National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

What one thing could transform America’s eating habits quicker than anything else? For starters, what if retailers put healthy items – i.e., fruits and vegetables – in at least some of their checkout lanes?

This topic was raised by Maria during the discussion of how Wal-Mart could raise the profile of fruits and vegetables for their shoppers. One of the Fresh Produce Group members linked to this YouTube video describing a healthy checkout initiative in West Virginia.

There is no acceptable reason why more retailers can’t put baby carrots instead of Butterfingers in at least one checkout lane.

In other news today, here is a link to a House Agriculture Committee hearing on horticulture priorities for the farm bill.

Those testifying were:

Sarah M. Frey-Talley, President and CEO, Frey Farms, Keenes, Illinois

William L. Brim, President and Owner, Lewis &Taylor Farms, Inc., Tifton, Georgia

Barry Bushue, Vice President, American Farm Bureau Federation, President, Oregon Farm Bureau Federation, Boring, Oregon

From Bushue’s testimony, it appears Farm Bureau endorses a new farm bill program for select specialty crop commodities. From his prepared testimony:


The top-level recommendations included in Farm Bureau’s proposal are:

Support the lower Senate budget reduction number of $23 billion;

Structure the farm bill proposal to achieve this level of cost reduction and, if funding is further reduced, to proportionately reduce the safety net programs as necessary (rather than require a total rewrite);

Allow program crop producers to choose either a Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) or a target price program, on top of participation in crop insurance and marketing loans, as the three legs of a safety net;

 Establish a STAX program for all program commodities, as well as for apples, potatoes,tomatoes, grapes and sweet corn; and

Provide a target price program for all program commodities, with the exception of cotton.

The Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) is an insurance product designed to provide a fiscally responsible and effective safety net for program crop farmers and growers of tomatoes, potatoes, apples, grapes and sweet corn. The program would be administered by USDA’s Risk Management Agency in a manner consistent with the current crop insurance delivery system. It is designed to complement existing crop insurance programs. It does not change any features of existing insurance policies. 

If we can use STAX to cover these five specialty crops, fruit and vegetable producers in 44 states will benefit. The five crops were selected based on the following criteria:

a. Crop insurance is currently available for the crop;

b. The crop ranks in the top 13 in value of production for the country and represents at least 2 percent of the country’s value of production; and

c. The crops are all grown in at least 13 states.

We would like to cover additional fruits and vegetables under the STAX program in the future. The STAX plan addresses revenue losses on an area-wide basis, with a county being the designated area of coverage. In counties lacking sufficient data, larger geographical areas such as county groupings may be necessary to preserve the integrity of the program. The “stacked” feature of the program implies that the coverage would sit on top of the producer’s individual crop insurance product


It will interesting to see if the STAX program finds any traction at all among other grower organizations in the fresh produce sector.