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Letter to The Honorable Tom Harkin, The Honorable Collin Peterson, The Honorable Saxby Chambliss and The Honorable Bob Goodlatte

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Letter to The Honorable Tom Harkin, The Honorable Collin Peterson, The Honorable Saxby Chambliss and The Honorable Bob Goodlatte

June 26, 2007

The Honorable Tom Harkin The Honorable Collin Peterson
Chairman Chairman
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition Committee on Agriculture
and Forestry
United States Senate U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Saxby Chambliss The Honorable Bob Goodlatte
Ranking Member Ranking Member
Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition Committee on Agriculture
and Forestry
United States Senate U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Harkin, Senator Chambliss, Chairman Peterson, and Representative Goodlatte:

A strong 21st century Farm Bill is a targeted investment that enhances the health of our communities and environment and provides the foundation to supply our nation with a safe, dependable, and affordable food supply. In addition to increasing the strength and security of our farming and ranching communities, the farm bill provides nutrition dollars for our schools and communities, research dollars for our universities, and solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating air and water pollution for our residents. Every American is a stakeholder in the farm bill.

As Governors of the country's four most populous states, we represent more than 174 million acres of cropland, with products valued at more than $65 billion. While our states are very diverse, we also have much in common. We believe in the vision of healthy people, a clean environment, and a robust agricultural sector. As your committees begin consideration of the 2007 Farm Bill, we would like you to consider several issues of importance to our states.

In addition to these six priorities, our states have many other issues of importance that will be provided to the Committees through our respective congressional delegations.

* Specialty Crops: Fruits, vegetables, nuts, horticulture and other specialty products now make up almost 50 percent of the farm gate receipts in this country. Our four states alone contribute over half of this amount and their production is an important component of the agricultural sector in our states. This farm bill should provide increased funding and program flexibility for specialty crop programs, including research and development of production, harvesting, and handling techniques, and open up USDA's commodity, conservation, and disaster assistance programs, in which specialty crop producers have traditionally had limited opportunity to participate. We agree that it is necessary to not only increase funding but also provide a permanent allocation for the Specialty Crop Block Grant that was authorized in the Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act of 2004. This grant has been used with great success by states to provide a wide array of programs that assist our specialty crop producers to maintain and enhance their competitiveness in the market.

* Invasive Species: Whether it is Citrus Canker in Florida, the Asian Longhorned Beetle in New York, the Glassy Winged Sharpshooter in California, or the Mexican fruit fly in Texas, invasive species are a serious problem and require a significant commitment of resources to address. It is essential that the Farm Bill include strong language that provides critical resources in a timely fashion to vigorously respond to and eradicate these threats. Full funding for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is necessary. It is important that, while maintaining funding levels for pest management, additional dollars also be provided for prevention efforts on ports and other pathways of entry. As border states, we all have increased susceptibility through our ports and borders.

* Crop Insurance: Increasing the amount of risk eligible for crop insurance coverage and expanding the safety net programs for all farmers, including crop specific revenue insurance, should be part of a final Farm Bill. Also, a structure should be established for providing assistance beyond crop insurance after natural disasters. There is a tangible need for a long-term solution to the ad hoc nature of current disaster assistance.

* Conservation: The farm bill must reauthorize and expand funding for all conservation programs as a strategic investment in our nation's agricultural infrastructure. By increasing outreach and technical assistance funding, states can more effectively deliver and target conservation programs to those farmers who want to participate in the most cost effective environmental programs. By bolstering partnerships with cooperating organizations and agencies, we enhance the availability of technical assistance. Conserving farmland, rangelands, and private forests benefits all Americans.

* Nutrition: The Farm Bill must maintain the highly successful Food Stamp Program (FSP), including Food Stamp Nutrition Education, as part of efforts to promote healthy eating and help prevent obesity. Despite recent national increases in participation and significant reductions in state error rates, challenges within the FSP remain. There are simply too many households eligible for benefits that do not participate, particularly among the working poor. States need the flexibility to develop and implement systems that enable more eligible individuals to receive food stamps. It is also essential that the Farm Bill support healthy diets, farmers market programs, better nutrition and greater access to fruits and vegetables. Expanding initiatives such as the successful Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program will promote achievement of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and help to realize our mutual goal to improve nutrition for low-income families and communities for generations to come.

* Organic Agriculture: We support provisions that expand support for organic products, allowing our farmers to access this growing and lucrative market. To meet this increasing consumer demand for organic food, we should support farmers who have decided to use organic techniques, especially those who are transitioning to organic agriculture.

We understand that legislation of this scope and complexity involves a long and arduous process to realize final completion. We hope that as the legislative process continues, we can be a resource for you and your staffs as you consider these and many other important issues. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can provide more information.

Sincerely,

Governor Eliot Spitzer Governor Charlie Crist

Governor Rick Perry Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

cc: New York Congressional Delegation
Florida Congressional Delegation
Texas Congressional Delegation
California Congressional Delegation


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