Ag and Extension Briefs

Good Food: Celebrating Champions of Food Access event Dec. 6 in Marshall

An event in Marshall on Wednesday, Dec. 6, (snow date Dec. 8) will recognize noteworthy projects and activities from across southwest Minnesota that works to ensure everyone has access to healthy, safe and affordable food. The event is open to the public (registration by Dec. 1 is required).

“Good Food: Celebrating Champions of Food Access,” will feature a showcase of community-based champions, including people doing innovative work in farmers markets, food shelves, school food service, local governments, and community-based gardening programs. Attendees will connect with each other and explore new opportunities for strengthening food-related work around southwest Minnesota.

“Good Food: Celebrating Champions of Food Access” is one of nine events taking place across Minnesota, supported by the Minnesota Food Charter Network, University of Minnesota Extension Health and Nutrition, and numerous other partners.

Visit www.z.umn.edu/SW-CelebratingChampions to register.

For more information contact Bonnie Christiansen, chri2349@umn.edu.

Flake, Shaheen introduce bill to eliminate $21 billion in hidden ag subsidies

U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on Nov. 8 reintroduced the Harvest Price Subsidy Prohibition Act; bipartisan, bicameral legislation to eliminate a costly but little-publicized crop insurance subsidy known as the Harvest Price Option (HPO). The bill would save taxpayers $21.1 billion according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. A companion bill was also introduced in the House by Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.).

Under a traditional crop insurance plan, farmers will only receive a payout if they earn less money at harvest time than they were projected to make when they planted their crop. By softening the blow of unanticipated losses, traditional crop insurance serves as a safety net. However, under an HPO policy, if that crop’s price at harvest time ends up higher than the insured planting price the insurance payout is recalculated based on the higher price. By paying out more money than the farmer ever anticipated earning, HPO policies go far beyond the safety-net concept — they are simply a taxpayer-subsidized profit guarantee.

While the Flake-Shaheen-Duncan bill would eliminate taxpayer-funded subsidies for HPOs, it would not prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture from offering HPO plans, provided that individual policyholders pay the full insurance premium. The bill would do nothing to limit, reduce or alter subsidies associated with traditional crop insurance plans.

Flake first offered the Harvest Price Subsidy Prohibition Act in 2013 as an amendment to the farm bill. At the time, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office determined that the amendment would have saved taxpayers $9 billion over 10 years. Not even three years after Congress enacted that same farm bill, CBO has determined that HPO’s cost to taxpayers has more than doubled to $21.1 billion.

“HPO is like insuring your car for $5,000, and getting a check for $10,000 after it’s totaled. It’s the kind of program that only makes sense in Washington,” said Flake. “Making a living in agriculture isn’t easy or predictable, and there’s a case to be made for safety net programs such as traditional crop insurance. But HPO isn’t a safety net, it’s a taxpayer-funded windfall. With a $20 trillion national debt, taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to pay Big Ag billions of dollars for profits that they never expected to earn in the first place.”

“We’re proposing a commonsense reform with the potential to save taxpayers $21 billion,” said Shaheen. “This is a smart, pragmatic bill that will provide our current crop insurance program with a much needed fix. We ought to act on it immediately to save taxpayer dollars.”

“HPO is a bureaucratic name given to a subsidy program in our law which has allowed some foreign owned insurance giants and the wealthiest farmers to get billions from U.S. taxpayers,” said Duncan. “Senators Flake and Shaheen and I have reintroduced the Harvest Price Subsidy Prohibition Act to end this costly program which creates an unfair playing field for small family farmers.”

This measure is also supported by the following groups: Americans for Prosperity, National Taxpayers Union, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Coalition to Reduce Spending, The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Campaign for Liberty, R Street Institute, and Environmental Working Group.

Idaho farm explores growing blueberries on commercial level

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A farm in southwestern Idaho is attempting to grow blueberries on a commercial scale, making it one of the first producers in the state if the project proves successful.

The Capital Press reported a major hop grower and a University of Idaho researcher are coordinating efforts on figuring out how to make blueberries grow in the region.

Brock and Phillip Obendorf Farms in Parma has been growing blueberries for a couple of years, but Phil Obendorf said the yield is not enough to make it profitable. The problem is with the soil’s level of acidity.

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