Planting a few acres of vegetables on soybean land used to be a good way to earn a little extra cash and increase cash flow on small farms. It also provided the kids some extra money during the summer and was a way for them to get some farm production and business experience.

“But, not any more,” says Henry English, professor of agriculture and director of the Small Farm Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). “The 2002 farm bill changed things.”

In 2002, soybeans became a program crop with base acres eligible for direct and countercyclical payments such as rice, cotton, wheat and corn.

Small farmers, who had many non-base soybeans acres before 2002, lost those non-base acres when they signed up their soybean acres into the direct and countercyclical program, says English.

The 2002 farm bill prohibits growing fruits and vegetables on land under DCP contract. Therefore, farmers growing vegetables on their soybean ground could be growing vegetables on base acres, which would trigger a violation.

Payments could be reduced by the lesser of the full market value of the fruits or vegetables grown on the land under DCP contract or all DCP payments on the farm where fruits and vegetables are grown.

To avoid being out of compliance, English says a farmer should ask his local Farm Service Agency office to permanently reduce one of his crop acreage bases before he plants or he should destroy the ineligible crop planted on land under DCP before he harvests it.

If you are thinking of planting fruits or vegetables on previous soybean land, visit your local FSA office and check your base acres, says English. This one visit could keep you from making a costly mistake.