Rep. Baca Introduces Agricultural Legislation; NOURISH Act Addresses Nation's Nutrition, Anti-Hunger Needs and Concerns of Disadvantaged Farmworkers, Farmers and Ranchers
As the House Agriculture Committee prepares to develop the 2007 Farm Bill, Rep. Joe Baca (D-California) today introduced legislation addressing critical concerns including anti-hunger and nutritional assistance programs, improving conditions for farmworkers and expanding opportunities for Latino and other socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
The series of proposals are included in Rep. Baca's legislation, the Nutrition and Opportunities for the Underserved and Rural Incentives to Secure the Heartland Act of 2007 - the NOURISH Act of 2007 (H.R. 2401).
Alarmed that the number of Americans going hungry has climbed during the Bush Administration, Rep. Baca has called for strengthening the safety net for "food insecure" families. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 38 million people in America live with hunger or the threat of hunger, including 14 million children.
Rep. Baca said, "We have a moral obligation to feed the hungry. The NOURISH Act includes many provisions to expand assistance to families and improve access for eligible underserved populations. I also propose increasing funding for food banks which provide important help when government programs are not sufficient to meet the rising demands of American families facing hunger."
The NOURISH Act also includes additional protections and assistance for the nation's 2.5 million migrant and seasonal farmworkers. "Farmworkers toil under demanding and often dangerous conditions, working long hours for very little pay to produce food that winds up on America's dinner tables. They deserve protection from pesticides that threaten their health and should have assistance when agricultural disasters prevent them from working," said Rep. Baca.
Rep. Baca's legislation also aims at helping minority and socially disadvantaged farmers, including Latinos - the fastest growing population of new farmers. The NOURISH Act addresses challenges such as securing USDA loans, getting technical assistance and getting fair contracts for crops.
"The NOURISH Act represents the first time the interests and needs of Latinos - including farmers, ranchers, farmworkers and as consumers with special health and nutritional concerns - have been presented as a comprehensive package for consideration as part of the Farm Bill. It is an important development that reflects the growing impact of Hispanics in American agriculture," said Rep. Baca.
The Farm Bill is comprehensive legislation that sets national agriculture policy and priorities. It includes an array of farm programs and addresses food assistance programs, commodity supports and agricultural trade. The current Farm Bill was written in 2002, and many provisions expire in September 2007, so it must be reauthorized this year.
The NOURISH Act has widespread support among Hispanic officials. Eighteen of the twenty members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus - which Rep. Baca chairs - and 3 members of the Congressional Hispanic Conference have signed on as original cosponsors.
Rep. Baca is the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry and the senior Californian on the House Agriculture Committee.