Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González- Colón (NPP, R) of Puerto Rico led a roundtable discussion with representatives of the agricultural industry in Puerto Rico to hear their thoughts and concerns regarding the upcoming Farm Bill in 2023.
“The Farm Bill will be one of the many key legislative proposals in the coming year. This is an opportunity to discuss the current needs related to agriculture and nutrition in Puerto Rico, especially knowing the challenges this sector has faced as a result of recent natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic. No one knows or understands these issues on the island[s] better than our farmers, ranchers, farm managers, producers, and others who work in this industry. This is why it is extremely important for me to hear their suggestions firsthand. It will be my priority to lead these conversations and efforts in Congress to ensure that the points we discuss today and in the coming months are addressed,” said González-Colón.
Attendance included state directors from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency, Rural Development, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Universidad Interamericana in Barranquitas, Universidad Ana G. Méndez, the President of the American Farm Bureau in Puerto Rico, Acción y Reforma Agrícola, Productores Cítricos de la Montaña, Asociación Maunabeña de Pequeños Agricultores, Hidroponistas de Puerto Rico, and the Executive Director of the Agriculture Committee at the state House of Representatives and former Mayor of Utuado, Ernesto Irizarry.
The discussion focused on issues related to crops, dairy, livestock, and poultry industry, insurance, research, credit, disaster assistance, disease and pest management, and agricultural education, among others.
The current Farm Bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act, Public Law 115-334, was signed into law by President Trump on December 20, 2018. The bill consists of 12 Titles, encompassing programs that range from crops, conservation, research, and agricultural insurance, among others, administered mostly by USDA and affiliated agencies.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the estimated cost of mandatory programs included in the 2018 Farm Bill is approximately $428 billion dollars, covered in the 2019-2023 fiscal years. This is an increase of $1.8 billion compared to the 2014 Farm Bill. There are 4 titles that represent 99% of the funds authorized by the legislation. These are nutrition, crops, agricultural insurance, and conservation.
“The majority of our crops are specialty crops. As such, we need to monitor and advocate on behalf of their eligibility for the range of programs available to assist farmers under USDA and other federal agencies. Additionally, we must also ensure that we receive the necessary funds and authorizations to promote agricultural education and research to increase the number of farmers and the quality of products available on the Island. Likewise, on the nutrition side, our main request will be the transition to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).” concluded the Resident Commissioner.