Future farm bill hot topic of discussion on last day of Tulare World Ag Expo

TULARE, Calif. (KFSN) -- The third and final day of the 50th World Ag Expo was a wet one, but some found refuge in the theater of the Heritage Complex, site of an in depth discussion on the nation's next farm bill. The presentation was hosted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

"But we want to talk about the importance of nutrition and having access for all of our citizens to the healthy food that we grow. We want to talk about conservation, especially here in the Valley, the kinds of USDA programs have helped a lot with air quality and water quality issues," said Karen Ross, CDFA Secretary.

Ross said the handful of listening sessions across the state are an opportunity to hear from farmers, ranchers, and consumers about what should be included in the next farm bill.

The current bill became effective in 2014 and expires next year.

Considering California's long and punishing drought, Fresno County farmer Nikko Masumoto believes there should be a climate resilience title included in the next bill.

"Extreme weather conditions and the reality that those changes will and are already are disproportionately hurting rural communities, hurting communities of color, and hurting poorer communities."

"Although many regulatory programs are the product of the farm bill, the farm bill can and should be used to ease regulation on ranchers," said Jack Lavers, Glennville cattle rancher.

Richard Matoian is the Executive Director of American Pistachio Growers, which represents pistachio growers and processors in California and two other states.

For Thursday's meeting, Matoian compiled a small list of their farm bill priorities, which included increasing funding for the market access program, which helps export American products and commodities around the world.

"Certainly a lot less than other nut commodities-- we'd like to see that increased and we're working towards that."

There are two more farm bill sessions like the one at the Expo in Salinas and Los Angeles next week.

The CDFA will work with other state agencies, and eventually come up with a California position letter.
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