Wanted: More farm bill funding to grow California almond industry

California’s largest specialty crop is looking to the next federal farm bill for assistance with trade, conservation bioenergy, technical assistance, and research.

Almond Alliance President Kelly Covello’s remarks to the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture outlined the value of the California almond industry and the unique needs of its producers.

California almond producers attending the farm bill listening session held at Modesto also emphasized the importance of crop insurance, Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) funding, and the Market Access Program (MAP).

Covello said only 83 percent of California almond producers carry USDA-endorsed crop insurance which assists with catastrophic events and the risk rating process for producers seeking agricultural loans.

It is essential that funding levels increase in the 2018 farm bill, Covello said. There hasn’t been an increase in funding in several important programs in the last two farm bills even as challenges to agriculture have escalated. California’s rural communities depend on many farm bill programs to support economic development, public health, and safety infrastructure, she added.

Highlighting some of the most valuable programs, Covello noted that EQIP has been historically underfunded and despite requiring matching funds is always over-subscribed. This program benefits not only the producer, but local residents as well by providing financial and technical assistance to meet environmental standards. One example is the upgrade of agricultural motors to meet federal air quality standards.

The MAP and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) programs along with the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops are important as nearly 70 percent of California almonds are exported to consumers around the world. Covello said a 25 percent increase in production in the next 3-5 years would make these programs essential.

A 2016 econometric study of export demand by…

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