The changes were negotiated earlier this year by Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, and California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, both Democrats. The bill’s inclusion of the Salton Sea could also nudge California closer to approving a Colorado River drought contingency plan.
Officials said for the first time the Salton Sea now has access to guaranteed federal funding to help clean up environmental and public health issues caused by farming and water withdrawals. The sea, the state’s largest lake, is rapidly drying and releasing toxic dust clouds…
State officials have allocated a minimum of $10 million for a first phase program to build ponds and wetlands to cover growing stretches of dusty lake bed. The federal programs could provide matching funds or more.
The bill could also indirectly help with seven-state drought contingency plans to conserve Colorado River water.
The Imperial Irrigation District, which is entitled to the largest share of the river water, has signaled their support for one plan, but set conditions for signing it, including an ironclad guarantee of funding for the shrinking Salton Sea…
During talks in Las Vegas last week on the drought plans, Bureau of Reclamation chief Brenda Burman said, “I would caution folks … not to add unrealistic demands.”
IID president Jim Hanks fired back at her comments at a board meeting on Monday.
“It’s one thing to make bold statements from a Washington D.C. office or the luxurious Caesar’s Palace hotel ballroom. It’s something entirely different to see the shrinking sea or widening shoreline with your own eyes, or to witness a child or grandchild struggling to breathe due to their worsening asthma,” he said. “A shrinking sea … will blow untold quantities of fine dust in the air. … Matching federal funding for the Salton Sea makes up one-tenth of one percent of the $900 billion 2018 Farm Bill. That seems entirely reasonable.”
On Wednesday, Dec. 12, the House of Representatives passed the 2018 Farm Bill 369-47. The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday 87-13.
The Farm Bill, which among other provisions removes hemp from the list of federally controlled substances, now moves to the president’s desk for signature. The San Luis Valley is one of the areas in Colorado embracing hemp as a viable crop, and Colorado was the number-one hemp producing state in the nation last year with more than 10,000 acres.
Corbett Hefner, vice president of Research and Development for Power Zone Agriculture, a Valley company that has designed farm equipment to accommodate hemp production, said, “As an innovator developing hemp fiber-specific manufacturing technology, Power Zone is thrilled to see clarification at the federal level on industrial hemp in this Farm Bill. Thanks to this key step, we can take our business to the next level in rural Colorado and across the nation.”
Colorado State Senator and hemp producer Don Coram said, “As the sponsor of establishing hemp regulations in 2013 and actually becoming a hemp grower in 2017, I am thrilled that Colorado is leading the nation in this burgeoning new industry. The lack of clarity for hemp in federal law has long stalled the hemp industry from taking off. I appreciate Senator Bennet’s work on behalf of Colorado hemp growers to fully legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp. Colorado’s hemp industry will certainly benefit from this provision.”
Other agricultural leaders were also pleased with the passage of the Farm Bill.
For example, San Luis Valley resident and Colorado Farm Bureau President Don Shawcroft said, “The passage of the 2018 farm bill is welcome news for Colorado farmers and ranchers. Not only will it ensure the safety net for producers, maintain and expand environmental stewardship programs, promote international trade and provide needed support to disadvantaged families, it removes future uncertainty for an industry struggling amongst low commodity prices.”
Colorado Potato Administrative Committee Executive Director Jim Ehrlich said, “The new Farm Bill continues to make great investments for specialty crop producers in the research arena, including fully funding the Specialty Crop Research Initiative at $80 million annually, and reauthorizing the Specialty Crop Block Grant program. The potato industry has truly benefited from these programs. In addition, the bill provides important trade promotion funding through the Market Access Program and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops program. Twenty percent of the U. S. potato crop is exported annually so a healthy trade environment is vital to the industry.”
Ehrlich added, “There are other provisions in the bill that will have potential positive impacts on the Valley as a whole, including making hemp legal nationally and eligible for crop insurance, and enhancements to the conservation title. In my opinion it represents a job well done by congress and how congress should function.”
Zoila Gomez, lead coordinator at San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition’s Cooking Matters, said, “The reauthorization of the Farm Bill only strengthens our commitment in The San Luis Valley and across the state to continue to educate and motivate our participants to make healthy and physical activity choices within a limited budget through the Cooking Matters Campaign by Share Our Strength. We are grateful for all of those who advocated and voted for the Farm Bill … In an era of social media, people do love learning about nutrition, cooking healthy meals and dining together. The passing of the Farm Bill allows us to continue to bring together more people and move on with our mission.”
“On behalf of beef cattle producers in Colorado, we support the hard work toward passage and the outcomes of the 2019 Farm Bill, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association President Mike Hogue said. “The bi-partisan legislation will continue the meaningful work of ranches and farms in conserving our natural resources while opening up the world to our high-quality foods, like beef. Furthermore, CCA is pleased with funding that will go toward protecting our livestock from foreign animal diseases through additional research and preparedness. These points and others contained in the 2018 Farm Bill support the global approach to food security and stewardship our producers have.”
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, “The passage of the 2019 Farm Bill is good news because it provides a strong safety net for farmers and ranchers, who need the dependability and certainty this legislation affords. This Farm Bill will help producers make decisions about the future, while also investing in important agricultural research and supporting trade programs to bolster exports. While I feel there were missed opportunities in forest management and in improving work requirements for certain SNAP recipients, this bill does include several helpful provisions and we will continue to build upon these through our authorities. I commend Congress for bringing the Farm Bill across the finish line and am encouraging President Trump to sign it.”
Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Don Brown said, “The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill is more than a success for U.S. farm and ranch families; it’s a powerful win for all Americans. This country relies on a strong, abundant supply of the food, fiber, and fuel provided by America’s agricultural community. The programs within the 2018 Farm Bill provide true value to the people of Colorado, including expanding the Conservation Reserve Program acreage and legalizing hemp to help create more consistent programs as a U.S. crop. In particular, adjusting the Agriculture Risk Coverage/Price Loss Coverage program provides a vital safety net for producers.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director Bob Broscheid said, “Colorado’s wildlife and agriculture will both benefit from the 2018 Farm Bill; it’s a win-win. A long list of Colorado’s wildlife and recreation depends on working agricultural landscapes for food and cover, and the farm bill has several provisions that provide substantial incentives for farmers and ranchers to invest in practices that maintain wildlife habitat, as well as voluntary public access programs. Private lands are critical to Colorado’s quality of life, and this farm bill will provide the funding needed to ensure continued conservation of our soil, water, and wildlife.”