Padilla Urges Agriculture Committees to Include Permanent Disaster Relief for Agriculture in the Farm Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Representatives Mike Thompson (D-Calif.-04), Ken Calvert (R-Calif.-41), and Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.-01) urged the House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry to incorporate permanent disaster assistance for agricultural producers and communities in the upcoming Farm Bill.

The letter calls for the inclusion of Padilla, Thompson, and LaMalfa’s Agricultural Emergency Relief Act, which would create a permanent structure at the Department of Agriculture to provide relief for farmers who lost crops due to natural disasters. While Congress routinely provides relief for farmers impacted by natural disasters, the lack of a permanent program has resulted in multiple administrative changes, which can cause unnecessary delays in implementation and confusion for farmers.

“From droughts drying out farmland, to wildfires and smoke, to historic storms that flooded fields across the state, our farming communities face disproportionate impacts from natural disasters,” said Senator Padilla. “Our growers need and deserve reliable relief — we must have a long-term solution to ensure they can quickly get back on their feet following disasters. By permanently authorizing the Emergency Relief Program, this bill will swiftly administer aid to support our farmers, bolster our economic safety net, and improve our resiliency against the climate crisis.”

As the fifth largest supplier of food in the world, California has a $55 billion agriculture industry with over 400 commodities, growing more than a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of fruit and nut crops in the United States. From the natural disasters that occurred in 2023 alone, California agricultural producers faced losses amounting to $2.4 billion that directly impact the California agriculture industry and the state and national economy as a result. Re-authorizing permanent disaster assistance is crucial in removing the barriers to aid that farmers face after natural disasters.

In addition to Padilla and Representatives Thompson, Calvert, and LaMalfa, Senator Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) and Representatives Julia Brownley (D-Calif.-26), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.-24), Jim Costa (D-Calif.-21), J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.-46), John Duarte (R-Calif.-13), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.-10), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.-42), John Garamendi (D-Calif.-08), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.-34), Josh Harder (D-Calif.-09), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.-02), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.-12), Mike Levin (D-Calif.-49), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.-18), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.-19), Katie Porter (D-Calif.-47), Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.-25), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.-30), Mark Takano (D-Calif.-39), David Valadao (R-Calif.-22), and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.-52) also signed the letter.

Following Tropical Storm Hilary damage to California specialty crops last year, Senator Padilla hosted United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials alongside local leaders and growers to announce bipartisan legislation to improve access to federal agriculture disaster programs. He discussed his Fair Access to Agriculture Disaster Programs Act, which is co-led by Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and would waive the current adjusted gross income restriction that blocks producers who derive 75 percent of their income from farming, ranching, or related farming practices from receiving USDA disaster program relief. Padilla also introduced a pair of bills last year to equip the USDA to better meet the needs of farm workers.

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Boozman, Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member Scott:

As members of the California Congressional Delegation, we are bringing to your attention the impacts and sizable losses felt by California’s agricultural producers and communities throughout 2023 due to relentless natural disasters. We strongly urge that the upcoming Farm Bill include permanent disaster assistance to give growers the timely assistance they need to recover from natural disasters.

California accounts for 12.5 percent of the nation’s agricultural production and over 60 percent of the national value of fruit and nut crops in the United States. By itself, it is the 5th largest supplier of food in the world. When natural disasters impact California farms, the impact is felt far beyond the state.

During 2023, producers throughout California faced severe and unprecedented weather events. From multiple atmospheric rivers after years of historic drought and the impacts of Hurricane Hilary, it is estimated that the state has been hit with a staggering $2.4 billion in agricultural damages and losses.

While Congress continues to work towards a disaster relief package that adequately addresses these concerns in the near term, our constituents need us to address the current implementation challenges producers are facing with the Emergency Relief Program going forward. It is critical that the Farm Bill creates a consistent and standing framework for the Emergency Relief Program rather than the current year-to-year ad hoc program which causes confusion and delays in implementation.

That is why we respectfully ask that the Agricultural Emergency Relief Act introduced by the late Senator Feinstein, Senator Padilla, and Representatives LaMalfa and Thompson, which authorizes a permanent Emergency Relief Program structure, be included in this year’s Farm Bill. 


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