which subsequently impacts fresh produce safety.” The assistance provided to ensure food safety in the event of unpredictable circumstances—like the flooding that resulted from multiple storms throughout California—should be based on sound science. This initiative of reliable scientific support can be enhanced by providing additional funding to the National Institute on Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to conduct produce safety research focused on helping producers comply with FSMA obligations. Once best management practices for the wide variety of crops in our sector are identified, we then need to make sure that information is shared widely through vehicles like USDA cooperative extension service. The shift toward alternatives to conventional pesticides varies in intensity from mandatory regulatory changes to consumer calls to action. Much like the up-front demand of automation, a shift to alternatives is risky and costly. Utility and response of these products doesn’t have the robust track record of traditional products, and the process of switching is going to be a careful process. To navigate the forthcoming changes, the SCFBA proposes that additional resources we provide the IR-4 program run by USDA. This program is dedicated to providing new crop protection tools to specialty crop growers and is chronically underfunded. With growing pressure on existing crop

protection tools, we need more research into next generation products for our sector. A changing climate is creating more volatility to an industry that relies on conducting business based on shifts in the environment. While many specialty produce operations work to remain flexible and adaptive to these changes, the Farm Bill should work with the industry to acclimate to changes. For a cohesive and mutually beneficial system, “Conservation programs should remain voluntary, and climate change should not be used to mandate conservation production practices...Conservation programs should be multi-resource focused even if climate is the issue of concern.” In particular, given the huge long-term drought problems we face in the West, conservation programs run by USDA must help make farms more water resilient. Over the last few years, growers have experienced a huge amount of shock to their farms as a result of things like trade conflicts with China or significant drought or market collapse due to COVID or flooding. One of the strongest urgings for addition in the upcoming Farm Bill revision is to establish a better safety net for producers because many of these issues have been dealt with via unpredictable disaster bills. Rather than having unbudgeted and potentially inconsistent disaster bills, Congress wants

to improve the safety net for producers. For our industry, that means we need to focus on creating better crop insurance programs. For about half of our industry that already have crop insurance, the Alliance wants to look for ways to improve programs. For the half that doesn’t have crop insurance but would like to get assistance, the Alliance is focused on opening up new opportunities for insurance coverage. Providing safety nets to protect the specialty crop industry is an added level of security and support that can help establish a firmer ground under the feet of specialty crop producers during a time when things appear to be getting more treacherous. Deciding what will make its way into the Farm Bill changes is no small task with so many needs and requests being heard by representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Western Growers has a team on the ground in Washington, and working with other produce industry allies, we are pushing to make changes like the ones noted above real. The Farm Bill is always in flux as new challenges arise and need to be addressed every few years. For our part of the agricultural industry, many of the issues we face are new and unprecedented and demand changes and new ways of operating. For the future of providing fresh and healthy food to people, it’s worth investing in the road to success now.

MAY | JUNE 2023


Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com

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