Legislation would add tree nuts to USDA’s Seniors’ Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
WASHINGTON – As Congress prepares to pass the next five-year Farm Bill, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) today introduced the Farmers’ Market Expansion Act, a bill that would make pecans and other tree nuts eligible for the USDA’s Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).
“I just spent the month of August with Alabama’s farmers to get ready to work on the next Farm Bill,” Coach Tuberville said. “After listening to Alabama farmers all across our state, I’m introducing legislation to expand their access to customers all across America. My bill would help low-income seniors afford to make pecans part of a well-balanced diet. This bill would be a win for our seniors, our farmers, and a big win for Alabama.”
The SFMNP provides fresh, nutritious, locally-grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey to eligible low-income seniors. These seniors must be 60 years of age or older and have a household income of no more than 185% of the federal poverty level. Eligible seniors can exchange coupons for program products at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs. According to the USDA, in fiscal year 2022, the SFMNP had 757,751 seniors participate and 15,089 farmers sold products through the program across the country. Annual program benefits vary per state between $20 – $50 per year, with over 54,000 eligible seniors in Alabama.
According to the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), common tree nuts are considered almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts. With this legislation, these tree nuts would be eligible for the SFMNP.
Alabama is one of the country’s top pecan producers, with growers across the state harvesting approximately 3 million pounds across 9,000 pecan-bearing acres in 2022. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, Alabama had over 837 producers who harvested 8,840 pecan-bearing acres.
The Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries, Alabama Pecan Growers Association, National Pecan Federation, and Southeastern Pecan Growers Association all praised Senator Tuberville’s efforts to expand the program for pecans and other tree nuts.
“Alabama is pecan proud! Pecans are a nutritional powerhouse containing good fats along with protein, fiber, essential minerals, and bioactive compounds,” said Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries Commissioner Rick Pate. “Adding pecans to the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program will allow our seniors to enjoy fresh Alabama-grown pecans and support our farmers.”
“The Alabama Pecan Growers Association is proud to represent the hardworking farmers in Alabama who produce top quality pecans for the consumers. Pecans were named, in 1982, the official state nut. Since Pecans are the healthiest tree nut you can eat, adding pecans to the senior nutrition program would be a win for the seniors and the local growers,” said an Alabama Pecan Growers Association representative.
“The National Pecan Federation greatly appreciates Senator Tuberville’s work on this legislation to include tree nuts in the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Pecans, which are the only major tree nut indigenous to North America, are extremely nutritious. Including pecans in the SFMNP will help pecan producers by opening new markets while giving consumers improved access to a healthy and delicious product,” said Larry Don Womack, Chairman of the National Pecan Federation.
“The Southeastern Pecan Growers Association supports Senator Tuberville’s Farmers’ Market Expansion Act. Including pecans and other tree nuts in the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program will benefit pecan growers across the Southeast by adding a new market for their product,” said Lanair Worsham, President of the Southeastern Pecan Growers Association (SEPGA). “Pecans, which are low in carbs and high in dietary fiber, are a nutritious snack option for consumers. SEPGA appreciates the work Senator Tuberville is doing to promote pecans by including them in the SFMNP.”
As Alabama’s voice on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Coach Tuberville is committed to supporting Alabama’s farmers and producers.
In July 2023, Senator Tuberville introduced two pieces of legislation—the Farm Board Act and the Mid-South Oilseed Double Cropping Study Act of 2023—to improve opportunities and representation for Alabama’s agriculture community.
The Farm Board Act, which Senator Tuberville introduced with Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) would make changes to the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation’s (FCIC) ten-member Board of Directors. The FCIC is a government-owned corporation that finances the federal crop insurance program’s (FCIP’s) operations. There are currently four seats for agricultural producers on the board, of which one must be a producer of specialty crops. This bill designates two of the remaining three open seats for farmers on the FCIC Board as (1) a producer of livestock and crops, and (2) an underserved producer, respectively.
The Mid-South Oilseed Double Cropping Study Act of 2023, led by Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Senator Katie Britt (R-AL), Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), would request a study from the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) on the gap in crop insurance coverage for certain winter oilseed crops, specifically canola and rapeseed, and double cropping policies. For farmers to take advantage of opportunities in renewable diesel and Sustainable Aviation Fuel, they need the assurance that crop insurance—such as Catastrophic Risk Protection, Yield Protection, Revenue Protection, or Revenue Protection with Harvest Price Exclusion—will be eligible in their counties for these crops and practices. To address crop insurance gaps that may exist, RMA and FCIC need analysis of winter oilseed crop and double-cropping production practices and opportunities.
These bills build on Senator Tuberville’s legislation to address issues facing our agriculture community such as the Foreign Adversary Risk Management (FARM) Act, which would establish safeguards against foreign purchases of American farmland. Alabama is one of the most susceptible states to foreign agriculture influence, with our state having the third-highest amount of foreign-owned land in the country.
The U.S. Senate recently added a key part of Senator Tuberville’s legislation to the national defense bill with an amendment that would block the purchases of U.S. farmland by China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran and add the Secretary of Agriculture to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
Senator Tuberville is also concerned with rising input costs continuing to cut into farmers’ bottom lines and making it difficult to do what they do best: farm. That’s why he helped introduce legislation to eliminate the federal Estate Tax, often called the Death Tax, to prevent any more family farms from going out of business due to this burdensome regulation. Instead of inhibiting production, the federal government needs to focus on creating an economic environment that preserves small businesses and family farms and incentivizes the next generation to enter the industry to continue feeding and fueling our nation.
Senator Tuberville also helped introduce the Feral Swine Eradication Act to extend and make permanent the pilot program established in the 2018 Farm Bill. The legislation would continue to safeguard public health, agriculture, and local ecosystems against the threat of feral swine. Feral swine impede farmers’ livelihoods and our national food supply, causing more than $1.5 billion in damages annually. Over the last five years, feral swine have impacted more than 173,000 acres in Alabama.
This year, Senator Tuberville was named the top Republican of the AG Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, which enables him to build on his work to expand broadband access for rural communities.
Senator Tuberville’s first hearing as Ranking Member of Rural Development and Energy—titled “Rural Broadband: Connecting our Communities to the Digital Economy”—focused on ways to expand broadband access in rural communities and incorporate these programs in the 2023 Farm Bill. Senator Tuberville invited Rainsville native and CEO of Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative Inc. (FTC), Frank Johnson, to testify before the subcommittee about successful broadband expansion technologies he’s seen through his work to increase service speeds for rural areas.
In addition to the Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, Senator Tuberville serves on the Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management, and Trade, and Subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics, and Research.
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, and HELP Committees.