Hoosier Ag Today - Indiana Wins Farm Bill "FLEX" Pilot Program
By Matt Kaye
Indiana is the only state to win an exception in the pending '07 Farm Bill to grow a specialty crop on program acres. A national waiver to grow fruits and vegetables on program acres without penalty was just too expensive and too politically sensitive with major growers in California and Florida. So house farm bill writers included a "farm flex" pilot in just one state, Indiana, which pleased South Bend area Congressman Joe Donnelly, "The Chairman wanted to take a look at this, and we had expressed how important this was to our state, so, I think farm flex has a future. I think this pilot program will help to show that it can be of benefit to all states in the future."
Donnelly and Evansville-Terre Haute area Representative Brad Ellsworth joined close to two-dozen Midwest lawmakers, including senators Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh, to try to allow Midwest growers to plant non-program fruits and vegetables on program acres without penalty. But the program had to be even more limited than the Midwest to avoid opposition from Florida and California growers. "I don't think this will affect California in any way, because these tomatoes will be used for processing they're not going to be fresh tomatoes and, so, we really won't be in markets that are competitive with California," Donnelly added. He calls it a "niche" that doesn't affect California's or Florida's markets, yet benefits Indiana. Hoosiers under the House draft Farm Bill would be allowed to plant tomatoes for processing on up to 10-thousand base acres in each of crop years 2008 through 2012.