A new farm bureau program offers a Pandora’s box that the produce industry should avoid.
In late April, an Oregon grower and American Farm Bureau Federation vice president was part of a panel that testified before a House Agriculture Committee’s subcommittee.
The farm bureau proposed growers of apples, potatoes, tomatoes, grapes and sweet corn join a program typically available only to program crops such as cotton, field corn, wheat and soybeans called STAX or the Stacked Income Protection Plan.
The program, funded by premiums from growers and government subsidy, pays growers if the county average revenue or yield fell by an agreed-upon percentage from the historical average for a particular commodity.
Those five fruits and vegetables were chosen because they’re in the top 13 in value of production for the entire U.S., represent at least 2% of the nation’s value of production and are grown in at least 13 states.
Also, crop insurance is currently available for all of the commodities.
But crop insurance is where growers of these commodities should stop.
The fresh produce industry has always said it operates on the free market, based on supply and demand, not government subsidies.
Anyone in the produce industry knows the most likely cause of low prices is overproduction. Crop insurance can take care of natural disasters that are beyond growers’ control.
In addition to fundamentally changing the economic nature of these five commodities, they may enter into a government bureaucracy that may never be able to escape.
This is part of the farm bill fresh produce ought to want no part of.
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