Column by John Fulton
May 24: Holes in trees >>

Ag News Elsewhere
 (fresh daily from the Web)

A quirk in farm policy threatens the Midwest vegetable industry     Send a link to a friend

[JUNE 3, 2004]  ELWOOD, Ind. -- An unintended consequence of the 2002 Farm Bill jeopardizes the livelihood of many Midwestern fruit and vegetable farmers and processors. In fact, a provision in the Farm Bill may threaten the long-term viability of the entire Midwestern fruit and vegetable industry.

Much of the land used for fruit and vegetable production in the Midwest is leased. The Farm Bill discourages landlords from allowing fruit and vegetable production on their land. Because fruit and vegetables are not considered "program crops," they are ineligible for federal farm payments. Thus, land that has a proven program crop history receives considerable federal subsidies today, whereas land with predominant fruit and vegetable history does not.

Under current law and historical practice, if future landlords allow fruit or vegetable production on their land, they would lose eligibility for program payments if Congress permits another base update in the future.

In congressional testimony, Glen Abbett, a vegetable producer in Porter County, Ind., said: "I am struggling to get rented ground for growing my processed tomatoes. In the Midwest, most family farms rely on rented acres to grow their crops. I have found that landlords who I have approached -- and rationally so -- say that future base recalculations will result in loss of base acres on their farm if they rent it to me for processed tomato production. This means that my ability to rotate crops and to fulfill my traditional contract obligation to Red Gold is severely restricted."

Several lawmakers recognize the seriousness of this problem and are seeking to remove these detrimental provisions from the Farm Bill. Indiana congressman Mike Pence and Wisconsin congresswoman Tammy Baldwin have introduced House Resolution 2181, known as the Farming Flexibility Act. This legislation is garnering strong support within the Midwestern agriculture community and has 23 bipartisan cosponsors in the House of Representatives. Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar has introduced the companion Senate Bill 2141 with four Senate co-sponsors at this time.


[to top of second column in this article]

The Farming Flexibility Act would allow farmers to opt out of the Farm Bill's soybean program annually. This would enable farmers to take soybean acres out of the farm program each spring and plant them to fruits and vegetables without penalty. By doing so, they would become ineligible for farm payments on that land for that year. The payment reduction is on an acre-for-acre basis.

The effort to rectify the Farm Bill's detrimental effects is not without opposition. Farmers who produce fresh fruit and vegetables, often in states like California and Florida, have objected to the Farming Flexibility Act out of concern that increased production in the Midwest would have a negative impact on their market. This is a misconception. The Farming Flexibility Act pertains only to fruits and vegetables that are grown for processing, not for fresh produce. These two commodities do not directly compete against one another.

Adoption of this provision would actually save American taxpayers millions of dollars. The Farming Flexibility Act would provide practical means for Midwest farmers to forego receiving farm program payments in order to produce fruits or vegetables for processing. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this reduction in farm program payments would save the federal treasury $10 million through fiscal 2007.

[News release from the Canned-Frozen Food
and Grower Coalition]


Recent articles

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor