Hundreds of International Fresh Produce Association members descended on the nation’s capital for The Washington Conference. The event is for the produce and floral industry to come to Washington to hear from industry leaders, policy experts and influence policymakers.
Attendees bring the produce industry's needs and its stories to the elected leaders making the critical decisions that shape the way the industry works for years to come.
Top takeaways include:
Farm Bill: Produce should be half the plate but the Farm Bill spends less than eight percent on programs aimed specifically at specialty crops. Congress must provide a better balance of resources for produce and specialty crops in the upcoming Farm Bill.
Labor: The industry cannot survive in America unless Congress passes meaningful immigration reform that ensures access to an affordable, predictable and reliable workforce.
Food Safety: The FDA must follow through on its cultural transformation to modernize the agency and be more collaborative, transparent and effective. Congress must hold the FDA accountable.
Nutrition: To grow produce consumption, the fresh produce supply chain must be used to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases.
Nutrition was an especially hot topic during Washington Conference Week with the looming showdown over the severe cuts to the WIC benefits set to take place at the end of the month. IFPA’s Cathy Burns shared the importance of this benefit for the nutrition insecure but also highlighted the potential $1 billion dollar investment in fruit and vegetable sales at retail that is at risk with these proposed cuts.
These baskets represent the impact of cuts to the WIC program based on what is allocated for women. The basket on the right is the current benefit and the basket on the left is the monthly benefit after the proposed cuts.
The cuts seek to take the monthly benefit, which is designed to provide supplemental nutrition to mothers and children up to five years old and cut it for women by 70 percent and for children by 56 percent. This cut would allocate just $11 per month to purchase fruits and vegetables for children. The cuts are severe and members traveled to the Hill with almost 200 baskets of $11 worth of produce to show legislators just how little that is.
Chairwoman Stabenow, U.S. Senator and Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry took to the stage with one of the baskets in hand and expressed the power of the visual.
In addition to speakers like Senator Stabenow and Chairman G.T. Thompson, IFPA also welcomed Representatives Rick Crawford (R-AR-1), Don Davis (D-NC-1), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA- 19) and Jodey Arrington (R-TX-19), Ambassador Doug McKalip, USDA Under Secretaries Jenny Moffitt and Alexis Taylor, and a number of industry experts and leaders.