U.S. asparagus farmers are a step closer to obtaining federal money to compensate for their losses resulting from the importation of South American asparagus during the 2004-07 crop years.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the implementation of the new Asparagus Revenue Market Loss Assistance Payment Program authorized by the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008.
The USDA is accepting comments on proposed rules to administer the program, which will distribute $15 million to asparagus farmers.
For more than a decade, asparagus growers in Washington, California and Michigan have seen their market share decline in the face of unfair competition, particularly from Peru, which exports its fresh asparagus tax-free into the U.S. because of a 1991 trade agreement.
The closure of Del Monte's Toppenish-based asparagus canning operations and Seneca's asparagus canning plant in Dayton meant shrinking acreage, lower prices and declining income for Washington asparagus farmers, said Brian Haas, who grows asparagus on 120 acres near Sunnyside.
He said he is looking forward to the compensation, though he doesn't know how much he will get. That will help cover some of the recent losses this year, he said.
"My produce was down 40 percent to 50 percent because of the (unseasonably cold) weather," said Haas, who has grown asparagus since 1964. He thinks the money will be paid out in early January.
Payments will be calculated based on 2003 production and what farmers should have produced during crop years 2003 and 2007. It will be a one-time payment.
Asparagus is produced on an estimated 2,600 farms in the U.S.
E-mail comments to: Gene.email@example.com or fax them to 202-690-1536. Send comments by mail to: Director, Price Support Division, Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Mail Stop 0512, Room 4095-S, 1400 Independence Ave. SW., Washington, DC 20250-0512. Comments will be accepted through Sept. 14.
For more information, call Gene Rosera at 202-720-8481.
-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; firstname.lastname@example.org; Business Beat blog at www.tricityherald.com