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Johanns calls for specialty-crop parity

Feb. 28, 2007 at 4:18 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Washington should add funding for specialty crops, whose sales top that of the five major U.S. commodity crops, the U.S. Agriculture secretary said Wednesday.

"If we are serious about securing the future of agriculture, we need to tend as well to our specialty crops as we have done with our program crops in past years," Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns told the National Potato Council's annual meeting.

Sales of U.S. specialty crops and tree nuts reached $37 billion in 2006, up 23 percent in five years, he said. Yet about 93 percent of cash support payments go to commodity-crop growers, Johanns said.

The five major U.S. commodity crops are wheat, corn, soybeans, rice and cotton.

A growing consumer awareness fruits and vegetables' nutritional benefits "is certain to lead to greater demand" for specialty crops, Johanns said.

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