The State of California sent a letter this week to leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees detailing the state's recommendations for a new farm bill.
California officials pointed out the state's farms and ranches produce 50% of the country's fruits, nuts and vegetables, 20% of the nation's milk and more than 400 different agricultural commodities. California is the largest ag-exporting state as well.
Officials stated that their recommendations come following discussions with 70 organizations and five statewide listening sessions. Top of the list was protecting the nutrition programs. "Without exception there was strong support for keeping the nutrition title as part of the Farm Bill." Further, in listing priorities at the top was "Robust funding for food and nutrition programs."
Along with nutrition, California officials listed:
-Protection and enhancement of conservation programs
-Safeguarding market and trade programs, including specialty crops
-Strengthening animal and plant health programs
-Investing in research
Addressing specific titles in the farm bill, California officials and stakeholders called for maintaining program choice in the commodity programs, including improving the Price Loss Coverage Program (PLC) "to cover higher costs of production for California producers." Along with that, a state with such a large dairy industry also wants to improve the Dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) "to account for regional feed costs versus a national feed price formula."
Along with that, Californians want to maintain the Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance Program, as well as boost the eligibility for drought conditions for the Livestock Indemnity Program. With insurance, they also recommended maintaining and boosting the Supplemental Coverage Option for specialty crops.
In the nutrition program, 4.2 million Californians (10.6%) are on the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, but officials state that up to 20% of the state's residents are at risk for food insecurity. "Any budget or policy changes should continue the structure of SNAP, so it stays responsive to economic changes and adequately supports Californians in need."
Regarding conservation, Californians want mandatory funding for conservation technical assistance programs to help boost more on-farm conservation practices. Further, California officials want increased funding for "working lands" programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program and Agricultural Management Assistance, as well as easement programs as well.
The letter also states Congress should renew mandatory funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.
In trade, among other things listed, Californians recommended increasing funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) to $400 million a year and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) to $69 million a year with the increase phased in at $46.9 million over five years. This recommendation goes along with requests from several commodity groups as well.
For animal and plant health programs, California officials called for maintaining or increasing funding for Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, as well as increased funding for the national Clean Plant Network. Then California officials also want to fund a new Animal Pest and Disease Disaster Prevention and Response Program, as well as establish a Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank (something cattle groups have championed) as well as establish an indemnity program to compensate producers for federal or state responses to highly contagious livestock disease outbreaks.
California officials also called for strengthening Rural Development, especially rural broadband programs, as well as clarify the definition of "rural." Further investments are needed in various research programs as well.
The letter was signed by the heads of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, state Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Resources Agency and Health and Human Service Agency.
The full letter can be found at http://dld.bz/…
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