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Note: This topic page may contain material that has not yet been updated to reflect the new Farm Act, signed into law on February 7. ERS has published highlights and some implications of the Act’s new programs and provisions.  Sign up for the ERS Farm Bill e-newsletter to receive notices of topic page updates and other new Farm Bill-related materials on the ERS website.

Federal price and income support programs do not directly cover fruit and tree nuts. Nonetheless, some outlays stem from a variety of general, non-crop-specific programs, including the following:

  • Federal production assistance programs, such as Federal crop insurance, the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, and western irrigation subsidies;
  • Export programs, such as the Market Access Program (MAP), which include several fruit and tree nuts;
  • Federal food purchase programs, such as the School Lunch Program, which also include fruit and tree nuts;
  • Federal Marketing Orders; and
  • Federally sanctioned national research and promotion program in place for cultivated blueberries, Hass avocados, and mangoes.

Strawberries Grapes Oranges on Tree

Crop Insurance and Disaster Assistance

Commercial fruit and tree nut growers always face production or yield risk, mostly associated with adverse weather, and Federal assistance is provided through ad hoc (or emergency) Federal disaster assistance and Federal crop insurance. USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) provides crop insurance policies for many crops, including a rising number of fruit and tree nut crops. Federal crop insurance is obtained prior to the growing season and provides an indemnity payment if the farmer's actual yield falls below a predetermined guarantee. The policies are acquired through private insurance companies. Although crop insurance is not free to farmers, the Government subsidizes a significant portion of the cost.

RMA also has pilot programs in select counties for newly developed insurance programs. Most operate for 2 to 3 years before converting to permanent status. Pilot programs currently in place for fruit apply to California avocados, cherries, citrus fruit, Florida fruit trees, Hawaii tropical fruit, and Hawaii tropical trees.

USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) PDF icon (16x16) . Fruit and tree nut growers who do not purchase crop insurance or do not have established Federal crop insurance programs for their crops are eligible for Federal financial assistance under this program when natural disasters cause low yields, loss of inventory, or inability to plant. FSA also operates other disaster assistance programs--Emergency Conservation, Disaster Debt Set-Aside, and Emergency Farm Loans--designed to aid farmers who are affected by drought, flood, freeze, tornadoes, and other natural calamities (for more information, see Ongoing Disaster Assistance Programs for Agricultural Producers PDF icon (16x16) ).

Moreover, during years of extensive crop loss, producers of insured crops (covered by a crop insurance plan or NAP) may be eligible for the new Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance, which consists of five disaster assistance programs, including the Orchard and Nursery Tree Assistance Program.

Market Access Program

The Market Access Program (MAP), administered by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service, uses funds from USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation to help U.S. producers, exporters, private companies, and other trade organizations finance activities such as consumer promotions, market research, technical assistance, and trade servicing for agricultural products.

For fiscal year 2011, approximately $52 million of MAP funds were directly allocated to the U.S. fruit and tree nuts industry, about 27 percent of the $194.4-million program total. Additional allocations made to other trade associations will also likely benefit the fruit and tree nut industry.

Marketing Orders

Marketing orders, administered by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), are designed to collectively solve instability within fruit and vegetable markets. That goal is accomplished by enforcing product quality standards, regulating the flow of product to the market, standardizing packages and containers, creating reserve pools for storable commodities, and authorizing production and marketing research and advertising. Industries participate voluntarily and agree to Federal oversight over certain aspects of their operations.

Once established, a marketing order becomes binding on all individuals or businesses serving as "handlers" in a geographic area covered by the order. Imports may be directly affected by these marketing orders. Under the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, Section 8e, imports of commodities for which domestic marketing orders are in effect must comply with the same or comparable regulations on grade, size, quality, or maturity issued in the marketing order.

For example, the only Federal marketing order in force for avocados covers fruit produced in South Florida between June and March. It authorizes standards for grade, size, quality, maturity, and packing, as well as for the size, capacity, and weight of the shipping containers. Minimum grade, size, and maturity standards also are applied to imported avocados. See the AMS list of Federal Marketing Orders for the orders currently in effect.

Research and Promotion

Federally sanctioned research and promotion programs are self-help programs, requested and funded by the industry groups that they serve. These programs aim to expand, maintain, and develop markets for individual agricultural commodities in the United States and abroad. The Secretary of Agriculture appoints national program boards composed of producers, handlers, importers, and processors (depending on which industry members pay assessments to fund the programs), as well as public members. The boards conduct promotion, market research, production research, and new product development under AMS supervision. See the AMS Web pages on cultivated blueberries, Hass avocados, mangoes and watermelons for more information on these current programs.

Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008

For the first time in farm legislation history, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 included a title concerning specific issues related to the U.S. fruit and vegetable industry ( Title X: Horticulture and Organic Agriculture). Some of the new program provisions in the title focus on the wellbeing of the fruit and vegetable industry. Programs for Pest and Disease Management include a National Clean Plant Network and a Pest and Disease Revolving Loan Fund. Another program, the Food Safety Education Initiative, educates people involved in the various produce industries and the general public about sanitary handling practices and ways of reducing pathogens in fresh produce.

In the Nutrition Title of the 2008 Farm Act, there are several provisions for fruit and vegetables, including purchase for domestic feeding programs such as the National School Lunch program and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, formerly a pilot program, whose goal is to provide fruit and vegetables to elementary schools where at least half the students receive free or reduced-price school meals.

The Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 established block grants, subject to annual appropriations in fiscal years 2005-09, to help State departments of agriculture enhance the competitiveness of U.S. specialty crops. The 2008 Farm Act reauthorized and extended this Specialty Crop Block Grant Program through fiscal year 2012.

The 2008 Farm Act also reauthorized the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) Program, first enacted into law by Section 3205 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. This program funds projects that help U.S. exporters address sanitary, phytosanitary, and technical barriers that prohibit or threaten exports of U.S. specialty crops. Funding is made through USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation. Eligible crops under this program include all U.S. cultivated plants (and their products), excluding wheat, feed grains, oilseeds, cotton, rice, peanuts, sugar, and tobacco.

Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010

On December 13, 2010, the President signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which, under the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill, authorizes funding for Federal school meal and child nutrition programs and improves access to healthy food for low-income children. The bill reauthorizes child nutrition programs for five years and includes $4.5 billion in new funding for these programs over 10 years. One of this legislation's many objectives is to increase federal reimbursement on school lunches to meet updated nutritional standards, an undertaking that will offer more opportunities for children to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption.

Last updated: Tuesday, March 11, 2014

For more information contact: Agnes Perez

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