Popcorn subsidy up for debate in Farm Bill

An amendment in the current Farm Bill would keep government protection for popcorn crops.

David Brancaccio: In Washington this week the Senate has been working on what's called the Farm Bill. A spending plan that, aimed, in part, at helping the nation's farmers. But as with any big legislation, there's a lot in there.

Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports on one of the lesser known subsidies up for debate.


Eve Troeh: To you it's the sound of popcorn, but to some, like Senator John McCain, it's the sound of pork. The current Farm Bill would keep government protection for popcorn crops. Popcorn is a tiny kernel in the big bowl of U.S. agriculture, but without the subsidy:

Larry Bruyer: What will happen is Farmer Jones will say, well, instead of raising popcorn on this 200 acre field, I'll just raise field corn.

Larry Bruyer at Schlessman Seeds has sold popcorn to farmers for 40 years. He says field corn is just easier. That's the stuff used for corn syrup, corn oil, or animal feed. And field corn is covered by government crop insurance.

If popcorn doesn't get that same insurance, there's no reason to risk growing it, says Ohio farmer Rick Fruth.

Rick Fruth: It's going to make it more difficult for companies to convince farmers to grow popcorn. The consumers will pay.

He says popcorn companies already had trouble signing on farmers this year. No popcorn subsidy could mean paying even more for that buttery tub at the movies.

I'm Eve Troeh, for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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