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Valley programs receive significant support as Farm Bill moves forward

The Farm Bill moved one step closer to enactment early this week, with the Conference Committee filing its report featuring the negotiated version of the bill.

“The Farm Bill is America’s food bill, and the legislation we negotiated is designed to support our farmers and families, feed Americans, and increase our nation’s food security,” said Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) after signing the report today. Costa, who served on the Farm Bill Conference Committee and is a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, continued with, “I fought hard to ensure we negotiated a strong Farm Bill that strengthens crop insurance, treats specialty crop producers equitably, supports conservation programs and new farmers, and protects nutrition assistance for our most vulnerable.”

The Conference Committee’s version of the Farm Bill supports efforts critical for the San Joaquin Valley, including:

• Trade programs proven successful at securing markets vital for California producers – who earn approximately 44 percent of their revenue through exports such as:

— Market Access Program (MAP), which helps develop export markets for California agricultural commodities

— Foreign Market Development Program (FMD), which maintains foreign markets for California exports

• Programs supporting farmers who grow fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other specialty crops – with half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables grown in California – such as:

— Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC), which helps farmers overcome the regulatory and technical requirements for exporting their products

— Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), which focuses on addressing disease and pest threats to crops as well as developing innovative approaches to help strengthen production, including mechanized harvesting to address the agriculture labor shortage

— $25 million specifically designated to help prevent and combat citrus greening disease, which could devastate the $3.3 billion California citrus industry

— Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative – whose funding was doubled – and Organic Certification Cost Share Program

• Conservation programs that allow Valley farmers to continue and to increase their environmental stewardship, such as:

— A strengthened Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which incorporates policies Rep. Costa introduced to assist Valley farmers meet the challenges of increased groundwater management and wildlife habitat conservation

— Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which assists farmers in implementing processes and practices that improve water, air, and soil quality while simultaneously strengthening their agricultural operations

• The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and education and training programs designed to help SNAP recipients become self-sufficient, including:

— Continued funding for SNAP with no changes to already existing work requirements, a nutrition program which approximately 25 percent of those living in California’s 16th Congressional District use to help fight hunger and food insecurity

— $103.9 million in funding for SNAP Education and Training Programs, including priority funding for successful programs like Fresno’s Bridge Academy

The Conference Committee’s Farm Bill also:

• Increases funding for the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program – commonly referred to as the 2501 program – which producers across the Valley have used to begin and continue their family agriculture operations

• Creates and funds the new Animal Pest and Disease Prevention and Response Program and corresponding vaccine bank to ensure the health and security of California livestock

• Excludes the King Amendment original incorporated into the House’s Farm Bill, which would have harmed California egg producers

This version of the Farm Bill now moves to the House and Senate for a vote, with no opportunities to amend the measure. The critical votes are currently expected to occur this week.

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