NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Now California Fruit and Vegetable Growers Eye Federal Subsidies

April 8, 2002

A movement is reportedly growing among California farmers to try to get on the list of those eligible for federal agricultural subsidies. Fruit and vegetable producers there claim they are suddenly being affected by competition from Mexican and Canadian farmers, under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement -- and that the competition is "scary."

  • Agriculture is the state's top industry -- pulling in $27 billion in sales last year.
  • Until now, only the state's rice and cotton producers have received the federal government's cash payments.
  • Only about 3 percent of the $20 billion in annual federal subsidies have typically gone to California farmers -- even though the state is the biggest producer in the country.
  • The main mechanism subsidy proponents advocate is to let farmers take part in conservation programs which purport to protect the environment by setting aside land, cleaning water and improving farm land by planting buffer strips or creating wetlands.

Regardless of what the federal government does, Gov. Gray Davis (D) plans to launch a $35 million campaign in June to persuade the state's consumers to demand that foreign fruits and vegetables in stores be replaced by California-grown produce.

Source: Elizabeth Becker, "California Farmers Reconsidering Opposition to Subsidies," New York Times, April 8, 2002.


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