Butler, Collins Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Empower Specialty Crop Farmers

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the Specialty Crops Security Act, legislation to increase the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) program authorization from $85 to $100 million per year and expand opportunities for specialty crop stakeholders to provide input into how program funding is used by state departments of agriculture. The House companion bill was introduced by U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) earlier this year.

“California’s farmers produce nearly half of the country’s specialty crops and they deserve a seat at the table when state departments of agriculture make decisions about how to allocate funding that directly impacts them,” said Senator Butler.

In addition to U.S. Senators Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the Specialty Crops Security Act is also co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M), Angus King (D-Maine), Ben Luján (D-N.M), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

“Agriculture is an integral part of Maine’s rural communities and our state’s economy, from newly founded farms to operations that have been passed down from generation to generation,” said Senator Collins.  “This increase in the authorization for the Specialty Crop Block Grant program will strengthen Maine’s agricultural sector by providing additional support for the development of more resilient fruits and vegetables, while boosting farmers’ sales through increased marketing.”

“In listening sessions across Colorado, producers told me how important the Specialty Crop Block Grant is to their industry – but our farmers should have more say about where this funding goes,” said Senator Bennet. “From Pueblo chiles to Palisade peaches to San Luis Valley potatoes, this bill will help Colorado’s agricultural economy and family farmers across the state.”

“The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is critical to ensuring that farmers in New Jersey and around the country have the tools and resources they need to supply their communities’ demand for fruits and vegetables,” said Senator Cory Booker. “This bill will provide flexibility and clarity for state departments of agriculture to work in partnership with farmers on priorities that will most benefit healthy local food systems.” 

“New Mexico farmers lead the nation in producing specialty crops — from chile, garlic, and onions to lavender and pecans,” said Senator Heinrich. “I am proud to support this legislation to help producers improve their operations, reach new customers, and help families all across the country put healthy food on the table.”

“I’m honored to join this bipartisan legislation that increases USDA specialty crop grant funding to provide more economic opportunities for New Mexico’s farmers, ranchers, and producers,” said Senator Luján. “Most importantly, this legislation will be critical in supporting New Mexico’s chile industry and giving local stakeholders a voice in agriculture funding decisions which they deserve to be a part of.”

“California specialty crop farmers feed our nation with the most diverse and nutritious crops in the United States,” said Senator Padilla. “The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is a crucial source of funding for growers across the state, including for wine grape smoke exposure research and the promotion of California’s sustainably produced wines. I will continue fighting to ensure our specialty farmers have the resources and support they need.”

“Specialty crops are crucial to Vermont’s agricultural vitality, supporting rural economies and connecting communities with fresh, local produce,” said Senator Welch. “The bipartisan Specialty Crops Security Act will provide increased support to Vermont’s specialty crop industry and ensure producers’ voices are heard to allow our local food systems to continue to grow and thrive.”

“From apples, to asparagus, to cherries, Michigan farmers grow much of the delicious and nutritious produce Americans love and depend on,” said Representative Slotkin. “By expanding grant opportunities for specialty crop growers, this legislation will benefit Michigan agriculture and consumers. Expanding specialty crop markets and ensuring the long-term success of producers will pay serious dividends, which is why this bill has widespread support in Michigan.“

The Specialty Crops Security Act is endorsed by the California Farm Bureau, the Western Growers Association, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), and the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance.

“The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is one of the few sources of dedicated federal funding for the fresh produce industry,” said Western Growers President & CEO Dave Puglia. “This program can provide our specialty crop growers with opportunities for food safety research, workforce development and water supply innovation. To be effective, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program must be as responsive to growers as possible. Western Growers supports the Specialty Crop Security Act, which will ensure the program can sufficiently meet the needs and priorities of our members.”

“The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is highly effective but underfunded and oversubscribed,” said Ted McKinney, NASDA CEO. NASDA supports the Specialty Crop Security Act because it allows states the flexibility to work closely with specialty crop farmers and grower groups in establishing annual priorities. In addition, the bill would provide critical funding to support specialty crop competitiveness.”

“Over its 20-year life, the Specialty Crop Block Grant program has enhanced the competitiveness of specialty crop growers across the country. Its track record of success, tailored by each state’s unique priorities, merits increased investment from the federal government. The Specialty Crop Security Act of 2024, authored by Senators Butler (CA) and Collins (ME), fulfills that goal through additional funding and enhancements to meet the future needs of the U.S. specialty crop industry.” – Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance

Specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, and nuts, which are a significant portion of California’s agricultural output. California is the number one producer of specialty crops in the nation and records over 400 different types of crops.

The SCBG program was first funded in 2006 and quickly became one of the most important programs enabling state departments of agriculture to support their specialty crop industries. The program is designed to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and funds activities that accomplish a broad range of outcomes, including:

  • Increased access to and consumption of specialty crops,
  • Research supporting the resilience of specialty crops,
  • More robust regional and local food systems,
  • And food safety improvements.

The full text of this bill can be found here.


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