Salazar Hails 2007 Farm Bill As Win For Colorado Farmers
As one of the few farmers serving in Congress, U.S. Rep. John Salazar (CO-3) successfully secured $1.7 billion over the next five years for specialty crops in the 2007 Farm Bill (H.R. 2419) that passed out of the House Agriculture Committee and now moves to the full House for consideration.
"For the first time in U.S. history, the 2007 Farm Bill invests in specialty crops and renewable energy, and it continues to support nutrition while supporting America's farmers," said Rep. Salazar. "By supporting our farmers we continue to strengthen our national security. For the first time last year, we became net importers for specialty crops. The only thing scarier than being dependent on foreign oil is being dependent on foreign food. However, the 2007 Farm Bill will help move our country in a new direction and help Americans depend less on other countries for their food supply."
Increased funding for specialty crops is just one of several provisions that Salazar was able to get his fellow members of the agriculture committee to include in the Farm Bill. Other victories include an amendment to increase broadband access to rural residents; successfully fighting to keep local Farm State Agency offices open in rural parts of the state; and an amendment helping Hispanic Serving Institutes (HSI) such as Alamosa's Adams State College, Alamosa's Trinidad State Junior College, and Grand Junction's Mesa State College to competitively apply with other HSI's for federal dollars.
More details on these amendments and funding are included below:
Specialty Crops' Funding
Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and nursery products. Examples of these crops in Colorado include potatoes, lettuce, onions, and grapes including those from the Western Slope vineyards. They are a critical part of the nation's agriculture industry, constituting nearly 50 percent of cash receipts. Specialty crops are produced in every state and have a considerable impact on local economies.
Nationally, this funding would support specialty crop growers by increasing market access, encouraging and facilitating consumption of nutritious agricultural products, funding research programs and increasing opportunities for family farmers in conservation programs.
The specialty crop funding would be used in the following ways:
Competitiveness: Increases access to valuable export markets by increasing the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops program and the Market Access Program and by raising the profile of specialty crops within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other key federal agencies. Expands the Specialty Crop Block Grant program to assist local growers with the specific investments they need to increase competitiveness.
Renewable Energy Development: Requires the USDA to develop an inventory on a state and county basis of specialty crop waste and residues that could be utilized in the production of energy, fuels, and petroleum-based product substitutes. It would reauthorize the Agriculture Bioenergy Program for the duration of the Farm Bill and provides that specialty crop biomass is included under the program. It also authorizes the USDA to issue grants for the development of a business plan to use specialty crop biomass to produce energy, fuels, petroleum-based product substitutes, or other value-added products.
Nutrition: Requires federal feeding programs, including the school lunch and school breakfast programs, to adhere to the 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines. Expands the fruit and vegetable snack program in schools across the nation and develops new nutrition promotion programs to assist producers in enhancing their markets.
Research: Significant new investment in research priorities for specialty crops, through the National Research Initiative, Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) and Agriculture Research Service (ARS). Increases research into the prevention of invasive plant pests and diseases.
Conservation: Increases opportunities for specialty crop producers to access conservation programs by recognizing the unique characteristics of their farming operations in formula allocations and funding priorities.
Rural Broadband Access
This amendment would ensure the federal government employs an effective and comprehensive strategy to deploy broadband service and access in the rural areas of the United States. Moreover, the USDA would be charged with developing a comprehensive rural broadband strategy to facilitate broadband access in rural areas as quickly as possible.
Keep Colorado's Rural Farm Service Agency Offices Open
Currently, the USDA is cutting back and closing down some of these offices that provide great resources to farmers. If these offices were to close, farmers would have to drive up to three hours to the nearest office. Salazar supported an amendment that would continue funding to keep these offices open. There is one office assigned to every county in Colorado.
Increasing Funding For Colorado Colleges
This amendment will allow HSI's to have better access to funding for college agricultural programs within the research title of the Farm Bill. Colorado colleges that would be affected include Alamosa's Adams State College, Grand Junction's Mesa State College and Alamosa's Trinidad State Junior College.