By SEAN ELLIS

Capital Press

Profiles that show the impact the fresh fruit and vegetable industry has on all 50 states have been given to members of Congress to drive home the importance of passing a new farm bill.

The state profiles were created last year by United Fresh Produce Association and recently updated. They provide a detailed look at how the fruit and vegetable industry impacts each state and include total acreage, number of farms, and employment and production value for each state.

UFPA represents growers, shippers, processors and other members of the fresh produce industry. The profiles are free and are available on the group's website at www.unitedfresh.org .

"The state profiles highlight the impact that the fresh produce industry has on the health and economy of every state in the country," said Robert Guenther, UFPA's senior vice president of public policy. "(We) encourage members to refer to these profiles in their advocacy efforts."

The profiles show how the farm bill specialty crop block grant program impacts each state and they also examine Women, Infants and Children program funding and funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

The state profiles also show the impact of adult and childhood obesity and diabetes in each state, as well as the number of state residents who participate in federal feeding programs, including the food stamp program.

For example, they show that $3.1 million in specialty crop block grant funds from 2008-2011 were used to fund 45 projects to increase the competitiveness and profitability of Idaho producers.

They show that fruit and vegetable production in Washington is valued at $2.9 billion and the produce industry in that state is responsible for 88,820 full-time jobs.

The Oregon profile shows the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program provides the state $2.62 million to fund fruit and vegetable snacks in 132 elementary schools this year and WIC provides Oregon participants $10.7 million annually in fruit and vegetable vouchers.

California's profile shows there are 40,261 fruit and vegetable farms with $11.55 billion in farmgate revenue ,and points out the industry is responsible for 518,028 jobs.

The profiles were used by hundreds of UFPA members during the group's annual March on Capitol Hill policy conference earlier this month to emphasize the importance of passing a new farm bill.

"It's important that every member of congress understands how the money spent on agriculture helps their local districts," Ray Gilmer, vice president of communications for UFPA, said.

He said the profiles have been popular among the group's members and have helped them show senators and representatives how federal money is being used to address industry priorities and how the industry benefits their state.

"We know a lot of our members are using these papers as talking points," Gilmer said. "It's made for a much better conversation because they can get into the specifics of the impacts these programs are having on their districts."

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