IRVINE, Calif. -- Western Growers today endorsed the Equitable Agriculture Today for a Healthy America Act (or the "EAT Healthy America Act"), introduced today by U.S. Representatives Richard Pombo (R-CA), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Adam Putnam (R-FL) and John Salazar (D-CO).

Western Growers is a co-chair of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, a national coalition of over 75 specialty crop grower organizations who have been working with the Representatives on the development of the legislation.

"This legislation is a comprehensive Farm Bill package that provides the necessary framework to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crop growers nationwide," said Tom Nassif, president of Western Growers. Nassif commended Representatives Pombo, Cardoza, Putnam, Salazar and other cosponsors of the landmark legislation for "recognizing the unique needs of specialty crop growers and working to develop bold improvements to federal agricultural policy that are needed to enable specialty crop growers to remain competitive in today's global markets."

Specialty crop growers are a major component of U.S. agricultural production, producing nearly 50 percent of all agricultural crops in the United States by value. However, federal Farm Bill legislation has not generally focused on the unique needs and challenges of specialty crop growers.

Western Growers and the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance have been working with Congress to develop comprehensive specialty crop legislation for consideration in the 2007 Farm Bill debate. The legislation includes proposals for new research programs, expanded conservation initiatives, invasive pest prevention and management, export market access, and nutrition programs.

None of the proposals include direct payments to producers, but instead are public/private partnership investments designed to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crop growers.

"Western Growers believes the 2007 Farm Bill provides a truly historic opportunity to improve U.S. farm policy in a way that is supportive of all domestically produced crops," said Nassif. "We commend the Congressional cosponsors for their outstanding leadership on behalf of specialty crop growers. We look forward to working with them and their colleagues as the legislative debate over the new Farm Bill evolves in 2007."

Western Growers is an agricultural trade association whose 3,000 members grow, pack and ship 90 percent of the fresh vegetables and nearly 70 percent of the fresh fruit and nuts grown in Arizona and California, about one-half of the nation's fresh produce.

SOURCE: Western Growers via PR Newswire.