Apr 16, 2010
Keeping Track of Changes

You might have noticed some changes in the last couple of issues.

First of all, VGN (and FGN) has a new assistant editor, Derrek Sigler. He introduced himself in last month’s Editor’s Letter.

We’re also running a new column in the back of the magazine, called Notes from the Farm by Jerry Mills. Jerry’s column has been running in Fruit Growers News for years, and has proven extremely popular with readers of VGN’s sister publication. Even though he doesn’t grow vegetables, he has farm marketing knowledge to spare – and a unique outlook on life in general. I find it hard not to chuckle when I read his column.

And we have a new member of our editorial advisory board, Ted Quaday, communications director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation. Ted is replacing Bob Scowcroft as OFRF’s representative on the board (he’s doing the same thing for FGN, too).

Give Derrek or me a shout if you have any questions, story ideas, whatever. We’re here to help.

Oceana Asparagus Day

I went to Oceana Asparagus Day in Hart, Mich., March 11. The one-day meeting is an annual gathering of Michigan’s asparagus industry, in the heart of asparagus-rich Oceana County. A lot of topics were covered, but I want to give you an update on an issue I’ve been following for a couple of years.

According to John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, U.S. asparagus growers might be getting their checks from the federal government this fall. The checks will be from the Market Loss Assistance Program, which was inserted into the 2008 Farm Bill to compensate U.S. asparagus growers for the losses they incurred from the Andean Trade Preference Act, a U.S. drug policy that eliminated tariffs on Peruvian asparagus, among other things, in 1991.

The program is supposed to give growers a total of $15 million for losses incurred between 2003 and 2007 – only partial compensation for their actual losses from that period, but better than nothing.

Bakker expected proposed rules for the program to come out “any day now,” to be followed by a comment period and a USDA review of those comments. When the final rules are finally announced, there will be a 45-60 day sign-up period. The sign-up form will be simple, and growers will be able to get it at the nearest Farm Service Agency office.

Big issues

There’s a lot going on right now in our nation’s capital, and you guys are going to be affected one way or another. President Obama signed a massive health care bill into law March 23. When the dust settles from all the controversy, we’re going to take a close look at what’s in the bill and what it means for you. Stay tuned.

Speaking of controversy, I’m hearing rumblings that there will be another push for immigration reform this year. I don’t know about you, but I’d be shocked to see Obama take on such a big, divisive issue so soon after barely passing another big, divisive issue – especially in an election year. But maybe he’s feeling confident after his health care victory. We’ll see.

And, apparently, new H-2A rules went into effect March 15. I say “apparently” because American Farm Bureau Federation and the North Carolina Growers Association sued the U.S. labor and homeland security departments in federal court, trying to halt the new rules. We’ll see how that one goes, too.




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