Rep. Costa Ensures Valley Representation in Farm Bill Conference Committee
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) brought San Joaquin Valley concerns front and center during the Farm Bill Conference Committee’s first meeting, focusing on trade, specialty crops, farming sustainability, dairy, and nutrition programs.
Trade is a critical issue for agriculture producers, with California producers earning $21 billion from trade in 2016 alone. “It’s imperative that we expand foreign markets for U.S. products. Forty-four percent of California’s agriculture production is dependent on foreign trade,” noted Costa during today’s meeting. Farm Bill support for producers’ ability to sell their food in foreign markets is especially crucial now, given the negative impacts and longer term uncertainty producers are facing due to the Administration’s escalating trade war. “That is why the language in the Senate bill for the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops program, I think, is so important,” said Rep. Costa.
With regards to specialty crops, California farmers grow over one-third of America’s vegetables and two-thirds of the fruits and nuts produced in the U.S. “California is the nation’s leading producer of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are staples of nutrient-dense and healthy meals. The equitable treatment of specialty crops in the Farm Bill is very important to our nation,” Rep. Costa told the Committee. “I support fully funding the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and to provide separate funding to combat citrus greening.” Costa then noted the importance of funding for organic research and organic certification cost-sharing.
Congressman Costa also called on the Committee to make conservation programs which are vital for helping Valley farmers “sustainably farm their land and confront the ever-increasing water demands they face” a priority, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
In addition, Rep. Costa stated strong support for the provisions in the Senate Farm Bill which increase risk management levels for dairy producers for when markets crash or they are struck by other catastrophes. “We know our dairy industry has suffered across the country. I hope we can retain this provision – and even enhance it – in our final report.”
The final issue Costa raised was the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), an anti-hunger program included in the Farm Bill. “Hunger is a real crisis in the San Joaquin Valley,” he told the Committee. “Removing people from SNAP to pay for an unproven workforce training program – as is in the House bill – is the wrong thing to do.” Instead, Costa advocated for continued support for the SNAP education and training pilot programs currently operating in ten states. “They will help us find solutions and pathways to work, as shown in California’s pilot project at the Fresno Bridge Academy.”
For video of Congressman Costa remarks at today’s Farm Bill Conference Committee meeting, click here:
Rep. Costa has been working for commonsense farm and food policy that addresses the needs of Valley farmers and families for decades, frequently stressing that “America’s ability to grow our own food is a national security issue.” During this Congress, Costa has led legislation in the U.S. House to strengthen the RCPP, support education and work training programs for SNAP recipients, and protect livestock producers from unintended and unnecessary regulatory burden. Significant portions of his RCPP improvement bill have been incorporated into the Senate version of the Farm Bill, and his measure protecting livestock producers became law as a provision in the 2018 omnibus spending bill. Since March, Costa has been leading bipartisan coalitions in their efforts to ensure California agriculture stays competitive as the country navigates through the Administration’s tariff-based approach to addressing trade imbalances.
Congressman Costa and his fellow appointees to the Farm Bill Conference Committee must reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the 2018 Farm Bill in order to move the legislation forward. The 2014 Farm Bill, which is currently in effect, is due to expire on September 30th.