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Vilsack touts farm bill’s value-added impact

By Staff | Aug 28, 2014

U.S. SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE Tom Vilsack speaks on Aug. 22 at Iowa Choice Harvest in Marshalltown. Also pictured are U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, and Penny Brown Huber, chief executive officer of Iowa Choice Harvest.

MARSHALLTOWN – U.S. Rep. Bruce Brawley, D-Iowa, said it took three years to pass the current farm bill.

He said his Aug. 22 visit in Marshall County showed him the fight was worth it.

Braley, along with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, visited Iowa Choice Harvest, in Marshalltown, to tout the success of the bill and value-added grant it provided the local fruits and vegetables processing facility.

Braley said the farm bill is all about hope for places like ICH.

“It’s too important to Iowa not to support the farm bill,” he said. “One of the things that’s so exciting is to see the enormous positive economic impact the farm bill is having in Iowa.”

Iowa Choice Harvest opened last year with a focus on processing and marketing Iowa-grown foods. The local food hub has received $650,000 in grants and loans as start-up funds through the farm bill.

“This is a facility that started out with a hope and a dream and the USDA was able to provide help and assistance through the value-added producer grant,” said Vilsack, adding grants like this help diversify Iowa agriculture.

“We want to make sure we provide opportunities for fruit and vegetable production,” he said. ” … It’s a huge industry opportunity.”

Penny Brown Huber, chief executive officer of Iowa Choice Harvest, said ICH sells its fruits and vegetables to grocery stores around the state.

It started selling to the Des Moines School District this year.

“Our product is 100 percent Iowan,” she said, “meaning the packaging and the crop that we hope to sell to Iowans.”

Iowa Choice Harvest has two flagship products – sweet corn and apples.

It plans to add aronia berries and bolero carrots this fall, with future consideration given to products such as asparagus spears, other carrot varieties and strawberries.

Braley is the Democratic candidate for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat this fall.

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