USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service recently announced improvements to the Specialty Crop Competitiveness Initiative. Dave Salmonsen, American Farm Bureau Federation Senior Government Affairs Director, explains the effort.

"This is meant to bring in comments and input from the producers, all kinds of stakeholders in the specialty crops industry, on how USDA can better support the industry in remaining competitive in both domestic and international marketplaces, focusing specifically on the specialty crops area," Salmonsen said. "So, they want to hear from stakeholders about how they can better help them in marketing their products and increasing consumption."

USDA a few weeks ago also announced the Regional Agricultural Promotion Program.

"This program, which is going to be about $1.3 billion to help do more for overall U.S. ag exports, but it's also going to have a specific emphasis on specialty crop industries across the country to help diversify export markets," Salmonsen said. "So, get them to expand export opportunities, more work for promotion programs, basically bring more attention to U.S.-grown specialty crops in world markets."

And over the last month, USDA and the U.S. Trade Representative announced a new Seasonal and Perishable Agricultural Products Advisory Committee.

"It will focus primarily on trade factors that are influencing U.S. seasonal produce producers with a special emphasis on the southeastern U.S.," Salmonsen said. "There has been a lot of discussion about Mexican imports affecting Florida, Georgia, states in the southeast over the last few years, and this is a new committee to take an in-depth look into those issues and advise both USTR and USDA."