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Dry Beans Doing Okay in Farm Bill Proposals
January 15, 2008

As this issue of the Northarvest Bean Grower was going to press, dry beans were being treated well in the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill, according to Mike Beltz, Hillsboro, N.D., a member of the U.S. Dry Bean Councils Ag Issues committee.

Neither bill allows farmers to plant dry beans on program acres and collect payments on the program crop at the same time.

The bean industry has long opposed changing that planting restriction because it would destabilize production and penalize current dry bean growers.

We dont know what might happen in a conference committee between the House and Senate because anything can be brought up, Beltz says. But we are well represented with Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) on the committee.

Beltz and other members of the U.S. Dry Bean Councils Ag Issues committee are tracking several other provisions related to dry beans, including:

Food aid. They want to see as much money budgeted for food aid as possible and dont want the
U.S. to donate cash to groups rather than commodities. Private government organizations are also against getting cash, because they believe they will be able to buy less food than what will be provided through the program. Food aid is humanitarian assistance and should not be used as a negotiating tool in the WTO or other trade negotiations, Beltz told a Congressional hearing in 2007.

Market development. They want the Farm Bill to increase funding for developing overseas markets for dry beans. We strongly support continuation of the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program as administered by USDA at full funding levels as provided in the 2002 Farm Bill, Beltz told the committee. Dry bean growers and the industry are heavily dependent on exports. Export markets provide some of the best economic support to the farm community overall, and the
U.S. needs to continue to include these valuable export promotion programs in the safety net for farmers.

Research. They want Congress to fully fund and enhance the existing block grant program for states set out in the Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act of 2004. A previous block grant program was successfully utilized by states to conduct valuable dry bean research, promotion, nutrition, and information activities needed to enhance competitiveness. USDBC strongly supports full mandatory funding of this valuable program, and would encourage consideration to its expansion, Beltz says.



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