U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee Testimony

Statement of Mr. Evrin Lineberger, Kings Mountain, N.C.

To The U.S. House Agriculture Subcomittee on Livestock and Horticulture

September 26, 2006

Chairman Hayes, Ranking Member Case, and Members of the Subcommittee:

My name is Ervin Lineberger, a fruit and vegetable grower from Kings Mountain, NC.  I am President of the North American Bramble Growers Association (Blackberries and Raspberries).  I also serve on the steering board of the National Berry Crops Initiative, a network of berry grower organizations joining together to support the continued growth and sustainability of berry crop production in the United States.  I am pleased to be here as a representative of the berry industry, specifically, and specialty crops in general.

Currently, our major concern is having sufficient labor primarily for seasonal harvesting of crops.  Berry crops are highly perishable and require hand labor almost entirely.  The uncertainty of labor availability places our operations at risk, even in times of good markets and good production.  There are other issues affecting the specialty crops industry where we are respectfully asking for your attention at this time.

The 2002 Farm Bill contained limited provisions for funding and policy directed to specialty crops.  Legislation directed to specialty crops in 2003 and 2004 gave more support in several needed areas.  The 2007 Farm Bill is an opportunity to build on the successes of these efforts and develop a comprehensive policy for agriculture where all sectors are included.

As a matter of principle, we feel that the specialty crop industry would not be well served by direct program payments to growers.  Rather, our emphasis must be on building the long-term competitiveness and sustainability of production and marketing.  Also as a matter of principle, we are committed to providing consumers with access to and availability of safe, wholesome, healthy and affordable fruits and vegetables.  Representatives from all areas of the specialty crop industry have worked together during the past two years to reach reasonable agreement and establish goals based on these principles.

The following are some priority areas regarding specialty crops for you to consider as you prepare the 2007 Farm Bill:

  1. Research – Funding for fundamental research in genetics and technology development.  Applied research with emphasis on grower utilization of research findings.

  1. Nutrition Programs – Expanded emphasis on increasing the access and availability of fruits and vegetables, especially to children.

  1. Invasive Pests and Diseases  – Significant investment in prevention and control of unintentional introduction of plant pests to domestic production areas.  These include insects, mites, diseases and weeds.

  1. Food Safety and Security – Expanded programs and policy to focus on food safety and security, especially at the farm level.  This should include new efforts to reach small and medium-sized farms where crops are sold directly to consumers.

  1. State Block Grants – Expansion of the state block grant concept where funds are available to state departments of agriculture and universities that are uniquely able to assist with local needs.

  1. Risk Management Tools – Support for programs that will:  (a) make crop insurance available for all specialty crops, (b) continue disaster relief, and (c) assist growers with business plan development.

Government investment in the infrastructure of the specialty crops industry will spur growth and sustainability.  It will produce a strong return on investment.  All Americans will benefit.   A comprehensive 2007 Farm Bill that includes specialty crops will earn widespread support from all sectors of the population due to its relevancy.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity.  Personally, I have a passion for my job as a fruit and vegetable grower.  Others, like myself, share in the pleasure of producing and marketing specialty crops.