Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for the 'Agriculture' Category

House Dems applaud DiFi water plan’s failure

A bunch of Northern California House members are relieved that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has pulled the plug on closed-door negotiations over a California water bill.

“You’ve got to work with people to get something done,” Feinstein, D-Calif., told the Associated Press on Thursday, adding that “I’m going to put together a first-day bill for the next Congress, and it can go through the regular order.”

But the question of which people she’s working with remains. Feinstein and California’s House Republicans have been pushing water bills without the usual mark-up hearings, with House Democrats largely excluded and little or no public scrutiny.

Representatives Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; George Miller, D-Martinez; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento; Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton; John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; and Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, issued a joint statement Thursday saying they’re glad Feinstein’s effort failed.

“We are pleased Senator Feinstein will not be pursuing passage of the water legislation secretly negotiated by her and House Republicans. This legislation would have eviscerated environmental laws protecting fisheries, California watersheds, local water supplies, and tribal and local economies in order to benefit a few powerful Delta water exporters,” they said. “We applaud the Senator for stepping away from this deeply flawed legislation and realizing that a bill of this magnitude requires public hearings and regular committee process.”

The lawmakers, whose mostly Delta-adjacent districts would be direct affected by such a bill, said they’ve been “raising serious objections to both the secretive process and the harmful content of this legislation” and will “continue to demand next year that any water legislation responding to California’s severe drought be balanced and take into consideration the array of stakeholders in California.”

Restore the Delta, a grassroots environmental protection group, had issued a statement blasting the possible bill a few hours before news broke that it won’t happen this year.

“Senator Feinstein is carrying water for industrial growers who have planted tens of thousands of acres of almonds and other permanent crops in the midst of the past several very dry years,” Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Restore the Delta’s executive director, said in a news release. “Sen. Feinstein is rushing through legislation to aid these growers at the expense of the rest of California.”

UPDATE @ 3:23 P.M.: This just in from Feinstein:

“Over the past several weeks I have been working closely with members of the California delegation who expressed interest in reaching a bipartisan agreement on legislation to address California’s drought crisis without violating the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act or biological opinions.

“Although we have made progress, it has become clear that we will be unable to present an agreed-upon proposal before Congress adjourns this year.

“I deeply believe the people want both parties to work together, and that is the only way we will be able to enact water legislation. Claims that this has been some kind of secret process are false. In order to come up with a bill that is ready for public comment, back-and-forth negotiations and consultations are often necessary, including extensive technical assistance from federal and state agencies. That process is ongoing and we have no agreed-upon bill at this time.

“It is important to remember there is a real human face to this crisis. Some communities can no longer deliver water to homes. Thousands of residential wells have run dry. And many families lack very basic necessities like water for showers and cooking.

“California is in a state of prolonged drought, and we must come together to find ways to provide the water necessary for life and well-being. This isn’t about corporate agriculture, this is about California.

“It’s my hope that groups critical of this effort will strive to be productive rather than destructive. It’s clear that we need to get more water to our cities, businesses, farmers, households, fish and the Delta. And it’s equally important that we continue to protect wildlife and the environment. Only together will we stand a chance of agreeing on a bill that can help accomplish all of these goals.”

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014
Under: Agriculture, Ami Bera, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, Mike Thompson, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, water | 1 Comment »

Senators target tobacco crop insurance subsidy

Taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance for tobacco production would be eliminated under a farm-bill amendment introduced Monday by U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and John McCain.

Tobacco fieldThe senators say their amendment would save $333 million over the next decade, and direct all savings to be used to reduce the federal budget deficit. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has indicated the amendment will get a vote.

“It’s time for the American taxpayer to get out of the business of subsidizing tobacco—once and for all,” Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a news release. “Tobacco costs our economy $200 billion in health care costs and lost productivity each year. In this challenging budget environment, we simply can’t afford to spend hundreds of millions of dollar to incentivize farmers to grow this crop.”

The Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act of 2004 ended most direct taxpayer support programs for tobacco production. But despite this $10 billion buyout pact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture still offers heavily subsidized crop insurance policies to tobacco farmers. Last year, USDA offered eight separate tobacco insurance products costing $34.7 million in taxpayer subsidies; records show more than $276 million in such subsidies have been spent since 2004.

“It turns out Joe Camel’s nose has been under the tent all this time,” McCain, R-Ariz., said in the news release.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that cigarette smoking adds $96 billion to domestic healthcare expenses and costs the American economy $97 billion in lost productivity every year; secondhand smoke adds another estimated $10 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Tobacco farmers will still be able to buy policies from existing insurance providers at market rate under the Feinstein-McCain amendment, which is supported by the Environmental Working Group, Taxpayers for Common Sense and the American Cancer Society.

Posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2013
Under: Agriculture, Dianne Feinstein, John McCain, U.S. Senate | 4 Comments »

Pelosi names Garamendi to Agriculture Committee

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi today named Rep. John Garamendi to the House Agriculture Committee for the final few weeks of this 112th Congress, even as the House might take up a big farm bill during the lame-duck session.

Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Garamendi, D-Fairfield, expect approval of the assignment at Wednesday’s House Democratic Caucus meeting. This is a committee seat that was left vacant in August by the sudden retirement of Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced.

John Garamendi“I didn’t enter Congress to twiddle my thumbs and sit quietly in the background. I must be where the needs of my district are and that’s in the final negotiations for the five-year farm bill,” Garamendi said in a news release Tuesday. “I want to thank Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi for giving me this opportunity to serve where I am needed.”

He said passing a good farm bill is important to the family farmers in his newly drawn 3rd Congressional District, where he won re-election this month by turning away a challenge from Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann, a Republican. But the food aid contained in the bill will provide vital help to struggling families across the state, he added.

“As a farmer and rancher, I know we need to get this done, and I will work around the clock to make sure California specialty crops and commodity programs are protected,” he said.

House rules dictate that joining the Agriculture Committee requires Garamendi to resign from the House Natural Resources Committee, which he did today; he’ll continue serving on the Armed Services Committee in this lame-duck session. Committee assignments for the new 113th Congress, which begins at noon on Thursday, Jan. 3, have not been announced yet.

Posted on Tuesday, November 27th, 2012
Under: Agriculture, Dennis Cardoza, John Garamendi, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | No Comments »

Ricky Gill wins Farm Bureau endorsement

Ricky Gill, the Lodi Republican challenging Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District, announced today that he’s been endorsed by the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Ricky Gill“Ricky Gill has grown up in the Central Valley and has firsthand experience in small business, dealing with regulations and encouraging the expansion of trade to grow our economy and create local jobs,” California Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger said in Gill’s release. “His family’s roots in agriculture have guided his life’s path, and he will make the needs of farmers and ranchers a priority as he represents his district in Washington.”

Wenger said Gill will be “an energetic advocate for his constituents and will support policies to help turn our economy around, to provide jobs and business opportunities for the next generation.”

Gill, 25, is the son of immigrants who are physicians but also own a 1,000-acre cherry farm and vineyard, an RV park and other business interests; he finished his Cal law degree earlier this year. He said he’s honored by the Farm Bureau’s endorsement: “I look forward to standing up for our farmers and ranchers so they can create jobs right here in the 9th District, where my family has been farming for 30 years.”

The California Farm Bureau Federation protects agricultural interests for more than 74,000 members statewide.

Would McNerney liked to have had this endorsement? Certainly.

Was he likely to get it? Some Democrats have won the California Farm Bureau Federation’s nod, including Dianne Feinstein, Mike Thompson and Jim Costa, but McNerney’s votes haven’t been so popular.

Is he lost without it? No. The Farm Bureau can be a powerful Central Valley force, but the 9th District isn’t its very strongest province: Stockton, entirely within the district, is urban and firmly Democratic. In the 2001 bipartisan gerrymander of the Central Valley, as Democrats sought to make then-Rep. Gary Condit’s seat safe for any Democrat except the ag-popular but scandal-ridden Condit, it was accomplished by redrawing the district to include Stockton. Farming interests are powerful in the district, but not all-powerful.

Posted on Wednesday, September 12th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, Agriculture, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House, water | 2 Comments »

GMO labeling campaign says it’s ballot-bound

Activists say they’ll submit more than enough signatures tomorrow to put on November’s ballot California’s first measure to require labeling of genetically engineered food.

The California Right to Know campaign is planning victory rallies at 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 2 in San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego as mothers deliver the petitions in strollers, representing this issue’s importance to future generations.

A genetically engineered food is a plant or meat product that has had its DNA artificially altered by genes from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria; for example, much of the U.S. corn and soy crops are genetically engineered to produce their own pesticide or withstand high doses of weed killer. Europe plus Japan and China already have laws requiring labeling of foods containing GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

“Unlike the strict safety evaluations required for the approval of new drugs, the safety of genetically engineered foods for human consumption is not adequately tested,” the campaign’s website says. “Studies show that genetically engineering food can create new, unintended toxicants and increase allergens, and other health problems. Experts around the world agree that by labeling genetically engineered food, we can help identify any adverse health reactions that these foods may cause.”

The campaign has been funded in large part so far by natural products companies including Mercola.com Health Resources, Nature’s Path Foods USA Inc., Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps All-One-God-Faith Inc., and Wehah Farm Inc.

The proposed measure is opposed by the Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition, which is funded so far by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Council for Biotechnology Information but also includes the California Chamber of Commerce, California Retailers Association and the California Farm Bureau Federation. The coalition says the measure would ban the sale of tens of thousands of common, safe products unless they’re specially repackaged just for California.

“This measure isn’t about the ‘right to know’, it’s about the right to sue,” California Retailers Association President and CEO Bill Dombrowski said in a recent news release. “It creates a whole new category of lawsuits that will allow lawyers to get rich by suing small family farmers, grocers, retailers and other businesses. We’ll all pay for these frivolous lawsuits through higher costs at the checkout stand.”

Posted on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Under: Agriculture, ballot measures | 6 Comments »

Stark helps lead move against ethanol subsidies

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, helped spearhead a bipartisan letter sent today to House leaders urging them to let taxpayer-funded ethanol subsidies expire this year.

The letter was signed by 30 Democrats – including Stark, George Miller, Jackie Speier, Mike Honda and Zoe Lofgren – as well as by 37 Republicans, and was directed to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

Here’s the text:

As the first session of the 112th Congress comes to a close, we urge you to allow ethanol subsidies set to expire to do just that and to resist calls to expand or create new ethanol subsidies in the eleventh hour.

The ethanol industry has benefited from a tax credit incentivizing production, an import tariff shielding it from competition, and a renewable fuels mandate creating demand. Both the volumetric ethanol excise tax credit and the prohibitive import tariff are set to expire at the end of this year. These benefits were not permanent in nature for a reason. Congress anticipated the ethanol industry one day being sufficiently mature to stand on its own. It is difficult to make the argument that this day has not arrived. With widespread concern across a spectrum of issues including anti-hunger, fiscal, environmental, agricultural, good governance, and others, extending a billion dollar ethanol tax credit would appear out of the question and the prohibitive import tariff should be allowed to expire as well.

In addition, we urge you to oppose efforts to create new or expand existing subsidies that benefit the ethanol industry in the waning days of this session. For example, there has been the suggestion that the renewable fuels standard be revised to allow corn-based fuels to qualify as an advanced biofuel. Taxpayers deserve to have the future of federal ethanol policy fully vetted under regular order, an opportunity that is unlikely in the last days of the session.

Posted on Friday, December 9th, 2011
Under: Agriculture, energy, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

Dems can’t stop GOP ag spending bill

The House today voted 217-203 to pass H.R. 2112, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food & Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012, which Democrats say would cut 400,000 to 550,000 eligible low-income women and young children from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

No Democrats supported the bill; 19 Republicans opposed it.

Critics said the bill also would undermine food safety efforts, increasing the risk of food-borne illnesses, as well as risk another financial crisis and drive up gas prices by defunding the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat, issued a statement saying the bill “is harmful, ineffective and plays politics with our children’s health.”

“WIC is a necessity for thousands of moms and their children, and these cuts are a slap in the face to those who rely on these services to help feed their families. There is no place for partisan politics when it comes to the well-being of our children,” Miller said. “The Republicans also roll back important and historic substantive changes we made to the school meals program last Congress. For millions of children, the meals they eat at school serve as a nutritional safety net – denying these children healthy options at school is just another example of House Republicans choosing to prioritize oil companies and big business instead of the children who need our help the most.”

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kent., said the bill “answers the call from Americans to reduce government spending while still providing for critical programs that keep American agriculture competitive in a global economy.

“The funding in this bill will help our rural communities to thrive, provide daily nutrition to children and families across the country, and keep our food and drug supply safe,” Rogers said. “This legislation will also help to put the Department of Agriculture, the FDA, and other agencies back on a sustainable budget path that is accountable to the taxpayers of this country.”

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, spoke against it repeatedly on the House floor:

More of Garamendi’s opposition to the bill, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Under: Agriculture, George Miller, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Lawmakers urge you to ‘eat local’ on Sundays

Some California lawmakers want you to light a fire under the state’s economy by “eating local.”

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco; Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston; and Foster Farms marketing director Ira Brill will be joined by other state lawmakers and agricultural leaders at a news conference tomorrow morning on the State Capitol’s steps to announce a resolution – ACR 42, introduced Monday – calling on Californians to prepare meals made exclusively from California-grown ingredients at least every Sunday.

Ma’s office notes that while California produces 400 commodities and a significant amount of food for the rest of the country, Californians still spend a tremendous amount on out-of-state foods; $210 million is spent on out-of-state poultry alone, from states such as Texas and Arkansas.

Dedicating just one day a week to eating only California-grown foods could represent a consumption increase of up to $15.6 billion in sales, according to the effort’s Facebook page.

Posted on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
Under: Agriculture, Assembly, Fiona Ma | 3 Comments »

Piepho, Gioia say, ‘Eat (local) fruits and veggies’

Contra Costa County Supervisors Mary Nejedly Piepho of Discovery Bay and John Gioia of Richmond will introduce Tuesday a new ordinance called “Buy Fresh, Buy Local.”

They say it’s a “farming sustainability program connecting East County farmers and their locally grown produce with West County communities and urban schools.”

Piepho, Gioia and representatives from the Brentwood Agricultural Land Trust and the county’s Agricultural Advisory Task Force and local East County farmers will speak at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting at approximately 10 a.m. at 651 Pine Street in Martinez.

“The program will encourage public and private facilities in the county to purchase locally grown produce, improve access to West County communities and integrate the value of locally grown food and farm products into existing educational curricula,” according to a press release.

The pair said that “low income communities which have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables are at a higher risk of obesity and other health problems due to poor diet. Additionally, the new law would open opportunities for the Contra Costa Health Department to incorporate the importance of incorporating fresh locally grown produce into existing programs.”

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2008
Under: Agriculture, Contra Costa County | No Comments »