June 15, 2024

Indiana farmer testifies at Senate Ag Committee hearing

Specialty crop considerations for the upcoming farm bill

WASHINGTON — Indiana Farm Bureau member and Indianapolis native Nick Carter testified in Washington, D.C., at the Senate Ag Committee hearing about specialty crops for the 2023 farm bill.

Carter is the owner of Mud Creek Farm and cofounder of Market Wagon, an online farmers market platform.

He explained how the 2023 farm bill can provide vital resources to specialty crop producers.

“I’ve had the opportunity to advocate for specialty crop producers by serving on INFB’s Diversified Ag Policy Advisory Group,” he said.

“This group is made up of specialty crop producers from across the state tasked with helping craft state and federal policy that supports diversified growers.

“At the state level, this group of specialty crop growers helped craft policy to further expand the options small, home-based vendors have to sell their products to local consumers. Ultimately, this policy priority turned into legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb.”

Within the first year, there were six new members on Market Wagon as a direct result of the new legislation, Carter said.

“Resources for specialty crop growers can’t just happen at the statehouse,” he said. “Congress must provide further resources for diversified specialty crop growers, and the 2023 farm bill provides the perfect opportunity to support these producers.”

Carter also supported a robust crop insurance program, including expansion of insured commodities to include specialty crops, as well as enhancements to Whole-Farm Revenue Protection insurance.

“As implemented, the current crop insurance programs are not feasible for diversified farms like Mud Creek Farm,” he said. “Yield records on a per-acre basis are unattainable for an operation that harvests multiple successions in quantities of row-feet, not acres.

“Other requirements for establishing prices and costs to measure the loss are challenging when labor, inputs and land costs are all fungible across a diverse set of crops and activities.

“For these reasons, crop insurance alone is a small portion of the overall risk mitigation that enable small farmers to succeed.”

As the committee considers risk mitigation for small farms, the scope of solutions should consider programs that encourage diversification, Carter said.

Existing Environmental Quality Incentives Program grants could be leveraged to accomplish not only conservation goals, but diversification of farm activities, or the installation of risk-mitigating assets such as irrigation.

“Other forms of capital resources such as forgivable loans and grants, targeted toward investments that diversify a farm’s operations, would enable farms like ours to increase production without risk of loss,” Carter said.

He also discussed the Local Food Promotion and Farm to School programs.

Efforts to make the grants more accessible to small farmers, and less onerous to apply and manage, would extend the LFPP’s effectiveness, Carter said.

“Congress should consider ways to give more flexibility and incentives to local schools to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables from local producers,” he said.

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor