Chairwoman Stabenow: Specialty Crops, Organics a Bright Spot in Nation's Economic Future

Washington, DC – Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today said that specialty crops and organics are bright spots in the nation’s economic future, but maintained that critical support for research and risk management will be key to continuing growth in the sectors.

“Specialty crop and organic growers are not only helping to supply healthy products to our schools, families and communities, but these farmers are also making a major contribution to the American economy,” Chairwoman Stabenow said. “Sales of U.S. specialty crops top $60 billion annually, with nearly $2 billion of those sales coming from Michigan alone. Organic sales also continue to grow, reaching nearly $29 billion in 2010.  We need to make sure these important producers are heard as the next Farm Bill is being written.”

Chairwoman Stabenow said she’s working to build on the growth and momentum in the specialty crops and organics sectors, but said focus must be placed on research and other critical tools that assist growers with pest and disease prevention and risk management.

“Producing specialty crops continues to be risky business,” Chairwoman Stabenow said. “New and emerging pest and diseases continue to threaten the productivity of many farmers throughout the country and high input costs often mean tight margins and limited resources.  Successful efforts like the Specialty Crop Block Grants and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative have been critical in helping producers manage these risks and expand economic opportunities.”

Chairwoman Stabenow championed the development of the specialty crops title in the 2008 Farm Bill, providing specialty crop growers for the first time assistance with pest and disease prevention, organic research, and trade assistance for growers hurt by new trade deals.

Hearing witnesses included Ms. Ann Wright, Deputy Under Secretary, Marketing and Regulatory Programs, USDA; Dr. Catherine Woteki, Under Secretary, Research, Education, and Economics, USDA; Mr. Dennis Engelhard, Owner, Engelhard Family Farms, Unionville, MI; Ms. Kim Tait, Owner, Tait Farms Foods, Inc., Centre Hall, PA; Mr. Paul Bencal, Owner, Paul Bencal Farm, Ransomville, NY; Mr. Robert Woolley, Owner, Dave Wilson Nursery, Hickman, CA; Mr. Glenn Abbett, Manager, Abbett Farms, LLC, LaCrosse, IN; and Mr. Charles Wingard, Director of Field Operations, W.P. Rawls and Sons, Pelion, SC.