Agricultural Leaders of Michigan are urging Congress, including Michigan's congressional delegation, to support proposals that would strengthen Michigan's specialty crop sector, which is an important pillar of Michigan's $71.3-billion-a-year agricultural sector.
In late July, the Farming Flexibility Act was introduced in the House (H.R. 2675) and Senate (S. 1427). The legislation would allow farmers to opt out of the federal farm program to produce more acres of certain vegetable crops. The proposal would help some of Michigan's specialty crop farmers and processors compete against others, but not all. ALM called on Congress to include flexibility for potato acres in the legislation, which it currently does not include.
ALM recommended that Congress also approve the Farming Flexibility provisions as part of the 2012 Farm Bill, but include the ability to produce more potatoes. The Farm Bill is being spearheaded by the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, which is being chaired by Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
The Michigan potato industry annually generates nearly $165 million, making Michigan the 7th largest potato state in the nation. Michigan is No. 1 when it comes to providing the special spuds for America's No. 1 snack, potato chips. Three-quarters of Michigan's potato crop is grown for potato chips.
The dry bean industry, handlers of navy, kidney, pinto, small red, black beans and others,also support the proposal to allow farmers more flexibility in their decisions."Buyers around the world are clamoring for more dry beans, especially black and navy beans, and we are currently limited by requirements in the federal farm program as to how many acres we can grow," says Jim Byrum, President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association. "We need to eliminate those restrictions and allow farmers to make decisions based on the market, not the federal farm program. From asparagus to potatoes to dry beans and beyond, specialty crops are becoming more and more important to Michigan agriculture and define the tremendous diversity of Michigan agriculture. Flexibility to opt out of the federal program will protect Michigan jobs and strengthen Michigan's specialty crop businesses."