For decades, the fiercely independent fruit and vegetable growers of
California, Florida and other states have been the only farmers in
America who shunned federal subsidies, delivering produce to the tables
of millions of Americans on their own.
But now, in the face of tough new competition primarily from China,
even these proud groups are buckling. Produce farmers, their hands
newly outstretched, have joined forces for the first time, forming a
lobby group intended to pressure politicians over the farm bill to be
debated in Congress in January.
Most of the current $15 billion in direct subsidies goes to five commodities: corn, cotton, rice, wheat and soybeans. Now Chinese garlic sells for about half the wholesale price of American garlic. One garlic manager commented:
“The Chinese garlic totally caught us off-guard and knocked us down,”
Mr. Mantelli said recently as he checked on newly planted garlic bulbs.
“I think our industry has hit rock bottom. Maybe now we can figure out
how to make it a level playing field.”
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