Costa Statement on Farm Bill Clearing House Agriculture Committee

Washington, DC- Just before 1 am Thursday morning, the House Agriculture Committee voted on a wide bipartisan basis to advance the 2012 Farm Bill. Rep. Jim Costa joined 35 of his colleagues on the committee in supporting the measure that will set the nation’s agriculture and nutrition policies for the next 5 years.

“The American people expect Congress to work together in a bipartisan fashion to provide certainty and stability to our economy,” said Costa. “Early this morning, the Agriculture Committee did just that for our farmers and producers. Now, there are only 12 days left before the August recess to approve this Farm Bill and move it to conference with the Senate. If House Republican Leadership is serious about protecting one of the brightest spots in our economy, agriculture, now is the time to act.”                                                     

The Farm Bill that cleared the committee included many victories for Valley farmers, ranchers, and dairymen. Among others the bill adds:

  • Over $100 million increase to the Specialty Crop Block Grants Program over the life of the 2012 Farm Bill to strengthen the market for the specialty crops we grow in our Valley like fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
  • $450 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.
  • Over $100 million increase to the Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program over the life of the 2012 Farm Bill.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that provides monthly benefits to help low-income families put food on the table. Costa voted to restore $16.5 billion in cuts to the program that was defeated in a largely party-line vote. After that, an amendment was considered and also defeated that would have replaced the House nutrition title with the more moderate, bipartisan Senate version, which would have only cut $4.5 billion from the program.

During debate of this amendment, Costa gave a passionate speech about his days volunteering with Big Brothers, Big Sisters in Fresno and the dire need for the benefits in his district.

“When I was at Fresno State I was in Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and I had a little brother, Philip Yancy,” said Costa.  “He was 15 years of age. I remember very clearly the third or fourth month that I was his mentor that he was enormously hungry. And I said, ‘Philip you look really hungry today’. He looked down at his shoelaces and he said, ‘Well Jim we ran out of our food stamps two days ago, and all I had was the school lunch program’. A fifteen year-old kid gets pretty hungry at the end of the month.”

Costa also offered an amendment that would have reauthorized the $37.5 million from the 2008 Farm Bill for efforts to improve air quality on agricultural lands under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This proposal mirrored the amendment that was offered and passed by Senator Feinstein to the Senate version of the Farm Bill.  The amendment was supported by the California Farm Bureau, Western Growers, the Nisei Farmers league, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, and other agricultural and environmental organizations throughout the state of California and nationwide.  Costa assured his colleagues that he would continue working for the inclusion of air quality provisions in the final legislation.

In addition, Costa offered two amendments to support innovative programs, like the Fresno Bridge Academy, that encourage long-term self-sufficiency and independence by preparing SNAP recipients for employment through work-related education and training activities. Costa withdrew his employment and training (E&T) program amendments with the assurance that the committee would continue to work with him to include the provisions before the Farm Bill is considered on the House floor.

As the legislation moves forward and the full House of Representatives considers the Farm Bill, Costa will continue to fight to make sure that farmers, ranchers, and dairymen are able to continue to do what they do: growing the safest, best agricultural products in the world.