Ag Act Advances from Judiciary Committee

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WASHINGTON -- Late on Wednesday afternoon, the House Judiciary Committee approved H.R.4092, the Agricultural Guestworker Act (AG Act) on a close 17-16 vote. The Committee’s action is just the first step in what will be a long and important legislative process. Federal legislation is needed to fully address the labor crisis afflicting agriculture and horticulture in America. Chairman Bob Goodlatte and the Committee have tackled this challenge by drafting a bill that revamps the H-2A guest worker program, which he considers dysfunctional and difficult for the business owners who rely on it.

"It is a costly, time-consuming, and flawed program," Goodlatte said in a statement. "They must expend a great deal of time and money each season in order to prove to the federal government what nearly everybody already knows to be the case: legal, dependable domestic farm labor is very hard to find."

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Growers Hope Administration Changes Water Rule

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YAKIMA, Wash. — Northwest growers should not make any changes to their water quality plans and testing while the Trump administration reviews agricultural water rules adopted by the Obama administration, says Kate Woods, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima.

The Food and Drug Administration is also trying to clarify whether packing houses are farms or processors, Woods said.

The FDA announced Sept. 12 a 60-day review of a proposed rule to extend deadlines for compliance with agricultural water requirements of the Produce Safety Rule of the Food Safety Modernization Act by two to four years while the requirements are reviewed. The Produce Safety Rule was announced by the Obama administration on Nov. 27, 2015.

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Opinion: The Zero-Sum 2018 Farm Bill

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American Soybean Association (ASA) and other farm organizations have been urging Congressional leaders to provide additional funds to the Agriculture Committees so they can write a new farm bill in 2018 that responds to the difficult times farmers are facing. In the absence of outside assistance, however, the Committees and groups that support enactment of the farm bill are facing some tough decisions over the next few months. We will need the active support and participation of all farm bill sectors to get the best possible legislation during what can be described as highly uncertain times for production agriculture in the United States.

There are a lot of scenarios floating around Washington about how and when the 2018 Farm Bill will get done. Just last week, a proposal to cut spending in the farm bill was dropped during negotiations on a Budget Resolution for FY-2018. However, several bills have been introduced that would slash the crop insurance program by reducing the premium subsidy, capping indemnities, or means-testing participant income. With opponents of farm legislation on both the left and the right working together, it is essential for supporters – from farm organizations to conservation groups to the anti-hunger community – to have each other’s back.

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Wildfires Prompt Congressional Push For Better Disaster Prevention in California

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California Sens. Dianne Feinstein an Kamala Harris continue to press for a bill to help the state better prepare for wildfires.

The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would provide emergency funding for wildfires, much the same way the federal government handles other natural disasters like tornadoes and floods, without draining resources for forestry management and other long-term fire suppression work that seeks to help prevent the rapid spread of future fires.

The height of wildfire season in California is underway. Feinstein and Harris are urging Congress to reach a bipartisan agreement.

“With temperatures soaring into the triple digits and dry winds continuing to blow, this fire season is far from over,” Feinstein said in a statement. “We must take action now to help those who need it and to prepare for the future.”

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USDA Offers Help to California Agriculture

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set aside $4 million to help farmers and ranchers impacted by the California wildfires recover.

USDA also announced Monday that households impacted by recent wildfires in Northern California could be eligible for help buying food through USDA’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

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