Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a pear farmer, rancher, and Member of the House Agriculture Committee, voted for a five-year Farm Bill that will update agricultural policy for the 21st century. The bill passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 251-166. It is expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the President within a week or two.
“Agriculture is the backbone of the Sacramento Valley’s economy,” said Congressman Garamendi, whose 3rd Congressional District produces over $3 billion of agricultural goods. “Through commonsense policies, this Farm Bill fortifies the agricultural industry for the next five years. Using the input of my Agricultural Advisory Committee, I have fought for a Farm Bill that meets the needs of our District.”
This legislation is a conference agreement between the House and Senate versions. It arrives after three years of tough negotiations.
The Farm Bill contains several provisions that are especially beneficial for Northern California, including:
- The Specialty Crop Research Initiative, authorized for $800 million in funding, with a designation of funds to assist with research on citrus disease;
- The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which received a funding increase up from $55 million to $72.5 million;
- The Organic Research and Extension Initiative, authorized for $100 million in funding and for the first time an organic check-off program has been authorized to allow the industry to fund a USDA research and promotion program for organic products;
- The creation of a Research Foundation with $200 million in mandatory funding to be matched with non-federal dollars;
- Maintaining funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program while creating a pilot program to allow elementary schools to purchase fresh, frozen, canned and dried produce;
- The creation of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) for the USDA to work directly with third parties and producers in watershed and other critical conservation areas. The Secretary will be able to name up to 8 RCPPs;
- The Managers Statement, which includes language encouraging the USDA to work with olive oil industry officials to determine if a marketing order for olive oil would ease industry concerns about quality. While this is not a permanent resolution of the issue, it is a step in the right direction towards ensuring U.S. olive oil is recognized for its high quality in the market place;
- Providing $50 million to fund Section 2501’s Program for Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and expansion of programs to include veteran farmers and ranchers;
- Establishment of a USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison to aid veteran farmers and ranchers;
- Establishment of an Office of Tribal Relations to advise the Secretary on policies related to Indian tribes;
- Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops; and
- The Market Access Program funding, which is maintained at $200 million per year.
“Northern California is blessed with a climate that supports a broad array of fruits, nuts, and vegetables – known collectively as specialty crops. This Farm Bill recognizes their value in our diets and provides a solid foundation for their success,” said Garamendi. “Our region is also home to UC Davis, which has the best agriculture and forestry programs in the world. This Farm Bill invests in cutting-edge research, conducted by Davis Aggies and scientists across our nation.”
Garamendi continued, “The Market Access Program is especially important. For every dollar that the government and industry invest in market development programs and activities, agricultural exports increase by $35. These programs are crucial for American farmers to compete around the globe.”
This Farm Bill Conference Agreement reduces funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but the cuts are not nearly as steep as the initial bill passed by House Republicans. While the partisan legislation passed by the House in September 2013 would have eliminated SNAP eligibility for 3.8 million Americans, this compromise legislation would not result in anyone losing basic eligibility and it was endorsed by the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The compromise bill provides an additional $20 million per year in additional support to food banks for The Emergency Food Assistance Program.
“This legislation makes a shortsighted reduction in funding for SNAP. However, failure to pass this Farm Bill could easily lead to far harsher cuts. This is the best of a bad situation. I will continue to advocate for greater funding to fight hunger in America,” said Congressman Garamendi.
The Farm bill also includes much needed language to help address concerns relating to sulfuryl fluoride. Working with the EPA and the Sulfuryl Flouride Agricultural Coalition, language was drafted to ensure that commodity producers will continue to have access to a much needed pesticide used to keep food safe and pest free.
In its commodity title, the bill recognizes a difference between California temperate japonica rice and the South’s long grain rice. This will ensure California rice producers receive the best possible safety net to help them through years such as the dry one California faces now.
“This Farm Bill transitions our farm system to a modern insurance program that protects farmers and farm workers from unpredictable market vicissitudes. As with other insurance policies, it incorporates the value of different products, including California’s unique brand of rice, into the coverage program,” said Garamendi.
Click here for a summary of the Farm Bill Conference Agreement.
Click here to view a list of groups supporting its passage.