Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Votes for FARM Bill that Helps Hawai‘i Farmers, Cuts Spending
Bill also authorizes funding to combat the devastating impact of the coffee berry borer
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today voted to pass the House-Senate conference FARM Bill (H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act), which includes an amendment she championed in the House, authorizing research funding to combat the devastating impact of the coffee berry borer in Hawai‘i. The bill also ends an unnecessary, expensive direct payment program subsidizing big corporate farms, helps local farmers and processors by promoting specialty and organic crops, as well as expanding access to locally grown food for low-income families and individuals. According to CBO estimates, the FARM bill will cut $23 billion in spending over the next ten years.
“The FARM bill compromise we passed in the House today reflects a commitment to farmers and consumers in Hawai‘i, and across the country,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. “By cutting wasteful direct payments and subsidies to mega-farms, the bill takes important steps to support small farmers and those who grow healthy food. For years, these loopholes have allowed corporate farms to rake in profits while family farms suffer. While I’m disappointed in overall SNAP funding reductions, it is important to note that the reforms made to this specific program will not affect Hawai`i food stamp recipients. Overall, the reforms passed in this bill will reduce fraud and will ensure that the most vulnerable among us, such as our kupuna and keiki, will have access to affordable and healthy food.”
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard also highlighted a measure to protect Hawai‘i coffee farms that she included in the House-passed FARM bill last July, and was amended and included in the FARM bill conference report today:
“As the only commercial producers of American-grown coffee, our renowned Kona and Kau coffee farmers have been fighting hard against the destructive coffee berry borer for years. This invasive species has caused devastating losses of more than $9 million in the last two years alone. The ‘Coffee Plant Health Initiative’ included in the FARM bill compromise will help our local growers combat the effects of the coffee berry borer by making grants available for research and pest management, and will help to prevent the spread of this pest to our other island coffee farms. This is a very positive step toward ensuring the long-term health of Hawai‘i’s multi-million dollar coffee industry, and the hard-working farmers who produce this treasured local product.”
Major FARM Bill Highlights for Hawai‘i:
- Includes funding authorization for research and development to address the coffee berry borer invasive species and area-wide pest management plans.
- Disaster Assistance Programs will receive a permanent baseline. Disaster assistance includes such programs as the Tree Assistance Program, which helps Hawai‘i and Maui Island flower growers impacted by the ongoing drought.
- Reauthorizes the Market Access Program (MAP). MAP helps Hawai‘i small agriculture businesses (ie: papaya, coffee, and mac nuts) market their products overseas.
- Provides an additional $20 million annually for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to support food banks. In 2012, 185,500 (14 percent) of Hawai‘i’s population (55,050 children/11,010 seniors) received emergency food assistance through the Hawai‘i Foodbank network.
- Enhances the Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmer and Rancher program. Beginning farmers on Moloka‘i have benefitted from this program.
- Extends to 2020 the current definition of “rural” in the Housing Act of 1949 to allow the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue to offer rural housing programs to about 900 communities nationwide, including Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Kapolei, Makakilo, Nanakuli, Royal Kunia and Waianae, where 99 percent of USDA’s Oahu single-family housing is located.
- Hawai‘i benefits from Rural Development Programs. For FY 2013, Rural Housing Services received $354.6 million, Rural Business Services received $9.9 million in loans and grants assisting 23 businesses, farmers, and renewable energy projects, and Rural Utilities Services received $14.5 million.
- Promotes Hawai‘i’s specialty crops. The bill provides $800 million nationally for specialty crop research and $290 million for the specialty crop block grant program.
- Reauthorizes sugar program to support cultivation and about 800 jobs on Maui.