(May 6) There’s strength in numbers.

The truth of that adage and its importance to the fresh produce industry were clearly demonstrated when House and Senate conferees agreed on a compromise farm bill that will spend $45.1 billion during the next six years.

The House passed the measure May 2, and the Senate was expected to follow suit. President Bush said he will sign the bill into law.

The produce industry registered unprecedented gains in the bill. Among them:

  • At least $200 million annually in additional government purchases of fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops.

  • Funding for the Market Access Program of $100 million this year, $110 million next year, $125 million in 2004, $140 million in 2005 and $200 million annually thereafter.

  • $94 million to apple growers for their loss of markets.

  • $10 million annually to pay for a pilot program to increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • $6 million for a one-year program to provide free fruits and vegetables to students in 100 schools in four states.

    • Little of this would have been possible without the efforts, spearheaded by the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, of the Allied Association Council. The council, which consists of more than 90 groups throughout the produce industry, proved to be an effective voice on Capitol Hill.

      There truly is strength in numbers. That’s a lesson the produce industry should remember.