Specialty crops like fruit, vegetables, and other horticultural items add variety and spice to our diets and our lives. Coloring our plate and decorating our homes, farmers and growers across the State provide us with strawberries, maple syrup, tart cherries, sweet corn, bedding plants, snap beans, Christmas trees, and more. New York State is the second largest producer of cabbage, second in the nation in apples, third in grapes and cauliflower and fifth in onions for the 2006 harvest.
I championed the Specialty Crops and Value-Added programs in the 2002 Farm Bill to help our growers add value to their farm products and break into international markets. New York farmers and small businesses will get a boost from the Value-Added Agricultural Product Market Development Grants to increase access to grants to develop, promote, and market value-added goods throughout the state and nation.
I believe strongly in building coalitions, and that is why I was instrumental in forming the Eggplant Caucus, which is a coalition that represents Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states that produce tabletop crops. The name is symbolic of the many specialty crops that New York and other states in the region produce. I have worked closely with my caucus colleagues to create federal farm policy that addresses the needs of all farms, not just those producing traditional commodities, such as corn, wheat, rice, cotton and soybeans.
I am also a member of the Congressional Wine Caucus, a group of Senators and Representatives who have joined together to educate and engage them in legislative and regulatory matters pertaining to wine issues. In addition, I have joined the newly formed Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus to join other Members of Congress interested in working together in support of public policy and programs to protect and enhance the ability of farmers to join together in cooperative self-help efforts to improve their economic well-being.