Imperial Valley Press

State Senate ag committee session offers farm bill input

- BY CHRISTINE SOUZA California Farm Bureau Federation

As the No. 1 agricultur­al state, with a $51.1 billion farm economy and more than 400 commoditie­s, California and its government leaders, farmers and residents are weighing in on how members of Congress should shape the 2023 Farm Bill.

During a state Senate Agricultur­e Committee hearing last week, Sen. Melissa Hurtado, the committee chair, said it is important to speak up on reauthoriz­ing the federal legislatio­n given the urgency of climate change threatenin­g food security.

“Experts believe that if not more is done to adapt, global yields could decline by up to 30% by 2050,” said Hurtado, D-Sanger. “These threats impact us all, but they are most felt by those living in rural communitie­s. California has always taken pride in providing food for the world. But we must give agricultur­e the attention it deserves, one that extends beyond farming and considers everything within the food system.”

The last farm bill was signed into law in 2018 and is set to expire Sept. 30. The omnibus legislatio­n, up for renewal in the 2023 bill, governs many areas related to agricultur­e, including nutrition, commodity programs, crop insurance, conservati­on, trade, forestry and rural developmen­t.

U.S. Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, is a senior member on the House Agricultur­e Committee, which has oversight to craft a five-year farm bill. He described the legislativ­e package as “a safety net for America’s farmers, ranchers, dairymen and women and farmworker­s, but also for American consumers with the nutrition programs a critical component.”

Agricultur­al groups, including the California Farm Bureau, highlighte­d challenges facing America’s largest agricultur­al economy, including supply chain disruption­s, labor shortages, inflation and rising input costs. To recover from related losses, leaders advocated for improved risk management for farmers by strengthen­ing crop insurance and disaster programs.

“This farm bill should prioritize developmen­t of new crop insurance tools for uncovered producers as well as improvemen­ts to existing tools in a practical, affordable way regardless of commodity and farm size,” said California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson, who farms olives and citrus fruit in Oroville. “Here in California, less than a quarter of our 400 commoditie­s are covered by existing crop insurance programs.”

Johansson said farmers facing significan­t losses from disasters often encountere­d delays in receiving federal aid.

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