In search of a bipartisan farm bill ( The Packer )

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., spoke with passion about the farm bill and fruits and vegetables in recent remarks recorded in the Congressional Record. From March 6, with the heading “Passing a strong, bipartisan farm bill.”

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about the challenges that we face, not only in my constituency as it relates to California agriculture, but a host of other issues as well.  We are in the process of trying to reauthorize the farm bill, something we do every 4 years. It used to be--and we hope it will continue this year--one of the more bipartisan efforts we are engaged in.

I represent not only the heartland of the San Joaquin Valley, but third-generation farmer.  Last week--as I do every weekend when I go home--I was walking the rows of the almond trees on my ranch outside of Fresno, California. They are beautiful.

They are in full bloom this time of year. There is not a time, though, in the year, in the San Joaquin Valley, where the incredible bounty of the 300 crops that we grow are not on display because they are always out there.  The blossoms in the spring grow into the almonds, walnuts, and pistachios until late summer. Tomatoes are harvested in August and September, followed by cotton in October and November.

The dairymen and dairy processors work every day because those cows have to be milked every day year-round to produce the finest quality milk, cheese, and butter.  As I walked through my orchard, I remembered the countless stories and insights by my fellow California farmers, ranchers, dairymen and - women shared with me over the past year, and I think about my father, who farmed all of his life, and my grandfather.

In anticipation of the 2018 farm bill, I have held round tables and listening sessions, attended agriculture townhalls, and met with our farmers and farm workers, who, every day, work so hard to put those food products on America’s dinner table.  I have done this to hear firsthand the concerns and priorities of our local producers, farm workers, and nutrition organizations regarding our Nation’s food supply. 

I have also had numerous meetings with key agriculture and trade officials, including Agriculture Secretary Perdue, who has been out to California a number of times.  And as we in Congress move together with farm bill negotiations, we must maintain strong support for the cultivation and production of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are the foundation of a healthy diet.

California produces over half of the Nation’s fruits and vegetables. It is truly amazing. Three hundred crops.  We must also make sure that we do not abandon our Nation’s most vulnerable through inhumane cuts to the nutrition programs that provide a steady source of food to our Nation’s food supply. We are talking about our safety net, we are talking about the SNAP program, and we are talking about Women, Infants, and Children.

This has been part of the glue on a bipartisan basis that has kept Democrats and Republicans together in the reauthorization of the farm bill.  But we must have a safety net for those who are most unfortunate in our society. We should work to expand foreign markets for our products and to incentivize sound conservation practices and research.

Research is very important to ensure the sustainability. Sustainability is critical--and continued growth of American agriculture.  We have the opportunity with the farm bill to address the crippling agriculture labor crisis afflicting our farms, and it must be addressed as we look at a broken immigration system that not only impacts our Dreamers--the DACA program--but a reliable supply of farm labor.  These are all among the issues that we must address to ensure that our Nation’s food supply is reliable, because, guess what, it is a national security issue. People don’t look at it that way.

People go into the grocery store and they think: Well, what is the problem; grocery stores have all the food in the world. They go to the restaurants, and they have all the food that you need.  But the food doesn’t go to the grocery store or to those restaurants without it being grown by America’s men and women who labor--less than 3 percent of the Nation’s population--to produce the finest, highest quality, greatest yield, most nutritious food anywhere in the world, every night on America’s dinner table. 

That is why we must come together--Democrats and Republicans--to improve our Nation’s food supply by passing a strong, bipartisan farm bill.

 

TK: But will the farm bill be bipartisan? That seems to be a question now, specifically related to the SNAP program.

Besides the farm bill, another slow-running train is the conversation about Dietary Guidelines for Americans. About 900 comments have been received so far at regulations.gov on the issue, many in favor of increased emphasis on fruits and vegetables, plenty railing on carbohydrates, and a few recommending more protein and a diet high in saturated fats. In general, the public comments indicate “carbs” still seem to be up against it and fruits and vegetables still have a golden health halo.

 

Here are just a few of the comments:

  • Based on the large amount of evidence based information on the health benefits of a plant based diet I would like to strongly recommend that the dietary guidelines reflect this science. We know that Animal based food are major contributors to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Because we know this we have a moral obligation to not recommended these foods. Kaiser Permanente the largest HMO in the USA recommends a Plant Based Diet. The World Health Organization has made a statement that processed meats are as dangerous as asbestos.
  • Everybody should look around at people the next time they go in public. Think about looking around at a different country. Many Americans are overweight. Many Americans have health issues that could be helped by what they eat. Let’s help Americans and the planet by switching to plant-based foods and encouraging plant-based foods. The USDA needs to think on its own and plan for the future.

 

  • I am a 68 year old woman diagnosed with T2D eight years ago with a A1C of 13.6. I also weighed over 300 pounds. In the past year I’ve been eating a Ketogenic diet which includes saturated fats like full fat diary and bacon. I am now at a normal weight. I am just one person but there are many thousands like me who have ignored the advice of their doctors and diabetes instructors and found an effective way to maintain a normal weight and put their diabetes into remission. With the US facing huge increases in obesity and diabetes, beginning with the time the dietary guidelines based on bad science were implemented, it’s time to admit it was mistake and help the citizens of this country reach and maintain a healthier life.

 

 

 

 
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