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Corn Growers say USDA income projections maliciously misleading

(Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news release:

Contact: Larry Mitchell, 202.835.0330

WASHINGTON -- Larry Mitchell, CEO for the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA), today expressed his organization's concerns and outrage over misleading and poorly timed information released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (ERS).

"The net farm income report is inflammatory, irresponsible, intentionally timed to do U.S. farmers the most damage and is unforgivable," said Mitchell. "As members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) convened the ministerial in Cancún, USDA issued a formal statement forecasting net farm income figures for 2003 which are totally absent of the reality of the real economy facing America's farm families."

According to data released by USDA on Sept. 12, farmers' net cash income this year is forecast at a record high $60.2 billion. "What they failed to report, and why their announcement is so misleading, is the fact that forecast earnings for the entire year in 2003 for farm operator households from their farming activities is only $3,968, or about $330 per month," explained Mitchell.

"More misleading is the fact that USDA, in this most recent announcement, forecasts the average farm operator household income to be just above the national average. But they fail to explain that 93.8 percent of that income is from off-farm sources. In these financially challenging times, farmers, their spouses and their children are working off of the farm in order to make ends meet and/or to secure healthcare coverage. If USDA is going to tell a story with their statistics, they should tell the whole story."

"Then there is the issue of the timing of this misleading announcement'" added Mitchell. "Prior to 2001, there is nothing in the ERS on-line archives that indicates that USDA has made official Fall announcements of farm income forecast. In 2001 the announcement was made in Oct. and in 2002 in late Sept. Is it not alarming that the Sept. 12 date was chosen for this year's announcement? It is to many U.S. farm families. Anyone familiar with the USDA media relations machine understands that timing of major announcements such as this does not occur by happenstance. This outrageously deceptive announcement was intentionally timed to do the most damage to U.S. farm households."

Mitchell concluded his remarks by calling on Congress and the President to seriously review and reform U.S. farm policy to enhance prices so that all farm families may receive a fair and equitable return for their labor, investment and management. "I encourage reading the newly released study, Rethinking U.S. Agriculture Policy: Changing Course to Secure Farmer Livelihoods Worldwide, by the Agriculture Policy Analysis Center (APAC), part of the University of Tennessee, a land-grant university. This report goes comprehensively to the heart of the ever more contentious trade issues of farm subsidies in developed countries, low world commodity prices, and global poverty."

For more information on the USDA statistics cited in this statement, please go to the ERS website at http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/farmincome/data/Hh_t5.htm . For more information please visit the ACGA website at http://www.acga.org .