(VIDEO UPDATE, April 26) The American Farm Bureau Federation wants growers of apples, potatoes, tomatoes, grapes and sweet corn to use a program typically available only to program crops such as cotton, corn, wheat and soybeans.
Oregon grower Farm Bureau vice President Barry Bushue was part of a panel of specialty crop producers that testified April 24 before the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture.
Starting with the next farm bill, Bushue said Farm Bureau wants the Stacked Income Protection Plan — STAX — for growers of program crops to cover apples, potatoes, tomatoes, grapes and sweet corn. The 2012 farm bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee had the STAX program in place for only for cotton. The program, paid for by premiums from growers and government subsidy, compensates growers if the county average revenue or yield fell by a certain percentage from the historical average for a particular commodity.
The program doesn’t change existing insurance policies, he said.
Bushue said the five specialty crops Farm Bureau singled out rank in the top 13 in value of production for the entire U.S. and represent at least 2% of the nation’s value of production. All of the commodities are grown in at least 13 states, he said, and crop insurance is currently available for all of the commodities. Bushue said including those commodities could benefit fruit and vegetable growers in 44 states.
Nancy Foster, president of the Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Association, said her group has not yet had a chance to review the proposal. The cost of the program and its usefulness to fresh and processed apple growers will be evaluated, she said.
Bushue said April 24 that Farm Bureau believes the STAX program could be a good risk management tool for specialty crop growers.
“It is an opportunity to provide some tools for the loss of crop,” he said.
William Brim, president of Lewis & Taylor Farms Inc., Tifton, Ga., and a member of the United Fresh Prduce Association’s government relations council — told lawmakers he hopes they can finish the work they started last year on the farm bill. Brim highlighted the importance of state block grants, funding for research, and programs for nutrition, plant and diseases, international market access and conservation.