The following are recommendations that can prioritize sustainable fiber-rich foods in title 1 farm programs.
Lentils and chickpeas are fiber-rich foods that Americans would do well to eat more of. Yet, farm spending on these two crops pales in comparison to support for corn, soy, and wheat – three crops that tend to be stripped of dietary fiber by the time they reach our dinner tables.
AFA recommends defining a class of crops as being ‘fiber-rich food crops’ that would include lentils, chickpeas, and peas. Furthermore, the USDA should be directed to ensure farm policy encourages the production of these crops
Modernize Base Acres
A farm’s base acreage and program yield are historical averages of crop production and are used to calculate certain government payments, including ARC and PLC.farmers.gov/archived/arc-plc
In the 1996 farm bill, the base acres of a farm were decoupled from what was actually grown on a farm. In other words, if a farm historically grew wheat, but switched to lentils, those acres under title 1 programs would pay out when reference prices for wheat (not lentils) triggered payments.
The Farm Bureau, rightly, asks whether this system needs modernizing.
No risk management protection is provided on acres converted from livestock or pasture into crop production or for farmers farming on land without base acres– some of whom are young and beginning farmers.
The lack of Title I commodity safety net support for beginning lands, new farmers or land recently converted into covered commodity production may put some growers at a competitive disadvantage compared to farmers with base acres who also receive program payments.fb.org/market-intel/modernizing-base-acres
Title 1 programs need to have provisions for new acre enrollment for any farmer transitioning into growing fiber-rich food crops.
Raise Reference Prices on Fiber-rich food Crops
Some commodity programs in title 1 pay farmers when market prices fall below a certain point. These price points are set in the farm bill. AFA recommends raising the reference prices for fiber-rich commodity food crops.
Crop Coverage Evaluation Tool
An example: A crop coverage evaluation tool available on the USDA ARC/PLC website only allows for the evaluation of corn, soy, and wheat. Perhaps the USDA could increase funding to the National Coalition for Producer Education (NCPE) project, led by the University of Illinois, to expand the crops available for evaluation to include all title 1 covered commodities, paying special attention to ensure that fiber-rich food crops take precedence. Secondly, anecdotal stories from farmers indicate that signing up for corn, soy, and wheat coverage is easy, while other program enrollments seem more difficult. Steps could be taken to make fiber-rich food crops the most effortless to enroll.1
Helping Farmers Diversify into Fiber-rich Crop Production
AFA recommends enacting FARMS legislation that would help farmers diversify into growing fiber-rich plant crops.