(July 12) The best farm bill proposal from the House Agriculture Committee so far in 2007 still isn’t good enough, a leading industry lobbyist said.

Providing $675 million in baseline mandatory funding over five years for fruit and vegetable priorities, the farm bill put forward by House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., on July 6 contained more mandatory money for fruit and vegetable priorities than any farm bill before it.

Peterson said the bill was an unprecedented recognition of the growing importance of specialty crop growers, and noted there was $1 billion in additional authorized funds for fruit and vegetable priorities in an unfunded amendment to the his markup of the farm bill.

However, the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance — representing more than 100 specialty crop industry associations — still found the chairman’s markup lacking, said alliance spokesman Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

The EAT Healthy America Act, industry-backed legislation introduced earlier this year in the House of Representatives as a prelude to the 2007 farm bill, asked for $7.6 billion over five years for specialty crop priorities.

“The (alliance) continues to be disappointed in the lack of effort to get us to the point where we would be ready to support the farm bill,” Guenther said July 12. “The Agriculture Committee is interested in helping specialty crop growers across the country, but right now they have not demonstrated that yet.”

If an agreement can’t be found for additional funding, the alliance will take its efforts beyond the committee to the House floor, he said.

The Senate has yet to take up specifics of the farm bill, and some in the Senate think the body may not have time to look at a reform-minded farm bill.

“(Peterson’s mark) does some things, but it is still considerably short of where the specialty crop industry would like to be,” agreed Nancy Foster, president of the U.S. Apple Association, Vienna, Va.