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My cousin, Jack Hedin, is an organic farmer in Minnesota. He supplies fresh produce to local markets and "Whole Paycheck" type high end grocery stores in the Chicagoland area.

Today he had a Letter to the Editor Op-Ed published in the New York Times wherein he tells the saga of renting additional acreage and found out that he would have to pay a fine for growing fruits and vegetables on land where subsidized corn wasn't growing.

Just a warm up here, and more after the fold:

The commodity farm program effectively forbids farmers who usually grow corn or the other four federally subsidized commodity crops (soybeans, rice, wheat and cotton) from trying fruit and vegetables. Because my watermelons and tomatoes had been planted on “corn base” acres, the Farm Service said, my landlords were out of compliance with the commodity program.

I’ve discovered that typically, a farmer who grows the forbidden fruits and vegetables on corn acreage not only has to give up his subsidy for the year on that acreage, he is also penalized the market value of the illicit crop [/snip] ...  In my case, that meant I paid my landlords $8,771 — for one season alone!

Last year, Midwestern lawmakers proposed an amendment to the farm bill that would provide some farmers, though only those who supply processors, with some relief from the penalties that I’ve faced — for example, a soybean farmer who wanted to grow tomatoes would give up his usual subsidy on those acres but suffer none of the other penalties. However, the Congressional delegations from the big produce states made the death of what is known as Farm Flex their highest farm bill priority, and so it appears to be going nowhere, except perhaps as a tiny pilot program.

[Emphasis added]

Ho Ho Ho ... Don't let the friendly mascot fool you.  Jack has already faced some resistance to his efforts as representatives from the most famous agribusiness corporations attempted to dissuade him from publishing his letter.  I was unable to get an advance copy of his letter for fear that the opposition would be able to mobilize and thwart his attempts to educate the public.  Since I wasn't aware of the letter's contents until I read it this morning, I have been unable to prepare any comments or background for this diary.  So I will leave you with three parting links.

We all know this is part of a greater movement toward GMO in our food supply.

USDA-crop-insurance forces farmers to purchase Monsanto's GE-seed-corn to get it.

A comprehensive diary on the current status of the Farm Bill, posted by Thomas Dobbs last month.

The House of Representatives passed its version of a new farm bill in July, but it was not until December that the Senate passed its version. Conference Committee deliberations to resolve differences in the two bills are expected to begin soon. However, unless the President’s threat of veto forces Congress to make major changes, resulting legislation is likely to fall far short of hopes expressed in most of the progressive reform agendas.

Failures and modest successes in the farm and food policy process to date, as we enter the Conference Committee stage, can be grouped in three areas: (1) commodity subsidies; (2) agri-environmental programs; and (3) healthy food initiatives.

Finally, the California Food and Justice Coalition wants YOU to take action!

Originally posted to winstnsmth on Sat Mar 01, 2008 at 06:04 AM PST.

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