March 31, 2022

IFPA members testify in House ag committee hearing

Two members of the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) testified during a House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee hearing on horticulture and urban agriculture on March 31.

During the biotechnology, horticulture and research hearing, titled “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Horticulture and Urban Agriculture,” the IFPA was represented by members Brie Reiter Smith of Driscoll’s and Marc Oshima of AeroFarms, who shared their perspectives on issues ranging from technology, innovation, social impact, nutrition, research, natural resources and more.

In her testimony, Smith, the vice president of product leadership for Driscoll’s, shared how the produce industry leverages grant funding to enhance its competitiveness.

“The produce industry uses federal research dollars today to address pests and diseases, prevent and respond to multiple types of food safety hazards across dozens of crops in multiple farming regions, as well as identify and develop technology for automation and mechanization,” Smith said. “As you can imagine, the demand for funding under these programs consistently outstrips available dollars.”

AeroFarms co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer Marc Oshima called on subcommittee leadership to expand the Local Agriculture Market Program and Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) to include urban, controlled environment agriculture and indoor/vertical farming practices, as well as asked for more funding for these practices within the Farm Bill’s Research Title.

“These expansions would help encourage competition, while promoting the technology and innovation that forms the bedrock of our national ethos and is necessary to feed the growing population,” Oshima said.

Although labor is outside the jurisdiction of the House Subcommittee, Smith also urged House leadership to work with their Senate counterparts to ensure agricultural producers have access to a legal and stable workforce.

“Without immigration reform, growers across the country will eventually face the predicament of closing operations or moving them abroad. These are not theoretical discussions,” Smith said. “Growers struggle to secure the labor they need which means they gamble every year on getting enough labor to harvest crops or they make the choice to plow under the food they have grown for lack of labor.”

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, on which IFPA Chief Policy Office Robert Guenther serves as Secretary, continues to work to advance the next farm bill through Congress.

Industry leaders who want to get engaged with their legislators are encouraged to learn more about IFPA’s priority issues or register for the Policy & Regulatory Forum in Washington, D.C. May 9-11.

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