In 2018, Congress passed several pieces of legislation to provide California farmers with the money and resources they need to continue leading the country in agriculture production. As a third-generation farmer, I know how important it is to be a strong advocate on behalf of our valley’s agriculture.
The 2018 Farm Bill is an example of bipartisanship and what can be accomplished when leaders from both sides of the aisle work together for a common cause. The Farm Bill is America’s food bill and for years it has given support to farming communities. It also serves as a safety net for the old, young and working poor.
As a member of the Farm Bill Conference Committee, I was able to fight for a bill that strengthens crop insurance, treats specialty crops equitably, supports conservation programs and new farmers, and protects nutrition assistance for our most vulnerable residents.
This Farm Bill feeds Americans and supports our ag producers as they work to put food on dinner tables across the U.S. every night, such as:
• Supporting farmers who grow fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other specialty crops by reducing regulatory requirements for exporting their products.
• Specifying $25 million dollars to help prevent and combat citrus greening disease, which could devastate the $3.3 billion California citrus industry.
• Strengthening conservation programs to allow farmers to meet the challenges of increased groundwater management and wildlife habitat conservation.
• Assisting farmers in implementing practices that improve water, air, and soil quality while also strengthening their agriculture operations.
• Improves the dairy safety net by creating Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC), providing flexibility for operations of all sizes.
• Continues funding for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and gives recipients education and training to help them become more self-sufficient. Approximately 25 percent of my district’s residents rely on SNAP to feed their families.
On the issue of water, I continue to serve as member of the House Natural Resources committee fighting for fair policies and believe my membership on the subcommittee on water is critical. I’ve said this time and time again: Water is the life blood of our valley. We grow 50 percent of the country’s fruits and vegetables in California and we’re the nation’s leader in dairy, citrus and nut production. We need safe and reliable sources of water – even in years of drought. Passing the America’s Water Infrastructure Act (AWIA) at the end of 2018 provides us with resources to do just that.
The AWIA authorizes more than $6 billion in spending over 10 years for projects nationwide. It will allow the Merced Irrigation District to raise the spillway gates at New Exchequer Dam, enlarging the storage capacity at Lake McClure and increasing water supplies for eastern Merced County by 57,000 acre feet. This will substantially improve the area’s ability to work through back-to-back years of drought conditions.
The AWIA also creates a pathway for the first new water storage in the Valley in decades. I specifically fought to expand financing options to incentivize investment in new water storage. The bill will fund repairs and expand dams and reservoirs. It also increases funding to restore seismic stability and eventual expansion of the San Luis Reservoir that could provide an additional 120,000 acre-feet of water for our valley.
In the 116th Congress, I hold a key position as the Chairperson of House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture. I am working to promote a healthy dairy economy and make sure important animal disease prevention programs included in the farm bill are implemented the way we intended.
In California, we depend on exports for nearly half of what we produce in the state. My position as the chair of the Transatlantic Legislator’s Dialogue, member of the Foreign Affairs committee, and my seniority as a congressman allows me to be a strong advocate for fair trade policies.
It is my honor and privilege to represent one of the largest and most diverse agriculture regions in the world. I am dedicated now and always to creating policy that will benefit the hard work of the farmers, ranchers and dairymen of our great Central Valley every day.
Congressman Jim Costa represents California’s 16th District in the House of Representatives.