Farmers of specialty crops around the state have benefited from recent legislation recognizing the wisdom long crowed by the Indiana Beach mascot.
Indiana is one of the top five corn-producing states in the nation; together with Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, and Minnesota, Indiana was responsible for 65 per cent of the nation’s corn yield in 2003 (over 10 billion bushels).
Its identity within the Corn Belt however, may obscure Indiana’s agricultural diversity.
Indiana ranks among the top five states in production of tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, peppermint and spearmint, and is one of the nation’s major producers of cucumbers, snap beans, apples and blueberries.
The 2002 Farm Act (officially known as the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act) however, made it difficult for corn and soybean farmers to diversify their acreage, a practice with significant financial and ecological benefits.
Under the 2002 law, grain farmers who had not historically planted tomatoes or cucumbers, for example, had their federal subsidies withheld and were assessed penalties when they tried planting such crops for the first time.
The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, provided for more flexibility with a pilot program that allows farmers receiving federal subsidies to use a portion of their base acreage for specialty crops.
A proposed amendment to the 2008 legislation, known as the Farming Flexibility Act of 2009, (H.R. 800) would permanently lift restrictions on fruits and vegetables produced on the farm’s base acres.