Des Moines, Iowa — Like farmers throughout the Midwest, this spring’s torrential rains turned Andrew Dunham’s land into sticky muck that set him back nearly a month in planting his crops.

Unlike other farmers, though, Dunham won’t get a piece of a $16 billion aid package to offset his losses, and he can’t fall back on federally subsidized crop insurance because he grows herbs, flowers and dozens of vegetable varieties, but not the region’s dominant crops of corn and soybeans.

“There are no federal bailouts for vegetable farmers,” said Dunham, who owns an 80-acre organic farm with his wife about 50 miles east of Des Moines, and is enduring weeks without sales as his crops ripen. “We’ll just miss out on three weeks of income.”

Although the lack of federal safety net programs for farmers who grow everything from arugula to zucchini isn’t new, one of the wettest springs in U.S. history has focused attention on the special status of so-called commodity crops, primarily corn, soybeans, cotton, rice and wheat. Growers of some of those crops received $11 billion in special aid last year, and will get $16 billion more this year to offset losses caused by trade disputes that led to tariffs and resulting drops in demand.

Federal support, including subsidized insurance and other protections against losses, is a long-standing tradition for growers of the major crops, who nevertheless are struggling to stay in business because of the tariffs, years of low prices and poor weather. The wet spring has also put growers of specialty crops in a tight spot, as they scramble to seed their fields and kill weeds that grew unhindered until recently.

Read or Share this story: