Washington, D.C. -- Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico's Third District voted today in support of a new Farm Bill that makes reforms and extends programs for five years that support ranchers, farmers, and dairy producers. The Farm Bill conference report passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 251 to 166. The bill included provisions that Luján has long supported and worked hard to see were included in the final version, including funding for an additional year of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and language that enables Acequia and Community Ditch Associations to compete for federal funds.
"The Farm Bill has been years in the making, and finally passing this legislation is a big step forward that will help farmers, ranchers, and dairy producers in New Mexico -- especially as many in our community face challenging drought conditions," Luján said. "I am pleased this legislation includes a provision I worked on that will open up opportunities for Acequia and Community Ditch Associations to apply for federal funds. These funds can help farmers and ranchers tend to the health of the acequias that are essential to their livelihood and the culture of New Mexico."
During debate on the House Farm Bill last year, Luján offered an amendment to enable Acequia Community Ditch Associations to apply for federal funds within the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). The amendment, which was adopted by a voice vote, would remove burdensome roadblocks to improve conservation practices and manage scare water resources, thereby strengthening the acequias that provide irrigation for local farmers. Luján's efforts, along with the support of the New Mexico delegation, helped secure language in the bill that is similar to the amendment and will allow Acequia and Community Ditch Associations to form partnerships and apply for federal grants through EQIP as well as a number of other federal programs.
Luján did express strong disappointment with the level of funding for nutrition programs that was included in the bill. The legislation cuts $8 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by closing a loophole that impacts one-third of states, of which New Mexico is not one, but does not put the money back into the program.
"While these changes reform the food assistance program, I would have preferred that the savings were reinvested to support families that are struggling to put food on the table," Luján added. "Even though the funding level in this bill far exceeds what House Republicans advocated for when they moved to slash $39 billion last year, we cannot abandon our efforts to combat hunger in our communities."