Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, on Wednesday highlighted key priorities for Central Coast farmers she worked to include in the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act (House Resolution 1947), which is under consideration on the House floor this week.

“Agriculture is an important part of our local economy and daily lives on the Central Coast, and I have been working to ensure our local priorities are included in the Farm Bill,” Capps said. “In particular, I’m pleased the FARRM Act includes several key provisions that I championed, including a strengthened enforcement structure for organic farming, and increased support for specialty crops, agricultural research and pest detection. These programs support local farmers, promote jobs and economic growth, and help farmers take advantage of the latest farming technologies and techniques.”

Throughout the process, Rep. Capps has been working closely with local agriculture stakeholders to advocate for the programs and provisions that Central Coast farmers depend on. Anticipating that the Farm Bill would be reauthorized by the House, last year Capps held Farm Bill listening sessions to discuss local priorities with Central Coast farmers and ranchers, as well as other key stakeholders in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. Many of these priorities were subsequently included in two letters Capps sent with other members of the California delegation to the House Agriculture Committee and are now included in the FARRM bill, such as:

» $600 million over 10 years for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) to encourage the development of new technologies and improved efficiencies in the production of specialty crops;

» $375 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grants Program over the life of the 2013 Farm Bill to strengthen the market for the specialty crops we grow on the Central Coast like fruits, vegetables and nuts;

» $630 million over 10 years to prevent the introduction and spread of plant pests and diseases;

» $200 million for the Market Access Program, which helps develop, expand, and maintain foreign markets for agricultural products, including strawberries and wine;

» Reauthorization of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which supports research partnerships like Cal Poly’s Agricultural Research Initiative and the University of California Cooperative Extension Service that bring the latest agriculture science from the laboratory into the fields.

The FARRM Act also includes provisions based on bipartisan legislation Capps authored, the Organic Standards Protection Act, to ensure that products bearing the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic seal comply with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. Her legislation, written with Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., would protect the growing organic farming industry and its expanding consumer base by granting the USDA’s National Organic Program the legislative authority it needs to more effectively protect the integrity of certified organic products.

While Capps supports these critical provisions in the bill, she also expressed her serious concerns with the $20.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program included in the FARRM Act. These cuts would force nearly two million low-income Americans to go hungry, including one million children. The school lunch program would also be affected, with an estimated 210,000 low-income children losing benefits. Those most affected will be low income working families and senior citizens. Research has found that the economy grows by $1.73 for every $1 invested in the SNAP.

“While I support these important local priorities, I strongly oppose the major cuts to SNAP — our nation’s investment in keeping our children and families fed during tough times — that were included in the FARRM Act and will be working to stop them,” Capps said. “One in six Americans are food insecure, often not knowing how they will get their next meal. In these difficult fiscal times, we must make tough decisions to be sure, but cutting $20.5 billion from SNAP, from a program that inherently must be strong when our economy is struggling, is unfair and cruel. It places the burden on the children and families and seniors, our friends and neighbors who can least afford it.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to resolve these issues and produce a strong, bipartisan Farm Bill that works for all Americans.”

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