(May 11) In what could mean even bigger industry successes in the next farm bill, the House Appropriations Committee on May 10 approved expanding the fruit and vegetable snack program to all 50 states.

The committee approved $15.9 million for special crop block grants and up to $25 million for expanding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’ snack program.

The full House was expected to consider the agricultural appropriations bill later in May. The Senate will take up the legislation sometime later this summer.

Representatives of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association and Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers said the legislation was a hard-earned victory and expressed confidence the increases in the House bill could be maintained in the Senate version.

The funding in the bill is for fiscal 2007, which begins in October and ends Sept. 30, 2007. By way of comparison, funding for the specialty block crop grants in fiscal 2006 was $7 million, while the fruit and vegetable snack program was funded at $9 million in permanent funding and $6 million in supplemental money, said Robert Guenther, vice president of public policy for United.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for United. “We didn’t think we could get it this year.”

DiSogra said she believes the $25 million for the snack program won’t include the eight states and one tribal organization permanently funded at $9 million a year by the child nutrition reauthorization act of 2004.

That would mean the $500,000 cap on each state would allocate about $21 million for the 42 states and $4 million for 97 Indian tribal organizations.

DiSogra said United would urge the Senate to fund the snack program at $1 million per state.

If Congress passes the agricultural appropriations bill and President Bush signs it by this fall, DiSogra said United would do all it could to help the USDA and the states implement the program within three months of the bill becoming law.

“We promised Congress it could be up and running in their states by January, and we will make that happen,” DiSogra said.