(Aug. 7) There is no question about it. The entire fresh produce industry should give strong support to the gains won in the House version of the 2007 farm bill.

The full House of Representatives passed the farm bill July 27, signaling a watershed moment for the specialty crop industry.

Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., said that whether the funding was $1 billion or $2 billion is less important than the direction change of U.S. farm policy. Turning the battleship of agricultural programs takes much effort, and the effort has begun to pay off.

“Once you do that, the future looks very, very promising,” he said July 27.

Importantly, industry leaders represented by the 110-member-plus Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance worked together regularly for more than two years and were not split up by trading away the greater good for gains that could have helped individual commodity groups.

Much work remains to be done. The Senate should be friendly to fruit and vegetable priorities, particularly nutrition. But there is concern the Senate Agriculture Committee has been slow to find its path to the 2007 farm bill, and finding enough money for conservation and nutrition programs is apparently part of the reason the committee has been bogged down.

What’s more troublesome is President Bush’s threat to veto the House version. However, President Bush should not have to veto the farm bill if the White House works with Congress though the conference committee process.