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New Farm Bill Provides Funds For Research In California ‘Ag,’ But No Big Boons

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
 

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the 2018 Farm Bill earlier this week, in a landslide vote. The legislation legalized industrial production of hemp, but apart from that, the bill mainly upheld the status quo.

Heading into the elections, there was bitter and prolonged conflict between Republicans and Democrats over the legislation. President Trump and Congressional Republicans wanted stricter work requirements for recipients of food stamps. Democrats did not. The GOP lost out in the end. It passed 369-47, and now it goes to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.

"What's fascinating about the Farm Bill is, after all that hyper-partisan debate … it's really a lot of the same of what we already had," said Glenda Humiston, vice president of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Humiston is pleased that there will be an increase of $25 million a year for research on specialty crops, agricultural jargon for fruits, vegetables and nuts, as opposed to commodity crops like soybeans, corn and wheat. Those federal grants will cover many areas, from adapting farming to the effects of climate change to finding cures for California's many invasive pests, Humiston said.

California is traditionally underrepresented in the Farm Bill, with subsidies going to commodity producers, said Josh Rolph, manager for federal policy at the California Farm Bureau Federation.

He says while the legislation doesn’t provide California with any great boons, there are federal dollars for research into mechanization. CFBF welcomes the funding at a time when labor shortages continue to be a top concern for many California growers.

Correction: An earlier version of the story misstated the destination for the $25 million a year increase in federal grants for specialty crop research. The grants will be distributed nationally.

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