Important implications for the U.S. Specialty Crop industry can be found in several titles of the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill. Key programs to solve critical issues in the industry have been reauthorized and changes related to funding level and matching requirements have been incorporated in some of these programs. For instance, the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMPP), and the Specialty Crop Block Grants program have been reauthorized. Three key farm bill programs that have formed the success of U.S. organic farmers over the past decade: The Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), the Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives (ODI), and the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP), have also been reauthorized.
Moreover, changes in the definition of a “Retail Food Store” in the Nutrition title allow agricultural producers who market directly to consumers (i.e. Farmers’ Markets, CSAs, roadside stands) to accept SNAP benefits. The feasibility of redeeming these benefits through on-line and mobile transactions will be tested through pilot projects. If these pilot projects prove to be successful and are implemented nationwide, agricultural producers who sell directly to consumers may be able to accept SNAP benefits through on-line and mobile transactions starting in 2017. Overall, this bill contains considerable support for direct-to-consumer marketing, locally or regionally produced agricultural products, Farm-to-School efforts, organic agriculture, and food safety initiatives – all crucial topics for stakeholders in the U.S. Specialty Crop industry. For a summary of these and other important implications, click here.