Farm Bill—Recognizing California's vast contributions
The next Farm Bill must create new market opportunities and improve competitiveness for California farmers and ranchers to reach new customers at home and abroad. The ability of the United States to preserve and enhance the production of food, fiber and meat products on our own soil, while maintaining exports to contribute to the viability of our national economy, is crucial. Consumers today want to know where their products come from, thus the creation of programs that promote our products here and around the world is simply smart economics.
California agriculture represents more than 13 percent of U.S. farm income, yet our producers only receive 2 percent of the dollars allocated. The environmental resources and benefits that our farms and ranches provide must be recognized in the next bill and the costs of complying with new air, water and species standards must be minimized.
Although many items in the next Farm Bill will not change, we will champion several elements we feel should be included:
Expansion of conservation programs to create new opportunities to benefit California's working farmlands will demonstrate a recognition of the voluntary actions many farmers and ranchers take on their lands for the benefit of species and the environment.
We currently have to comply with the most stringent air, water and species standards in the nation. The federal government will achieve greater conservation success by providing the right statutory and regulatory tools and incentives for conservation practices on working lands. Partnering with private landowners, such as our member farmers and ranchers, should be considered critical to any conservation efforts.
The global warming issue is not going away and American agriculture has enormous potential to earn income, while helping mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions. This is a fact that cannot be ignored. Many existing farm practices reduce greenhouse gases. Soil carbon sequestration, through conservation tillage practices such as tree and grass plantings, the combustion and capture of agricultural methane and the use of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, are some of the main sources of opportunity.
Creating additional energy opportunities: With the increased energy demands of our nation we must expand our energy opportunities to utilize agricultural byproducts by investing $1.6 billion in research and in the further development of cellulosic biofuels and biomethane with a focus on regional feedstock supplies.
Improving air quality: Livestock and rice producers have benefited from programs that provide incentives for implementing practices that provide environmental benefits such as air, water quality or species habitat improvement. Many producers have utilized EQIP funds for wetlands restoration, habitat enhancement and water saving practices.
Building on the success of other conservation programs, we support mandatory new funding for all growers to meet air quality standards, as described in the Eat Healthy America Act.
Building consumer awareness: Farm Bureau believes in educating consumers about the origin of their food. With consumer demand for fresh products year-round, labeling gives them an informed choice and a better understanding of how global the marketplace has become. We support a mandatory country-of-origin-labeling program for all products.
Feeding the world a healthy meal: We currently provide our nation's youth with a healthy supply of raisins, meats, grains, dairy, fresh citrus, asparagus, tomato sauce, juices, peaches and more. Nutritional programs should be expanded to include an additional $500 million in mandatory monies for the purchase of more fruits and vegetables, and to expand the fresh fruit and vegetable snack program to 100 schools in every state. It is important that we increase domestic demand along with our spending for foreign promotional programs. By increasing nutritional and foreign market promotion programs, we can place healthy meals on tables everywhere.
Maintaining equity: We support the long-standing Farm Bill provision that the fruit and vegetable planting-prohibition be maintained as a fundamental matter of equity among farmers. As long as some farmers receive federal payments, they should not be allowed to plant fruits and vegetables on that program acreage.
Compared to the rest of the United States, the value of California's agriculture is higher. Stringent environmental regulations increase our costs of doing business. Therefore, as Congress moves forward with Farm Bill negotiations, they must remain committed to maintaining the payment limits set in the 2002 Farm Bill. Any arbitrary limit set on participation in government programs will hit our growers first, leaving us once again unable to participate in the upcoming Farm Bill.
Research: The key to preparing for the future is research. The next Farm Bill must place more money into the research of new technologies and mechanization.
These are just highlights of what the next Farm Bill must include to provide better benefits for California producers. Congressman Dennis Cardoza continues to further our message on the Hill with the Eat Healthy America Act. Now it is up to all of us to provide the grassroots support to carry this message to our urban legislators and others. We will be in Washington, D.C., next week with our county managers to discuss this issue along with immigration. California deserves a fair shake in the next Farm Bill. You can help by participating in Farm Team and visiting or writing your Member of Congress. Farm Bureau is its strongest when we all work towards common goals. Thank you for your support. Please refer to page 28 to see more on our priorities.
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