Congressman Garamendi Fights for Northern California Priorities in House Farm Bill
June 20, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a rancher and pear farmer who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, voted for H.R. 1947, a comprehensive five year Farm Bill. Despite his efforts, the House of Representatives failed, by a vote of 195-234, to pass the bill. The bill now heads back to Committee. Last month, the Senate passed its own version of a Farm Bill. Throughout the Farm Bill process, the Congressman has fought for the agriculture and nutrition needs of his Northern California constituents.
“We need a new Farm Bill. While today’s vote was a step back in that process, I will continue to work with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to produce a Farm Bill that would strengthen our agricultural economy, combat hunger, and be signed into law,” said Congressman Garamendi.
Garamendi continued, “My Northern California District is home to UC Davis, the best agriculture university in the world, and to an amazingly diverse amount of farm products, including rice, almonds, wine grapes, plums, milk, sheep, and the only endive farm in America. This legislation would have established a policy environment where our hardworking California farmers and researchers could succeed in a 21st Century global economy. Through market access programs, research, insurance, rural development, and more, the Farm Bill would have helped businesses grow and create jobs. I will work with Members of the Agriculture Committee to bring back this legislation.”
Improvements to the Farm Bill
During Committee markup of the bill, Garamendi introduced several amendments to help California agriculture, including an amendment relating to the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program. The amendment would enhance the likelihood that farmers will be able to continue participating in the Waterbird Habitat Enhancement Program, which was established by the California Natural Resources Conservation Service and is utilized by many rice farmers. Under the program, farmers allow their land to be used to create habitats for waterfowl, some of which are threatened and endangered. This is the only conservation amendment that successfully made it into the bill during markup (click here for video).
“I will continue to fight for my amendment, which would be a win for California rice farming, conservation, and sustainable hunting,” said Garamendi. “It helps make the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program more attractive to the many farmers in my district and throughout America, assisting them in creating a good habitat for ducks and other birds.”
“I am also pleased the House Farm Bill recognizes that California short and medium grain rice is different than long grain rice,” Garamendi added. “By setting a different reference price for insurance, the bill gives California farmers the ability to manage risk based on their specific crop needs. The bill also makes smart investments in specialty crop programs, which strengthen California’s production of fruits, vegetables, and nuts and the incredibly valuable cutting edge research on these crops at UC Davis.”
As reported by Mike Doyle of McClatchy News, the House Farm Bill includes $375 million for a Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which “funded efforts like cantaloupe safety research at the University of California at Davis and ‘new product research’ with pistachios. The bill also includes $275 million over five years for a continued Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which last year funded U.C. Davis work on almonds, grapes and walnuts, among other crops.”
Remaining Challenges to Improve the Farm Bill
“As the House reconsiders the Farm Bill, I will continue to advocate for Northern California agriculture and restoration of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, which were significantly cut in the House bill,” Garamendi said. “SNAP, America’s most widely used food assistance program, provides a market for American farmers, supports economic growth, and, most importantly, helps fulfill the moral imperative for our nation, the wealthiest in the world, to feed the hungry in our society, including 16 million children.”
In Committee markup and on the House Floor, Congressman Garamendi voted for amendments to restore funding for SNAP. During the markup, he told a story of his daughter, a teacher, discovering that her student was taking home tomatoes from their school’s community garden because the student and his brother did not have enough food to eat (Click here to watch the video).
On the House Floor, Garamendi offered an amendment for the Forest Legacy program, which would allow qualified nonprofit land trusts to hold the interests in land (conservation easements) financed in part by Forest Legacy funds. States must voluntarily choose to elect this option for easements and it makes no changes to the current Forest Legacy application or selection process. The amendment was narrowly defeated 205-219, but the Congressman will continue to fight for its inclusion (video here).
In Committee, the Congressman fought for testing and labeling of imported olive oil, much of which has been found to be rancid, of poor quality, and deceptive to consumers. While the Agriculture Committee supported this commonsense measure and included it in the underlying bill, Members of the House rejected it through an amendment on the House Floor (video in Committee and on House Floor).
Links to Videos of the Congressman Speaking on Farm Bill Issues: