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.
Congress Fixes USDA Misinterpretation of Farm Bill Base Acre Provision
WASHINGTON – Today, the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation to suspend for the 2008 crop year a Farm Bill provision that required producers to have a minimum of 10-base acres to receive program benefits. The House and Senate each passed by unanimous consent the Senate amendment to H.R. 6849, originally sponsored by Congressman Bob Etheridge of North Carolina, Chairman of the House Agriculture General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee.
H.R. 6849, as amended by the Senate, makes technical corrections to the permanent crop disaster program included in the 2008 Farm Bill. It also temporarily reverses the US Department of Agriculture’s published notice regarding the Farm Bill’s 10 base-acre provision, which would have denied farm program benefits to hundreds of thousands of producers nationwide by refusing to allow for the aggregation of small base acreage.
"This is good news for thousands of farmers who rent or lease smaller tracks of land for their farms. It allows farmers to continue to receive payments for the work they do on small farms, and ensures that our rural economy stays strong," said Etheridge. "I will begin working immediately to provide a permanent solution to the USDA's extremely narrow interpretation of the 10-base-acre provision."
The House had already passed on September 24 a version of H.R. 6849 that would have suspended the 10 base acre provision for two years and was fully paid for under Congressional Paygo rules. The Senate amended the bill to provide just a one year fix.
The bill will now be sent to the President for his signature.