Costa blasted the House of Representatives for allowing the Farm Bill to disintegrate into petty, partisan politics. H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013, would have provided the certainty needed for Valley agriculture to thrive and continue producing the healthy, safe foods that American families put on their dinner tables every night. Instead, the House again passed the buck on reforming the nation's agriculture policies, which will hurt American families and farmers.
"Growing up on a dairy you always knew when you stepped in it, unfortunately most of my colleagues never worked in a dairy," said Costa. "The Farm Bill is a jobs bill, and this dysfunctional Congress failed yet again to provide economic certainty to any sector of our economy. Failure to pass this bill is a slap in the face of our nation's farmers, consumers, and rural economy. Sadly, the incompetence and short-sightedness of this body continues to amaze me.
Despite the Speaker's commitment to pass the bill, it fell short largely thanks to poison pill amendments that ultimately made passing it in the Senate impossible. My colleagues could learn a lot from the leadership Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Petersen showed in trying to find a balanced proposal that could gain bipartisan support.
I had strong reservations about a number of provisions in this bill, such as the cuts to the SNAP program. The bottom line was I supported the bill because there was too much good in this bill to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and we could have reached a compromise with the Senate. That is what the legislative process is about; it's time to end this cycle of take it or leave it politics and do our jobs.
Instead, my colleagues put partisan, parochial interests above protecting families from more uncertainty in their grocery bills. I would expect better and will continue to work with them to see that we pass a bipartisan Farm Bill."
H.R. 1947 included the following gains for Valley agriculture:
- $600 million over 10 years for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) to encourage the development of new technologies and improved efficiencies in the production of specialty crops.
- $375 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grants Program over the life of the 2013 Farm Bill to strengthen the market for the specialty crops we grow in our Valley like fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
- $630 million over 10 years to prevent the introduction and spread of plant pests and diseases.
- Maintains level funding ($1.75 billion) for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) that assists farmers with upgrades that improve Valley air quality.
- Opportunity for California dairy producers to vote on entering the Federal Milk Marketing Order.
- Equitable Relief for Specialty Crop Policies with funding of $41 million annually over the next 5 years
- Expansion of Risk Management options for specialty crops and underserved commodities
During debate of amendments to the legislation, Costa supported an amendment that would restore funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Costa also offered an amendment that would create a pilot program to help rural municipalities address nitrate contamination in their drinking water supply.
Congressman Costa has been a strong advocate for passing a Farm Bill that will modernize the nation's agriculture policies and provide certainty to Valley agriculture, the economic engine of the region. Raised on a dairy farm in the Kearney Park area, Costa is a third-generation family farmer.