Senator Debbie Stabenow, (D-Mich.), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Thursday said that specialty crops and organics are bright spots in the nation’s economic future, but maintained that critical support for research and risk management will be key to continuing growth in the sectors.

 “Specialty crop and organic growers are not only helping to supply healthy products to our schools, families and communities, but these farmers are also making a major contribution to the American economy,” Stabenow said. “Sales of U.S. specialty crops top $60 billion annually. Organic sales also continue to grow, reaching nearly $29 billion in 2010.  We need to make sure these important producers are heard as the next Farm Bill is being written.”

Stabenow said she’s working to build on the growth and momentum in the specialty crops and organics sectors, but said focus must be placed on research and other critical tools that assist growers with pest and disease prevention and risk management.

“Producing specialty crops continues to be risky business,” Stabenow said. “New and emerging pest and diseases continue to threaten the productivity of many farmers throughout the country and high input costs often mean tight margins and limited resources.  Successful efforts like the Specialty Crop Block Grants and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative have been critical in helping producers manage these risks and expand economic opportunities.”

Stabenow championed the development of the specialty crops title in the 2008 Farm Bill, providing specialty crop growers for the first time assistance with pest and disease prevention, organic research, and trade assistance for growers hurt by new trade deals.