Democratic Rep. Lois Capps spent Monday talking local agriculture at a Paso Robles farm supply store in an effort to explain how the recently enacted Agriculture Act of 2014 will benefit San Luis Obispo County growers, namely through drought assistance. She also toured a Morro Bay avocado farm. At noon Monday, the U.S. congresswoman held a news conference at Farm Supply Co. in Paso Robles alongside Dale Evenson, president of the Cattlemen’s Association of San Luis Obispo County, and members of the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau.
Gary Troester from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency also spoke about federal drought assistance programs available to local farmers.
The farm bill, which passed the House in late January and was signed into law in February, will cost $956 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Nearly 80 percent of that amount will fund nutrition programs.
The bill also replaced billions of dollars in subsidies to farmers with a federal crop insurance program and cut about $8 billion from the food stamp program over the next decade.
According to Capps’ office, other key parts of the bill include:
$55 million in annual funding for specialty crop research to develop new technology and encourage efficiency in the specialty crop industry.
$375 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grants Program over the life of the bill to strengthen the market for locally grown specialty crops such as fruits, vegetables and nuts.
$325 million for the prevention of plant pests and diseases.
$200 million for the Market Access Program, which aims to develop and expand foreign markets for agricultural products such as strawberries and wine.
Capps also spoke about the ongoing drought, noting that the bill includes $100 million to help cover losses of livestock.
“The 2014 Farm Bill is a big win for Central Coast agriculture,” Capps said in a statement before the event. “It includes strong support for programs our local farmers depend on, such as specialty crop grants, agriculture research and pest management.”
The conference was followed with a tour of the Morro Creek Ranch avocado farm in Morro Bay.