Fruit/Veg Provision May Be Reformed
March 29, 2006
The fruits and vegetables provision in the current farm bill may be ruled as trade distorting in the ongoing WTO Doha round of trade negotiations, and could thus be reformed in the next farm bill.
The FAV provision is a carryover of the 2002 Farm Bill from the 1995 Freedom to Farm Act. The planting flexibility provision permits any commodity to be grown on contract acreage, except fruits and vegetables, including dry edible beans and potatoes. Some exceptions are made for fruits and vegetables, with an acre-for-acre loss of payment.
Scott Stofferahn, deputy director for Sen. Kent Conrad, explained during the 2006 Bean Day that other countries may argue that the FAV, since it restricts the planting of certain crops on direct payment acreage, influences production decisions, and is thus trade distorting. Food aid also very important to the U.S. dry bean industry might also be challenged in the WTO.
Bryan Dierlam, an aide to House Agriculture Chairman Bob Goodlatte, also indicated in a recent press report that the current prohibition on planting specialty crops such as fruits and vegetables on land that gets subsidies will be up for debate, because a WTO panel ruled that the restriction means that the U.S. program of direct payments to farmers cannot be classified as non-trade distorting. The fruit and vegetable growers view the planting prohibition as their safety net, Dierlam said in the article, and if its eliminated, they are going to seek support in other ways.