(Dec. 8) A Salinas, Calif., Congressman is seeking money to help the beleaguered spinach industry in the wake of the September E. coli crisis, and he wants to bolster food safety efforts for produce at the same time.

Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., introduced the Spinach Research and Recovery Act of 2006 on Dec. 6, which would authorize $26 million for research specifically dedicated to fresh produce.

Troy Phillips, Farr’s senior legislative assistant, said the bill would add language to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corp. to make funds available to spinach growers and first handlers that suffered losses when they voluntarily pulled product. The corporation, authorized in the farm bill, can give loans and payments to producers in emergency situations, such as hurricanes.

“The (agriculture) secretary had the authority to help these people all along and hasn’t,” he said. “This is the boot that’s going to make him do it. With this bill, we’re directing the secretary to use his authority to spend the funds necessary to make payments to the growers.”

He said growers, not only in California, but Colorado and New Jersey, could have kept growing spinach and put it on the shelves, but they didn’t.

“Now they’re left holding the bag on their losses. We’re trying to help all those people who acted in good faith,” he said.

Farr was unavailable for comment.