Congressman Donnelly Visits Local Farm to Talk about His Work on Farm Flex Program
Today, Congressman Joe Donnelly joined local farmer Jim Paarlberg on his farm to discuss the Farm Flex program and the Farm Bill. They were joined by representatives from Red Gold, Inc., one of the largest producers of tomato products. The Farm Flex program was included in the version of the Farm Bill that became law after the House and Senate overrode a presidential veto.
"The programs contained in the Farm Bill, which passed the House and Senate this week, touch every American, from Hoosier farmers to consumers in all corners of the country," Donnelly said. "I am especially proud of the Farm Flex program which will provide our farmers with greater planting flexibility. Passing this Farm Bill was not easy, and I applaud everyone who worked so hard to get it passed."
The Farm Bill, which comes up for revision by the Congress every five years, reauthorizes Agriculture Department programs regarding federal farm support, commodity price support, food assistance, agricultural trade, marketing, rural development, conservation, and various other programs and policies.
The bill that was approved by the House and Senate includes a provision to create a Farm Flex program, which was championed by Donnelly. This program reduces planting restrictions that hinder fruit and vegetable growers not only here in Indiana, but across the Midwest.
Under current law, farmers who wish to grow fruits and vegetables on base acres must forfeit their land's base classification, disqualifying the land from ever receiving government subsidies on program crops produced on that land. These planting restrictions pose a significant challenge to farmers who have traditionally grown tomatoes in rotation with soybeans. Because soybeans are considered a program crop, many farmers are unable to produce tomatoes without paying this significant and permanent penalty.
As part of the Donnelly Farm Flex program, Indiana received 9,000 base acres for fruit and vegetable crops, which will allow farmers to enjoy the benefits of growing specialty crops under contract for processing.
"I approached this Farm Bill with one goal in mind: to write and pass a bill that met the needs of Indiana's farmers. I am proud to say that this bill does that," Donnelly added. "I will continue to make sure that the government is meeting Hoosier farmers' needs."
"We are grateful for the work Congressman Donnelly did on the Farm Bill. He really stood up for Hoosier family farmers who grow tomatoes and other specialty crops that add value to the Indiana economy," said Steve Austin, director of government affairs at Red Gold, Inc. "Under the Farm Flex Program our farmers will be allowed to keep their farms enrolled in the government program to produce in subsequent years without any penalty."