California Delegation recommends specialty crop funding; emphasizes conservation.
Natalie Willis, Reporter, Valley Ag Voice
Democratic Congressman Jim Costa led the California Democratic Delegation in a series of recommendations for the 2023 Farm Bill last week. The letter, signed by 38 representatives, listed several areas of financial interest, such as nutrition programs, crop insurance, and conservation research.
Representatives underscored California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as a key component to the new Farm Bill, citing that SNAP should receive more funding as it “help[s] lower food insecurity while also mitigating racial disparities in rates of hunger.”
SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, provides federal funding for food purchases for low- to no-income citizens. However, the program has faced several issues with the fraudulent use of its food stamps, including a grocery store in West Virginia that allowed customers to purchase beer, cigarettes, and THC products through SNAP. Customers were further encouraged to exchange SNAP benefits for cash.
According to the Foundation for Economic Education, people receiving SNAP benefits spend 70-100% of what they receive on non-food-related items. Further, House Republicans have found issue with unqualified recipients that take benefits away from low-income Americans.
On June 15, Republican Congressman Ben Cline introduced the No Welfare for the Wealthy Act to eliminate a loophole in SNAP that would end broad-based categorical eligibility to prevent individuals with higher incomes from receiving food assistance.
“Whether intentional or not, no one should be able to receive these benefits if they are ineligible,” Cline said in a press release. “The No Welfare for the Wealthy Act will prevent states from abusing this loophole and protect resources that should only go to the most vulnerable among us.”
EXPORT AND SPECIALTY CROP FUNDING
The letter’s next recommendation centers on increased financial support for California’s $22.5 billion agricultural export market. According to the letter, the primary funding areas include the Market Access Program, the Foreign Market Development Program, and the Expanding Agricultural Exports Act.
The provisions in the Expanding Agricultural Exports Act would keep California competitive in the global market, the letter explained. Representatives emphasized the need for specialty crop insurance as a top priority as well as additional disaster programs.
“It is critically vital to our nation that specialty crop insurance is a top priority to keep a variety of crops for Americans to choose from at affordable prices,” the letter stated. “Additional disaster programs as well should remain for farmers and ranchers in times of need.”
CONSERVATION AND FUTURE FARMERS
Representatives recommended increased attention to wildfire and drought mitigation in order to push forward agricultural programs that monitor climate change. The letter highlighted two bills passed under the Biden administration—the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The Inflation Reduction Act was signed in 2018 after Vice President Kamala Harris broke the gridlocked Senate vote—all 50 Democratic Senators voted in favor while the remaining 50 Republican Senators were opposed.
Republicans became concerned with the $750 billion partisan law after it was signed, with Republican Representative Glenn “GT” Thompson describing it as a complication to the new Farm Bill that overregulates American farmers.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was also mentioned in the letter as a “climate-smart agricultural program.” The representatives credited conservation programs as the key to reducing carbon emissions and stated that the Farm Bill “must recognize and provide the means to incorporate on-farm practices.”
The last recommendation in the letter outlined potential investments for future farmers and communities to include an updated definition of what is considered “rural” to streamline grant programs. They requested that the federal government prioritize resources for minority farmers, ranchers, and producers.