The 2008 farm bill is law, but landmark specialty crop provisions in the bill are far from full implementation.

“It is clear the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) has much more work to do to fully implement Congress’s direction in the farm bill, and I intend to hold additional hearings into these issues,” said Dennis Cardoza, chairman of the subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture for the House Agriculture Committee, in a prepared statement.

 Cardoza was responding to testimony from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Rayne Pegg at an Oct. 28.

The Oct. 28 subcommittee hearing reviewed implementation of specialty crop provisions of the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008.

Specifically, Cardoza looked at farm bill provisions regarding specialty crops, organic agriculture and plant and pest disease management.

Much of the hearing centered on implementation and effectiveness of specialty crop block grants,  said Kam Quarles, vice president of government relations and legislative affairs for United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

Members of Congress expressed some concern about the compressed timeframes between the announcement of grant availability and the close of the grant application process, he said. There was also interest in the recipients of the grants.

“Ultimately, the questions were surrounding the issue of whether the program is meeting the goals of the farm bill,” Quarles said.

The 2008 farm bill dedicated almost $3 billion in funding over five years for specialty crop programs related to nutrition, farmers markets, plant, pest and disease management, trade and conservation.

In her testimony, Pegg said that USDA has implemented all of the programs authorized by the farm bill for which funding was provided.

She said provisions of the farm bill that relate to quality requirements for clementines and a marketing order for hass avocados, have not been implemented as both provisions require that an industry proposal be submitted to USDA to initiate implementation.

AMS awarded 56 specialty crop block grants totaling $9.5 million in fiscal year 2008 and approximately $49 million for 745 projects in fiscal year 2009, Pegg said.