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.
Legislation Makes $5.13 Billion Available to Farmers
With American agricultural producers facing another year in crisis, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX) yesterday introduced legislation (H.R. 2395) which would allow farmers to elect to receive all their Agricultural Marketing Transition (AMTA) payments at the beginning of each fiscal year rather than the current biannual payment system.
"American farmers are facing another year of devastating crisis," Combest said. "While we prepare for the future by improving the farm safety net, we can't overlook the current problems facing the agricultural community. This bill will allow farmers the option of receiving their AMTA payments up front and will hopefully help ease their financial burdens."
Combest's legislation would allow farmers the option of receiving all of the Agriculture Market Transition Act (AMTA) contract payments for FY 2000-2002 immediately after the beginning of each fiscal year. Annual payments are now made twice a year, in December or January and again in September.
In FY 2000, the bill would make $5.13 billion available as much as one year early to help farmers cope with cash shortages that they are likely to face after this crop season. It would have the effect of a huge interest-free cash loan to producers for up to one year. In this way, the bill leaves the option of early payments with the farmer who can then make the decision on the basis of personal circumstances.
Because all the 1999 AMTA payments occur within the same fiscal year, there is no CBO-scored cost to this proposal. Eighteen farm state Representatives are currently co-sponsors of Combest's legislation.