Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, on Wednesday hailed passage of the final bipartisan agreement on the Farm Bill (H.R. 2642), which includes key priorities for Central Coast farmers she worked to include in the legislation. The measure passed 251-166 with strong support from both sides of the aisle.
“The bipartisan Farm Bill is a win for our Central Coast farmers and economy, and I’m pleased to support it,” Capps said. “The bill includes strong funding for numerous vital programs I championed for local farmers, including Specialty Crop Block Grants, the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, pest control, and the Market Access Program. It also includes language from the Organics Standards Protection Act, bipartisan legislation I authored to protect consumers and organic farmers by strengthening enforcement of USDA organic standards.
"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 worked closely with local agriculture stakeholders to advocate for the programs and provisions that Central Coast farmers depend on.
As the Farm Bill reauthorization process was getting started in 2012, Capps held several 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 included in the final Farm Bill, such as:
» $55 million annually for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) — plus $25 million for emergency citrus disease research — 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 Farm Bill to strengthen the market for the specialty crops we grow on the Central Coast like fruits, vegetables and nuts;
» $325 million over five 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.
Additionally, Section 10005 of the Farm Bill is based on bipartisan legislation Capps authored, the Organic Standards Protection Act, to ensure that products bearing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic seal comply with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. These provisions will better protect the growing organic farming industry and its expanding consumer base by granting the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) 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 about the cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) included in the Farm Bill.
“While most of the Farm Bill is an important win for California, I remain incredibly concerned about the cuts to SNAP, which is such a vital lifeline for hardworking Americans who need a little help to put food on the table," Capps said. "Although we were able to ensure that no one will lose eligibility for the program through this bill, $8 billion of reductions over 10 years will have a real impact on the day-to-day experiences of those depending on SNAP, especially low-income children and seniors on fixed incomes. I hope that Congress can come together to find solutions to this issue and restore these cuts in the near future.”
— C.J. Young is a press assistant for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.