People in the industry may find something familiar in the Fresh Produce Procurement Act introduced in Congress last week.
That’s because there is something familiar: the Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act of 2021, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT.
The earlier bill duly made its way through a House subcommittee and then the House Committee on Agriculture. It was even introduced in the House on September 21, 2021. But it met an undeserved death on the House floor—meaning that it was never brought to vote.
Differences between the two proposed bills? Mollie Van Lieu, vice president of health and nutrition policy for the International Fresh Produce Association BB #:378962, offers some clarification.
One important difference: the 2021 version “realistically wasn’t expected to move last Congress,” since the farm bill was not up for reauthorization at that point, Van Lieu says.
“Although it was important to introduce previous session of Congress as there was demand for this policy,” Van Lieu continues, “last Congress it didn’t have a logical vehicle to move on, and independently moving legislation is very difficult.”
This legislation has a better chance this time because it is attached to the farm bill.
The new bill is very similar to the one introduced two years ago, but, says Van Lieu, “some tweaks were made based on feedback from stakeholders.”
The bill was also restructured according to the writing style for Senate. That’s because, as Van Lieu points out, “this year there is a Senate companion bill which wasn’t the case” two years ago.
The bipartisan companion bill was introduced in the upper house by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH.
“• Provide USDA with an additional tool to partner with existing growers and fresh produce distributors to procure a greater amount of fresh fruits and vegetables
“• Distribute U.S.-grown fresh fruits and vegetables to local food banks, schools, youth-serving organizations, tribal governments, and other nonprofit community members serving nutrition-insecure populations.
“• Strengthen access to a wide variety of U.S.-grown fresh fruits and vegetables to recipients in need by including at least seven types of U.S.-grown fresh fruits in vegetables to vulnerable communities living in poverty.
“• Provide opportunities for a wider variety of high-quality produce sourced, packed and distributed from growers and distributors of all sizes, including veteran, women-owned and socially disadvantaged members of the agriculture community.”
These new aspects give some reason for optimism that the bill will make its way through the legislative process. But even the craziest of prophets would not want to predict what the current Congress will or won’t do.