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Posted on 05.16.2012 5:26 p.m.

Congressional Delegation Fights for California’s Agricultural Priorities in 2012 Farm Bill

Rep. Lois Capps joins 31 colleagues in signing letter to the House Committee on Agriculture

Source: Ashley Schapitl for Rep. Lois Capps

In a letter to the House Committee on Agriculture on Wednesday, Reps. Lois Capps, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi and 29 of their colleagues in the California congressional delegation detailed their top priorities in the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill, which Congress is expected to consider later this year.

The 2012 Farm Bill, which sets food and farm policy for the nation, provides multiyear funding for a wide range of agriculture programs.

“The 2012 Farm Bill is one of the biggest items on the agenda for Congress this year,” Capps said. “We know the legislation will have a significant impact on California’s growers and ranchers, and that’s why it was so important for our delegation to express its priorities to the Agriculture Committee. We want to ensure that our agriculture industry remains a pillar of the U.S. economy.”

McNerney added: “California produces the best specialty crops that are consumed in this country, such as asparagus and almonds. This year’s Farm Bill must level the playing field and grant more opportunities to the productive farmers from California. We grow some of the best grapes in the world and as a result, have a robust and thriving wine industry. Our family farmers stand to play a deciding role in our economic growth and we must do everything we can to help them flourish.”

“As a rancher and a pear farmer, I know the unique challenges that California’s agriculture community faces,” Garamendi said. “The Farm Bill offers the opportunity for California’s farm businesses to overcome these hurdles through advanced research, pest management and marketing assistance programs. The bill can also connect disadvantaged families, especially children, with the food they need to lead healthy, productive lives. I join my colleagues in urging the Committee to pass a fiscally responsible Farm Bill that helps America’s families and farmers to Make It In America and grow it in America.”

In the letter, the California lawmakers highlighted the importance of maintaining support for specialty crops, agricultural research, pest detection, nutrition and conservation — all of which are supported by the California Farm Bureau. California is the most productive agricultural region in the world, contributing $39 billion per year to California’s economy and supporting more than 1 million jobs.

California is ranked No. 1 nationwide in exports for “specialty crops” such as tree nuts, fruits and vegetables, and the state is ranked No. 2 in dairy production nationwide. Prior to reforms enacted in the 2008 Farm Bill, only large growers who produce commodity crops like corn and wheat were eligible to receive federal support. 

Earlier this year, Capps held Farm Bill listening sessions with Central Coast farmers and ranchers, as well as other key stakeholders in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties to discuss their priorities in the 2012 Farm Bill, many of which are specifically stressed and reflected in the letter to the House Committee.

For example, at the listening sessions, both Cal Poly’s Agricultural Research Initiative and the University of California Cooperative Extension Service discussed their efforts to use Farm Bill funding to develop new technologies and methods to eradicate pests and diseases that risk Central Coast agriculture, improve water management and food safety, and market fruits and vegetables grown on the Central Coast, including strawberries, avocados and citrus.

The lawmakers also expressed their strong support for preserving investments in nutrition programs for low-income Californians, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“The 2008 Farm Bill made historic investments in our country’s nutrition and food security programs,” Capps said. “We saw that with the downturn in the economy, these federal programs provided a critical safety net. Now is not the time to cut back on these vital programs.”

Click here to read the letter.

— Ashley Schapitl is press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

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