Rep. Austin Scott, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture, held a public hearing to review the impact of enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) on specialty crop growers. Specifically, Subcommittee Members addressed growing concerns that DOL is using the "Hot Goods" provision under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) in an arbitrary manner against producers of perishable agricultural commodities without regard for the inevitable destruction of the product and significant economic hardship inflicted on farmers and their employees.
Agriculture Committee Suspends Base Acre Minimum after USDA Misinterprets Farm Bill Provision
WASHINGTON - In response to the US Department of Agriculture's plan to deny farm program benefits to hundreds of thousands of producers, the Agriculture Committee today approved a bill to suspend for the 2008 and 2009 crop years a Farm Bill provision that required producers to have a minimum of 10-base acres to receive program benefits.
"The Department's notice is a substantial change from what was in place prior to the most recent Farm Bill and runs contrary to what Congress intended when it wrote this provision and passed the bill," said Chairman Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota. "This will protect the farm safety net for producers while giving us time to decide how to correct the problem for later years."
"I commend the Chairman for urgently addressing this issue. I support this bill because it protects thousands of farmers who would be adversely affected by the USDA's interpretation of this provision in the farm bill," said Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte of Virginia.
The Committee held a business meeting this evening to review H.R. 6849, which would have permanently allowed farmers to combine base acres from multiple working farms to meet the 10 base acre minimum established in the Farm Bill. Chairman Peterson introduced a substitute amendment that suspended the entire 10 acre provision for two years. That amendment, which was adopted by the Committee, provides a temporary, less expensive solution to the situation and is fully offset in order to meet Paygo requirements.