The farm bill is an omnibus, multi-year authorizing legislation that sets policy for an array of agricultural and food programs. The farm bill is renewed every five years, with some exceptions.
The current farm bill, The Agricultural Act of 2014, was signed into law by President Obama on Feb. 7, 2014, and allows for continuation of key programs for specialty crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) implements the many programs funded by the farm bill.
Farm bill programs of interest to the almond industry include:
Tree Assistance Program (TAP) — Qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers who experienced losses from natural disasters that occurred on or after Oct. 1, 2011, can sign up for TAP. TAP provides financial assistance to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) — Funding to help farmers and ranchers implement conservation practices that conserve scarce water resources, reduce erosion on fields and other conservation efforts is available through EQIP.
National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program — Funding is available for USDA-certified organic producers and handlers for certification-related expenses they incur from Oct. 1, 2013, through Sept. 30, 2014. Payments cover up to 75% of an individual producer’s or handler’s certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per certification.
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the most sweeping reform of food safety laws in more than 70 years. Signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011, it aims to ensure the US food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. The ABC has worked with industry members to craft comments on several issues of importance to the California Almond industry. They include:
Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food
Standard for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption
Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals
Designation of High-Risk Foods for Tracing
Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals
Focused Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration
The State Water Board Releases Draft Flow Objectives for San Joaquin River
The State Water Resources Control Board released a draft proposal to update water quality requirements for salinity in the southern Delta and water flows in major tributaries to the San Joaquin River (the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced Rivers), which drain into the southern Delta.
The SWB staff proposal recommends a range of between 30 and 50 percent of unimpaired flow, with a starting point of 40 percent. The SWB’s staff analysis shows that this range will provide reasonable protection of fish and wildlife while moderating impacts to water supply for agriculture, drinking water and other uses.
Stakeholders are encouraged to work together to present the SWB with voluntary agreements that would implement Bay-Delta Plan objectives for fish and wildlife beneficial uses. Voluntary agreements to implement non-flow actions that improve conditions for fish and wildlife may reduce flows needed within the 30to 50 percent range.
Accompanying the proposed Bay-Delta Plan update was a comprehensive staff report, known as a Substitute Environmental Document (SED. The SED analyzes the impacts, benefits, and costs of the proposed revisions.
Comments on the draft SED are due on Nov. 15, 2016. A public hearing will be held over three days beginning on Nov. 2 in Sacramento, continuing Nov. 4 in Modesto and concluding Nov. 10 in Sacramento. The SWB will then hold an additional public meeting to consider the proposed Bay-Delta Plan amendments in early 2017.