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Gluten-free Growers Likely to Benefit from New Farm Bill

Celiac.com 02/17/2014 - Efforts to promote increased acreage for gluten-free crops, such as sorghum, will likely increase now that the farm bill has been signed into law.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons--USDAThat's partly because acreage for big crops such as corn and soybeans have run well over their historic levels, and prices are falling, and partly because target prices in the farm bill set higher prices for sorghum than for corn.

Until now, corn had been eating steadily into sorghum’s old base of 11.6 million acres. However, new markets in China and the growing sales of gluten-free products at home are raising demand for sorghum.

Still, corn and beans alone accounted for nearly half of all 2012 receipts, basically matching the revenues of all other program crops plus the revenue-rich fruit and vegetable market.

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"We compete against corn and soybeans in the North. We compete against cotton in the South,” says Tim Lust, CEO for the National Sorghum Producers in Lubbock, Texas. He adds that losing acres can mean losing capital investment.

Thankfully, crops like sorghum have a formidable champion in Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who has worked to help strengthen specialty crops in the face of major cuts from existing commodity programs.

Says Robert Guenther, senior vice president for policy with the United Fresh Produce Association, “Stabenow has been a champion for specialty crops, fruits and vegetables since she has been in Congress. She has been a strong proponent of our issues.”

Given the success of Stabenow and her supporters, at least one of the results of the legislation signed by the president will likely be slightly better market conditions for growers of gluten-free crops.

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