Valley ag leaders call for action on farm bill

FRESNO, Calif.

The $500 billion measure funds programs that helps farmers grow food, and helps millions buy food.

Valley growers are afraid programs to promote their crops will be cut along with funds for do agricultural research. Food stamp and other benefits are also on the chopping block.

Farm groups gathered at the offices of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno to urge passage of the farm bill.

"If you care about the true nutrition for our citizens when need to get a farm bill completed this year," Barry Bedwell of the Grape and Tree Fruit League said.

The bill provides federal money for farm programs, including insurance and subsidies. But it also funds food stamp and school lunch programs.

"It is the Farm and Nutrition Bill. Over 80 per cent of this farm bill does have food and nutrition programs," Fresno County Farm Bureau President Ryan Jacobson said. "With the economy the way it is, obviously this is helping a lot of people in need at this point."

Democratic Congressman Jim Costa of Fresno is hopeful because the House Agriculture Committee, which he serves on, approved a farm bill on Thursday. He's urging the full House to act quickly.

"We need to have a farm bill pass out of the House before we recess on August 3rd," Congressman Costa said.

But Republican Congressman Devin Nunes of Tulare is not optimistic.

"We're probably a long way though until we get a final deal," Congressman Nunes said.

Because the majority Republicans in the House are in a big budget cutting mood.

"What Republicans in the House are trying to do is cut the subsidies out, at the same time, what the Democrats are trying to do is grow the food stamp program that have basically doubled or tripled over the last four years," Congressman Nunes said.

The debate over the $500 billion measure is how much to cut. Between $3 billion and $17 billion in cuts are being proposed. The question is which program will be cut.

"They are critical, not only to the farmer but they are critical to make sure some 40 million people in America have food on their table that are in tough economic times," Congressman Costa said.

"At the end of the day, the country has a lot of debt, the farm bill is not something we can pay for so changes have to be made," Congressman Nunes said.

The farm bill as proposed so far would impact Valley dairies, substituting price supports for loss insurance.

Another controversial provision would prohibit the State of California from requiring poultry producers to follow state standards in how animals are treated.

Final action on the bill could take weeks or months.

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