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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 7th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 13 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 13

U.S. House of Representatives to revisit 2018 Farm Bill after recent bipartisan rejection


After months of nationwide community outreach and internal negotiations, the U.S. House of Representatives voted down the 2018 Farm Bill on May 18, leaving the Central Coast's agricultural industry facing various uncertainties.

The bill, which acts as the federal government's primary nutrition and agricultural policy-making tool, is updated by Congress every five years. This year's version lost in the House at 198 to 213 votes and was rejected by every Democrat and 30 Republicans.

"This was voted down in a bipartisan fashion," Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) told the Sun, adding that representatives on both sides had problems with the proposed legislation.

Dozens of farmers, ranchers, and growers attended a listening session on Feb. 1 at the Santa Maria Fairpark, where Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara), left, and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota), right, listened to what locals hoped to see prioritized in the 2018 Farm Bill.

Carbajal, who voted against the 2018 Farm Bill, co-hosted a listening session on Feb. 1 at the Santa Maria Fairpark, where he and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) heard what Central Coast residents hoped to see prioritized in the then still developing bill.

There, dozens of locals affiliated with agriculture in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties discussed the importance of specialty crop research, crop insurance, disaster relief, and California's farm labor shortage.

While Carbajal said the 2018 bill would have addressed many of those issues in some beneficial ways, those benefits to the ag community would not have outweighed the negative impacts many low-income families would have faced if it had passed.

The proposed bill, Carbajal said, would have cut $24 billion from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food assistance to a little more than 16,000 low-income families on the Central Coast. The 2018 Farm Bill also would have expanded and modified SNAP's work and eligibility requirements.

Carbajal said the proposed changes would have primarily penalized SNAP recipients with disabilities and their caretakers. The current SNAP work requirements enacted in previous legislation, he said, are already working effectively.

Other key points of the bill, including a policy that would have significantly rolled back logging regulations, would have been unfair to Central Coast residents, Carbajal said.

The congressman said an amended version of the 2018 Farm Bill will likely be passed sometime before the current legislation expires in September. If not, the deadline will almost certainly be extended.

"I think there is a bipartisan solution here," Carbajal said. "And I'm hopeful the Senate will put a bipartisan bill forward."

Tim Cansler, a federal advocate for the California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association, agreed and said the 2018 Farm Bill is already slated to return to the House for another vote on or before June 22. The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry will probably mark up their version of the bill on June 6, he said.

"I'm very confident it will pass this year," Cansler told the Sun, adding that in his 20 years watching the Farm Bill approval process, legislation always manages to pass eventually.

If approved, Cansler said the 2018 Farm Bill could greatly benefit Santa Barbara County producers through its continuation of various programs.

The Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, from which Cansler said California typically receives about $15 million annually, would be reauthorized. The program funds California's 14 canine pest detection teams, which work to prevent pest introduction regionally at more than 200 facilities in 32 of California's counties.

The bill would also reauthorize $5 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants, expand the Organic Foods Production Act, and increase the Farmers' Market and Local Food Promotion Program funding from $10 million to $30 million each year.

"So I think that's pretty huge for specialty crop producers," Cansler said.

Santa Barbara County livestock and dairy producers would also be impacted by the millions that would go toward funding preparations and responses to outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease, an extremely contagious animal virus that Cansler said is widely considered to be the greatest economic threat to U.S. animal agriculture.

In short, Cansler said the 2018 Farm Bill, which is worth $867 billion, is important to everyone.

"If you're a person who raises a crop or puts food in your mouth, this affects you," Cansler said. "And Congress, I think they keep that perspective in mind."

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash can be reached at kbubnash@santamariasun.com.

Weekly Poll
What'd you make of the county's decision to close beaches for the Fourth of July weekend?

It was sensible since counties to the south closed their beaches.
I was OK with it. I set off fireworks at home instead.
It was ridiculous. The restrictions have to stop.
It didn't matter. I went to SLO County.

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