The next head of the U.S. Senate’s agriculture committee has received some support from two produce trade organizations.

UPDATED: Produce organizations support Stabenow’s ag post


The United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., and Western Growers, Irvine, Calif., congratulated Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the next chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

United Fresh officials said Stabenow has been a friend of the produce industry and a leader on many agricultural issues.

As chairman of the committee, Stabenow will “bring a strong sense of cooperation and bipartisanship to this position, a critical quality during the upcoming debate on the Farm Bill,” said Tom Stenzel, United’s president and chief executive officer.

The author of the Horticulture title of the 2008 Farm Bill, Stabenow has spent her life working for agriculture in the Michigan Legislature, in the U.S. House of Representatives and as a Michigan senator since 2000. Outside of working for her state’s fruit and vegetable growers, Stabenow has also worked on other agriculture commodity issues including, dairy, conservation, rural development and sugar as well as nutrition, food safety and energy, Stenzel said.

“Senator Stabenow has proved to be a real leader for the specialty crop industry,” he said. “Not only does the diversity of Michigan agriculture provide her a great local background, she has traveled to California and around the country learning about fruit and vegetable production in other areas. She's smart and tough, and will be a great partner working for agriculture on a bipartisan basis with Ranking Member Senator Chambliss from Georgia.”

United Fresh noted Stabenow’s support for groundbreaking legislation that incorporates the fresh fruit and vegetable snack program into U.S. schools.

That law has made key changes and introduced healthier foods and eating habits by increasing children’s access to fresh fruits and vegetables in schools, Stenzel said.

During the summer, Stabenow toured California’s Central Valley and Salinas areas to better understand western agriculture and met with growers about the need to cooperate across commodity and regional lines, Stenzel said.

Though Western Growers would not be considered a traditional constituency for the senator, the organization said it appreciates the senator’s willingness to work with its growers regardless of the issue.

“As a Senator from one of the most important and diversified agricultural states, she understands the challenges facing all U.S. farmers, and the significant contribution of the specialty crop industry — representing approximately 50% of the total U.S. crop farm gate — to the economic underpinning and health of our nation,” according to a Western Growers news release.

Stabenow is respected for her balanced understanding of controversial and complex issues affecting the industry including energy, environmental regulations and food safety, according to the Western Growers release.