Fresno Farm Bill Forum

Congressmen Jim Costa and Dennis Cardoza, Central Valley Democrats, held a farm bill forum on April 28 in Fresno, California. This forum came on the heels of the Senate Agriculture Committee passing its 2012 Farm Bill out of committee and the House Agriculture Committee beginning its hearings on the bill. Without passage of a farm bill in 2012, key programs that support sustainable, rural communities and healthy food may be in jeopardy of deep cuts (see “Farm Bill Progress” above).

The California Caucus of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which includes CalCAN, reached out to local farmers to participate in the forum, and I attended.

John Teixeira, CCOF member and former Fresno-Tulare Chapter chair, presented at the forum. The Firebaugh, CA-farmer noted the growing number of organic farms in the valley, saying: “A number of my neighbors are adopting organic farming practices because of the economic, health, and environmental benefits it provides.”

John highlighted the importance of key organic programs, including the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program and conservation programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program. John also noted the need to prioritize USDA research of locally-adaptive cultivars because “seed is the backbone of agriculture, and without the varieties that are best suited to our local climate, soil, disease, and pests, we cannot be competitive.”

Dwayne Cardoza, CCOF Fresno-Tulare Chapter chair, Steve Koretoff, CCOF board member, and organic producers Mike Smith and Will Scott joined with John to make one of the largest contingents of farmers at the forum. At the forum’s end, the organic growers spoke with Congressman Costa about a number of key issues, including support for farmers’ markets and the need to eliminate the surcharge on organic crop insurance.

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