Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Mexico Congressional Delegation Supports Initiatives that Benefit State's Farmers

While most of our attention is rightfully focused on what impact the budget reductions proposed in the 2013 Farm Bill will have on safety-net nutrition programs, there are a number of other issues related to this wide-ranging food-policy legislation that are also important.  Many of these issues deal with conservation, growers markets, and support for small farmers.  These issues have an impact on every one of the 50 states.  

So what is the impact on New Mexico? The New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council  has put together a great summary on legislative activities on the part of our elected officials from New Mexico in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives regarding this issues. The summary is posted below.  

By Clark de Schweinitz, Pam Roy, and Kathleen Gonzalez

Senator Martin Heinrich has co-sponsored amendment S.954 Food and Agriculture Market Development, Entrepreneurship, and Education introduced by Senator Brown (D-OH) that includes several great provisions:

Fixing the Community Food Project Competitive Grant Program language and increasing funding from $5 million to $10 million per year in mandatory funds
  • Increasing the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program mandatory funding to $23.1 million in 2014 and $25.6 million for fiscal years 2015-18
  • Increasing funding for Value Added Producer Grants from $12.5 million to $20 million per year
  • Increasing funding for Farmers' Market and Local Food Promotion Grants from $20 million to $30 million; and loans for local food enterprises
If you are from outside New Mexico, please contact your Senators and ask them to co-sponsor this amendment.

In addition, Senator Heinrich is co-sponsoring amendments SA.1008 Food and Agriculture Market Development, Entrepreneurship and Education, and SA.1055 Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program and Veteran Producer Training.

Senator Tom Udall has taken the lead on numerous very important initiatives that would benefit New Mexico farmers and ranchers including co-sponsoring of amendments SA.1055 Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program and Veteran Producer Training and SA.1049 Irrigation Efficiency and Water Conservation. He is also working with Senator Whitehead on SA.1058 Conservation Payments for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation.

Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham has been working tirelessly to learn about the needs of New Mexico's agriculture community. She put her skills to good use on the House Agriculture Committee by co-sponsoring the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013. She also took the lead on the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers amendment which did not pass the Agriculture Committee last week. Lujan-Grisham is also providing an important voice for the SNAP Education Program.

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan also co-sponsored the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act and continues to support many of our Farm Bill priorities.

For more information here are links to two summaries of of these and other Farm Bill amendments.. The first outlines amendments that match NMFAPC Priorities, the second lists amendments targeted by the Rural Coalition.
In the meantime, Congress has started a week-long recess. It's not yet certain when the Senate will take up the Farm Bill again, though it could be as early as the week of June 3. Alternatively senators could wait until after they work on immigration reform, although our colleagues at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) say it seems increasingly likely that the the Senate will stay on the Farm Bill.

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