Costa, Valadao introduce measures to help Valley farmers

Congressmen roll out programs to help with the ravages of drought and to strike down food tariffs

(Rigo Moran)
(Rigo Moran)
Darren Fraser
Published February 6, 2024  • 
11:30 am

CENTRAL VALLEY – Two Congressmen representing the Central Valley have introduced measures to assist California communities ravaged by drought and extreme heat, as well as to advance and promote policies essential to U.S. agriculture. 

On Feb. 1, California Congress Member David Valadao, R-22nd District, and Nevada Congress Member Dina Titus, D-1st District, introduced the Water Conservation Economic Adjustment Act (Act). According to a press release from Valadao’s office, the bill “aims to make additional resources available for regions experiencing adverse economic changes caused by drought and extreme heat.”

The Act amends the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 by adding environmental conditions that contribute to increased water supplies, including drought and extreme heat, to the list of events that may make communities eligible for financial assistance.

“The Water Conservation Economic Adjustment Act will make additional resources available for our communities to plan for drought conditions and make necessary water efficiency upgrades to conserve water during dry years,” Valadao said via the release.

Valadao added, “We must take every step possible, including building more water storage infrastructure, to ensure our Central Valley communities are more resilient to drought.”

Titus said, “The economic stability and public health of the western United States are essential and require bold action to secure and conserve water supplies.”

The Act will assist regional economies by “limiting industrial consumptive use of water and adapting relevant infrastructure.”

According to Faith Mabry, Valadao’s communication director, despite the bill’s language, it actually does not include any mandates or limits on consumptive use of water.

“The legislation simply adds drought and extreme heat as qualifiers to localities to qualify for Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) program grants,” Mabry said in an email to the Times.

These grants are available to local water entities and districts in counties across the state. In turn, these entities provide grant money to help businesses transition to water conservation practices – meters, subsurface drip irrigation, pipe replacements – that have been approved and are recommended by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

EAA is a program offered through the Economic Development Administration (EDA). According to the EDA, the program “provides a wide range of technical, planning and public works and infrastructure assistance in regions experiencing adverse economic changes that may occur suddenly or over time.”

A November 2022 report by UC Merced found that surface water deliveries in the Central Valley for the years 2021 and 2022 were reduced by 43%. Gross revenue losses in food processing – which includes purchases of agricultural products – in the Central Valley for the same years were $2.4 billion and $3.5 billion, respectively.

CONGRESSIONAL AGRICULTURAL TRADE CAUCUS

There is also the launch of the bipartisan Congressional Agricultural Trade Caucus (Caucus), of which Representative Jim Costa, D-21st District is co-chair of. According to the Jan. 31 press release discussing the launch, the Caucus “will work to solidify support for trade policies that benefit farmers, ranchers, producers, rural communities and all those along our food and agricultural supply chains.”

“Access to global markets is critical to our agricultural economy in the San Joaquin Valley, the breadbasket of the world,” said Costa via the release.

Anthony Camacho, Costa’s communications director, said the Caucus is open for membership but the list of members has not been finalized.

This is not Costa’s first foray into eliminating tariffs on Central Valley produce. In June 2023, his office issued a press release announcing an agreement between India and the U.S. to remove retaliatory tariffs on almonds, walnuts, apples and other products, many of which are grown in the Valley.

In February 2023, Costa introduced the Agriculture Export Promotion Act. The Act increased funding to U.S. Department of Agriculture export promotion programs, including the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program.

“Opening and growing new markets for American-made products are critical to building our agricultural economy,” said Costa in a Feb. 1, 2023 press release. “Food is a global security issue, and we must do all we can to reverse disruptions in trade and grow new partnerships that help deliver American products around the world.”

Costa, with California Representative Jimmy Panetta, D-19th District, Representative Adrian Smith, R-3rd District, and Representative Dusty Johnson, South Dakota At-Large Congressional District, were on hand to announce the Caucus. 

Another Caucus goal is to create opportunities for Congressional members to promote policies that improve supply chains, increase market access and re-establish U.S. global leadership in trade.

Darren Fraser
Reporter