an inventory on a state and county basis of specialty crop waste and residues that could be utilized in the production of energy, fuels, and petroleum-based product substitutes. It would reauthorize the Agriculture Bioenergy Program for the duration of the Farm Bill and provides that specialty crop biomass is included under the program. It also authorizes the USDA to issue grants for the development of a business plan to use specialty crop biomass to produce energy, fuels, petroleum-based product substitutes, or other value-added products. Grant funding would cost a total of $250 million over fiscal years 2008-2012.
Nutrition: Requires federal feeding programs, including the school lunch and school breakfast programs, to adhere to the 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines. Expands the fruit and vegetable snack program in schools across the nation and develops new nutrition promotion programs to assist producers in enhancing their markets.
Research: Significant new investment in research priorities for specialty crops, through the National Research Initiative, Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) and Agriculture Research Service (ARS). Increases research into the prevention of invasive plant pests and diseases.
Conservation: Increases opportunities for specialty crop producers to access conservation programs by recognizing the unique characteristics of their farming operations in formula allocations and funding priorities.
Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery products. They are a critical part of the nation's agriculture industry, constituting nearly 50 percent of cash receipts. Specialty crops are produced in every state and have a considerable impact on local economies.