Farm Flex

June 6, 2007

June 6, 2007

Farm Flex -- do you know what that is? It is a bill before Congress that would give Midwest farmers planting f1exibility that they don't have now.

This is the way it works now under the 2002 farm bill, and you can see why it must be changed. If you plant corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, or cotton, you may be receiving a direct govcrnment payment proportional to your crop base acreage. We all have historical base acreages for the above crops, and the way farm programs work now, base acreage is important.

Here is an example. Del Monte comes and offers you a contract to raise some sweet corn for canning on those base acres. Why not? The contract appears to be very profitable and you agree to give up any direct government payment on that acreage. But wait a minutc. Your landlord says "No because, as the law reads now, the USDA must permanently reduce the base acres if you planted that sweet corn."

Does this make any sense? Here we have a farmer agreeing to plant fruits or vegetables on base acres and give up his government direct payment, that saves the government money. Why penalize the land owner by reducing his acreage base? He may not want to plant vegetables next year. That's only part of the story. The law also requires the farmer to pay a financial penalty ifhe grows fruits and vegetables for processing. Absurd! And beyond that, the farmer is absolutely forbidden from raising fruits and vegetables for the fresh market.

We don't have enough domestically grown fruits and vegetables now. Furthermore, the planting restrictions in today's bill are not in compliance with WTO. There is no way to justify such complicated, restrictive rules.

The Farm Flex legislation will give our farmers more planting flexibility, save the federal government some money, and improve WTO compliance.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.