Washington, D.C.—Rich Hudgins, president & CEO of the California Canning Peach Association, testified before a hearing of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development and Entrepreneurship to examine the state of U.S. farmers who grow fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Hudgins, who is also the chairman of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives’ (NCFC) Fruit, Vegetable & Nut Subcommittee, discussed the vital role that co-ops play in helping specialty crop producers access markets and compete in the global economy. In addition, since the profits of the co-op go directly back to the company’s farmer-owners, it helps to boost producer income from beyond the farm gate.
One public policy issue of special interest to specialty crop producers was reauthorization of federal child nutrition legislation, and in particular the eligibility of all types of fruits and vegetables to participate in the program.
“NCFC supports increasing consumption of all fruits and vegetables, without pitting one form of fruit or vegetable against the other, in the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the WIC program,” Hudgins testified. “Sound science and the Dietary Guidelines do not distinguish between fresh, canned, dried, or frozen fruits or vegetables, and we encourage Congress not to make a distinction either.”
Another important issue facing all of agriculture, but with an especially heavy impact on specialty crops, is the lack of an adequate, dependable and flexible labor force to harvest, sort and pack fruits and vegetables, Hudgins said.
“We must recognize that thousands of U.S. family farmers who provide this country with the lowest-cost, safest, and most reliable food supply in the world need an immigration policy which permits temporary guest workers to pick our fruits and vegetables, milk our cows, and perform all other jobs that are being filled today by workers who lack legal status,” continued Hudgins. “Just as we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers, we cannot have a thriving Main Street in rural America if more of our food production is forced to relocate outside the borders of the U.S. Simply put, our fruits and vegetables are going to continue being picked by foreign workers.”
Hudgins also touched on a number of other issues of interest to NCFC and its specialty crop cooperative members, including climate change, food safety, trade, and farm bill programs for specialty crops.
About California Canning Peach Association
Established in 1922, the California Canning Peach Association is the nation’s oldest farm bargaining association. As a farm cooperative, the CCPA is owned and directed by its grower-members and dedicated to serving their needs with a variety of services. Our average member grows just 40 acres of peaches and typically farms other tree crops as well. Most importantly, the CCPA provides the leadership that safeguards the profitability and success of California’s processing peach industry.
The California Canning Peach Association is the only organization dedicated exclusively to improving the welfare of cling peach growers and the strength of California’s cling peach industry. From pricing issues to legislative concerns, the CCPA provides its members with the best means available to positively influence their futures.
Since 1929, NCFC has been the voice of America’s farmer cooperatives. Our members are regional and national farmer cooperatives, which are in turn composed of nearly 3,000 local farmer cooperatives across the country. NCFC members also include 26 state and regional councils of cooperatives. Farmer cooperatives allow individual farmers the ability to own and lead organizations that are essential for continued competitiveness in both the domestic and international markets.
America’s farmer-owned cooperatives provide a comprehensive array of services for their members. These diverse organizations handle, process and market virtually every type of agricultural commodity. They also provide farmers with access to infrastructure necessary to manufacture, distribute and sell a variety of farm inputs. Additionally, they provide credit and related financial services, including export financing.