Bill to Allow More Produce Planting on Base Acres
If passed, a new bill would allow grain crop farmers to grow fruits and vegetables on more of their farm program base acres. With the goal of attaching the legislation to the next farm bill, Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., and Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., cosponsored legislation called “Feeding America through Farm Flexibility Act of 2017.” The proposed law would allow grain farmers to plant an additional 5% of their commodity crop base acres to vegetables if the extra harvest is sold or donated into a food desert with a poverty rate of at least 20%, according to the text of the bill. Planting additional fruits and vegetables on base acres wouldn’t result in a reduction in payment acres, as long as the crops are solely grown for sale or donation, “directly or indirectly by the producer and with or without processing, in a food desert.”
Under the Agricultural Act of 2014, farmers can already plant 15% of their base acres to vegetables if enrolled in the county-level price loss coverage (PLC) or county agriculture risk coverage (ARC) and up to 35% if enrolled in the individual farm-level ARC program. The proposed legislation bumps the allowed levels up to 20% for county-level programs and 40% for individual ARC, if growers meet the requirements to serve food deserts from the extra 5%.
Coalition Asks Congress to Up USDA R&D Budget
Sixty-six trade associations, university Extension scientists and other organizations, including the Farm Journal Foundation, are asking Congress to take action that would improve USDA’s research and development efforts and, thereby, the country’s competitiveness on an international scale.
The coalition recently sent a letter to agricultural leaders in the House and Senate, asking them to consider 10 policy recommendations. Among the recommendations, the groups wants Congress to establish an annual $6 billion goal for USDA food and agricultural research between 2019 and 2023.
“Though public funding for other forms of domestic research has risen dramatically, the U.S. agricultural research budget has declined in real dollars since 2003. This is an area of R&D where return on investment is estimated at 20 to 1,” the coalition’s letter says. “At stake is our national security, economy, health and environment. The next farm bill represents a crucial opportunity to reverse these trends and reassert our nation’s leadership in agricultural research and extension.”