On a different subject, Barry Bushue, who farms in Oregon and is an American Farm Bureau Federation vice president, advocated for allowing program crop producers the options of “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.” This would mean a “STAX program for all program commodities, as well as for apples, potatoes, tomatoes, grapes and sweet corn” plus providing “a target price program for all program commodities, with the exception of cotton.”

Read Bushue’s prepared statement here.

STAX, Bushue said, “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.”

Benefits of this STAX approach include addressing “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.”

Bushue also reminded the subcommittee of the value of U.S. specialty crop production. In 2012, some 17 percent of the $391 billion in agriculture cash receipts came from the sector.

What about making block grants more effective?

The SCFBA (Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance) has offered several suggestions,” said Frey-Talley. “For example, we’d like to see more timeliness in the announcement of funding available to ensure states have plenty of time to review requests. States could pursue more grower-level projects that address grower needs.”

Frey-Talley also pointed to the need for “greater consideration of multi-state projects, which have been a fraction of the projects” approved.

On Frey-Talley’s operation, “five farms in several states we’re growing the same commodity throughout those regions. Often, the specialty crop industry faces challenges that affect an entire commodity, or region. The coordination from states working together to develop projects would serve producers well.”

Florida Rep. Ted Yoho said an example of that is citrus greening disease currently hammering production in some states. In Florida, the invasive pest-vectored disease, “has cut production about 50 percent and (the problem) extends all the way over to California.”

More on citrus greening here.

Yoho then asked the panelists what agency is the most burdensome to their industry. The agencies named, as expected: the Department of Labor (DOL), the EPA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The “EPA, DOL and FDA have placed so much more burdensome rules on us in the last five years,” said Brim. “The cost of doing business has probably gone up 25 percent just (due) to government regulations.

“I’ll give you an instance with the EPA. We wanted to put a boiler system in our greenhouse operation. At the time, it would have cost $250,000 to put it in. Well, with the EPA’s regulations on new boiler emission standards, the cost went to $750,000. So, I couldn’t do it and had to back off.”

The regulations “are tremendous,” continued Brim. “We’re all very considerate about food safety but think the FDA has gone overboard. I’m a cantaloupe grower and they’re fixing to come test all our farms. They’ll find something – either out in the field, or wherever. What I’d like them to do is test after we’ve packed, not in the field. We know it’s in the fields. We know it’s there.”

Brim also advocated fewer EPA restrictions on chemical companies being able to introduce products.

With regard to Farm Bureau views, said Bushue, “I think the EPA and the Endangered Species Act is probably driving the majority of what’s going on. I agree (with Frey-Talley and Brim) on the DOL and FDA, but on a broader scale, especially in the Northwest, the Endangered Species Act drives almost everything we do and costs us incredible dollars just to try and figure out ways to get water and the other (inputs) we need.”

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