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.
House of Representatives Suspends USDA's Misinterpretation of Farm Bill Base Acre Provision
WASHINGTON – Today, the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation 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 House today passed H.R. 6849 by voice vote in response to the US Department of Agriculture's plan to deny farm program benefits to hundreds of thousands of producers nationwide by refusing to allow for the aggregation of small base acreage.
“The USDA’s decision to eliminate such a large number of base acres could affect hundreds of thousands of producers all across this country,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota. “Their selective interpretation of the Farm Bill is doing no favors for America’s farmers and ranchers, who are rightly concerned that the Department is ignoring the Congress’s clearly stated intent. With passage of this bill, we are making clear to farm country that the Farm Bill will be implemented as Congress intended.”
"This bill will ensure that thousands of farmers will receive the benefits that Congress intended for them to receive," said Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte.
“This legislation will correct USDA’s narrow interpretation of the 10-base-acre-provision and provide security for thousands of farmers who rent or lease smaller tracks of land for their farms,” said General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee Chairman Bob Etheridge of North Carolina, the original sponsor of the legislation. "H.R. 6849 will restore the intent of Congress by allowing the small farmers who provide food for the nation’s table to receive the payments they deserve for their work.”
On June 30, the US Department of Agriculture published a notice stating their intent to “not approve requests for farm combination reconstitutions of farms having base acres of 10 acres or less,” despite Farm Bill report language stating that base acreages could be aggregated to allow for farm program eligibility if the sum of acres is over 10.
The cost of H.R. 6849 is fully offset with spending reductions in order to meet Paygo requirements.
Previous Committee action on H.R. 6849 and a summary of the bill’s provisions can be found on the House Agriculture Committee website at http://agriculture.house.gov/legislation.