Garamendi Fights for Northern California During All Day Farm Bill Markup in Agriculture Committee
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a rancher and pear farmer who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, yesterday fought for California’s diverse agricultural needs during an all day markup of the Farm Bill. He authored and supported a number of amendments to strengthen the bill and will continue to advocate for the best bill possible as it moves to the House floor for a full House vote. Congressman Garamendi voted for the legislation, which passed out of committee by a vote of 36-10.
“If the Midwest is America’s breadbasket, California is America’s garden basket, home to the world’s largest variety of rice, fruits, vegetables, and nuts,” Congressman Garamendi said. “The Third Congressional district feeds America and the world, and the thousands of farmers and agricultural workers I represent need a commonsense farm policy that gives California a solid foundation for success. While there’s room for improvement, particularly in light of the shortsighted cuts to food assistance, I believe passing a Farm Bill out of the House Agriculture Committee is a good first step.”
During committee debate, Garamendi introduced several amendments to help California agriculture, including an amendment relating to the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program. The amendment would allow farmers to continue to participate 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 and is a great success for California.
“Rice farmers in my district are engaged in some of the region’s most important conservation work, creating good habitats for ducks and other birds -- some of which are threatened and endangered,” said Congressman Garamendi. “This amendment will help make the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program more attractive to the many farmers in my district who want to do the right thing for the conservation of species and sustainable hunting. I’m also pleased that the Farm Bill provides language clarifying how rice grown in California differs from that grown in the South and sets up a formula to determine its reference price according to that difference. This gives California farmers the ability to manage risk based on their specific crop needs.”
Garamendi also introduced several amendments that, while not adopted in the markup, he hopes to revisit on the House floor during final debate, including:
· An amendment to create a program that addresses crop losses sustained as a direct result of a federal quarantine. This amendment was offered and withdrawn as a way to raise awareness with Members of the Committee. Congressman Garamendi looks forward to working with Committee leaders on the issue.
· An amendment to require the USDA to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to conduct a study of the challenges faced by agricultural areas designated as having special flood hazards under the National Flood Insurance Program. This amendment was not accepted because the Agriculture Committee lacks jurisdiction to deal with flood insurance issues. However, it provided a platform to inform the greater agriculture community of the challenges facing California farmers and ranchers in floodplains along the Sacramento River.
During the 12 hours of debate on the bill, Garamendi also spoke out on behalf of a number of other amendments, including:
- An amendment by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) to restore full funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- An amendment offered by Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) to simplify the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to focus on conservation outcomes. Contract offers under CSP would be ranked based on the level of natural resource and environmental benefits resulting from the conservation practices.
- Amendments offered by Representative Ann Kuster (D-NH), which sought to shift caps on payments under the Wildlife Habitat program. With so many farmers and ranchers utilizing this program, Congressman Garamendi spoke on the importance of expanding the cap to ensure Californians have access to the funds.
- An amendment by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) to increase the population threshold of eligible rural areas and towns for the Community Facilities loan and grant program. Congressman Garamendi took the opportunity to speak about rural communities in Northern California and the devastating impact the current definition will have on them when the 2010 Census takes effect.
“When I convened the first meeting of my Agricultural Advisory Committee, the definition of ‘rural’ was on the minds of practically everyone in the room,” Garamendi added. “By fluke of statute and history, rural California gets robbed of millions of dollars in support because ‘rural’ excludes counties with a mid-sized city. Western states have much larger counties by area, so this quirk of history directly harms my constituents. It’s time all rural communities were treated equally.”
“While the Farm Bill is a good start, I’m confident floor amendments and final conference committee action will create an even better bill --- one that addresses hunger in America,” said Garamendi.
“In this Congress, when push comes to shove, it’s the voiceless that get shoved the most. We’re seeing that in the sequester with the immediate harm befalling Head Start, Meals-on-Wheels, and housing assistance, and we’re now seeing it with steep cuts to SNAP in the Farm Bill,” explained Garamendi. “SNAP puts food on the table for homebound seniors, for kids who would otherwise go to bed hungry, and for hardworking Americans barely making it. I wish it were a little more kind to the people who need help the most and I will work with my colleagues on the Committee to find a way to ensure the final bill does just that. In a country where 16 million children don’t have enough food to eat, we can and must do better.”