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The Chastisement of Zucchini

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The Zucchini of Chastisement is one of the longstanding traditions here at Corrente ("longstanding" meaning from at least the year before last, and proven by the fact that it remains No. 1 at Google for this search topic) and was always meant as something of a joke.

The Chastisement of Zucchini on the other hand is a real problem, along with chastisement of tomatoes, watermelons, turnips and those who want to grow them to support the exploding movement to "eat locally." Turns out--I know this will come as a shock to you--that there are Forces of Edible Evil who do not want you to do this, so they're--again, brace for a shock--using Congress to tweak the farm subsidy rules to keep farmers from supplying the demand.

Very consise explanation in today's NYT. The key words are "Farm Flex," it is a Good Thing and needs to pass.

So it is time to take up your flaming carrot today that we may have fresh, local zucchini tomorrow.

Just call/mail your reps, okay? Don't make me send ChiDy after you.

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Sima's picture
Submitted by Sima on

and while you're at it, support us small time animal raisers by writing letters against NAIS.

I'm hit both ways, although my farm is too small (right now) to be under the watchful eye of the subsidies programs. However, NAIS will be the death knell of my small milk and meat operation.

Ohh for info:

http://www.nonaiswa.org/
http://www.noanimalid.com/

Also: nonais.org, but it doesn't seem to be reachable at this time.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

I read Jack Hedin’s NYT Op-Ed with some dismay. Just to be clear about this, I know nothing about Mr. Hedin and choose to assume that he is who he says he is and that his intent is honorable, but he has his facts substantively and unarguably wrong.

To what purpose he has portrayed Farm-Flex as benefiting growers and consumers of produce for local fresh consumption is at present unknowable, but whether it stems from ignorance or some darker duplicity it is still a false representation. Farm-Flex does nothing of the sort.

The clearest description of the Farm-Flex program for fruits and vegetables (FAVs) can be found at the web site of Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the chief sponsor of the program. In her own words:

"Farm Flex pertains ONLY to FAVs under contract for processing. Farm Flex production would not enter fresh markets."
[emphasis hers]

Can’t be any clearer than that, can it?

Mr. Hayden asks for your support to expand Farm-Flex but in helping him with whatever it is he intends, consumers should not be fooled into thinking they are helping themselves to greater access to fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables. Farm-Flex does nothing to expand the availability of fresh local produce.

Xan, you’re a good, trusting person with the best of intentions. In this instance you are being misled by Mr. Hayden, and possibly taken advantage of by whoever helped him write this OpEd. I’d like to think the best of him but after a second reading of his work I’m having great difficulty doing so. It is, plainly speaking, deceitful.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Farm commodity subsidies are not new, and until recently they’ve been an accepted part of government’s role in managing the economy and safeguarding our food supply. Over time, like so many other government programs, they have transformed into programs that increasing benefit the rich and large corporations rather than family and small farms. More recently, NAFTA and WTO trade agreements have come in conflict with aspects of American agriculture subsidies and the US has lost significant rulings [pdf] on international trade practices lawsuits as a result. Existing farm subsidies will have to be substantially altered, and as always there is danger of mischief and inequity. A detailed but clearly understandable summary of the new 2007 Farm Bill [pdf] still in conference committee and its likely effect on farm subsidies is now available.

One set of policies provides guaranteed income for farmers raising grains, legumes, oil seeds, wool, honey and dairy products, about a third of US output in value. The other two-thirds of agricultural products including meats, poultry, fruits, vegetables, nuts and hay do not receive such supports. To balance the advantages of subsidies, farmers who accept them may not convert any portion of their acreage to non-subsidized products without substantial penalty, as Mr. Hayden and his landlords have discovered.

The reason for this provision is that a farmer receiving subsidies, protected guaranteed income, for one portion of land and putting only a portion of effort at risk has a substantial advantage over one who has all of the farm’s output at risk. The advantage is exactly the opposite of what Mr. Hayden supposes; farmers with crop subsidies are at less risk that those without financial support.

As cited above, the Farm-Flex program will not solve Mr. Hayden’s problems with commodity subsidy laws because it does not allow the raising of produce for direct consumer sales; all produce grown under the program must be sold to processors for freezing and canning. If direct-to-consumer sales were allowed, Mr. Hayden would be even worse off; while he could then legally farm his leased 25 acres, the Farm-Flex program that will likely be enacted [pdf] will free up a total 70,000 acres. USDA under the Bush administration plans to do away with the fruit and vegetable restriction completely, allegedly to address WTO conflicts but in actuality to transfer even more power and income to large corporate farms. If this change is implemented, large mid-Western producers will be able to crush small operators like Hayden – a risk he has commented on:

He sells to all of the co-ops in the Twin Cities. He also sells his cabbage to Whole Foods stores in Chicago, which is a good market -- for the moment.

"I sort of live in fear of it," he says. "Going to some meeting some spring with Whole Foods and them saying, 'Sorry, one of these conventional vegetable farms in southern Illinois with 4,000 acres has decided to put 10 percent of their crop into organics. They're going to try it this year, and that means we're not going to buy any cabbage from you.'"

From what is available on the internet, Mr. Hayden appears to be a decent and earnest person who treats his help well and has invested a great deal of time and effort into establishing a sustainable practices, fair trade, organic business. Like all small, independent farmers he has to deal with weather risks like flooding and face the threats of pestilence and market shifts. Why at this moment he has chosen to mistakenly focus on Farm-Flex as a solution to some of his problems is beyond understanding, as is his blaming of agribusiness from California, Texas and Florida for threatening his livelihood. California is the world’s leader in small-scale organic farming; if Big Cal Agra wants to crush a small farmer’s dream, they don’t have to go all the way to Minnesota to do it. In fact, resistance from these three states to USDA’s plans to do away with restrictions on fruit and vegetable plantings is all that stands between Mr. Hayden and his nightmare about unsold cabbage heads.

I certainly wish Hayden and all small farmers and ranchers well, it is a tough life and they need all the good wishes they can get. But he does need to learn the actual facts about US agricultural subsidy laws, and seriously rethink who his real allies are in the coming struggle. He truly does not want to get what he asked for in his OpEd.