WASHINGTON – Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) is leading a bipartisan group of lawmakers from across the country in an effort to ensure that Central Valley specialty crop growers aren’t again left out of a critical aid program provided to farmers harmed by Chinese tariffs. Although the ongoing trade war has cost the California walnut industry over $600 million, walnut farmers were not covered by the last Market Facilitation Program (MFP). Rep. Harder led a letter with Congressman Jimmy Panetta (CA-10) and 14 other members of Congress who represent districts that rely on specialty crops directly to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking that these crops, including walnuts, be included in the next trade mitigation package.
“Our walnut growers can’t become collateral damage in this trade war – our local folks have already lost millions in revenue and were left out of the last round of funding,” said Rep. Harder. “Walnut producers don’t want to have to rely on bailouts, but if farmers of other crops are getting a hand, we want to make sure our farmers qualify as well. We need the USDA to work for Central Valley farmers – that means providing critical support to help blunt the impact of these tariffs.”
“Although my specialty crop producers on the central coast of California want long term business and not short term bailouts, all farmers affected by China’s retaliatory tariffs should be included in the forthcoming USDA trade mitigation package,” said Rep. Panetta.
“The Administration must bring this trade war to an end. California’s farmers and ranchers have been hit hard and USDA’s initial trade relief package did little to make them whole,” said Jim Costa, Chairman of the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee. “As Chairman of the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee, I urge Sec. Perdue to fully take the needs of California’s specialty crop growers, as well as dairy farmers, into account for this second attempt.”
“Family farmers deserve to be served equally when caught in the middle of a trade war,” said Jamie Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. “It’s vital that USDA works closely to ensure that producers of all impacted commodities are fairly represented in a relief package. We applaud this bipartisan effort to bring attention to the needs of California agriculture.”
The last MFP program included many crops valuable to the Central Valley agriculture industry, but walnuts were not included. After the Chinese announced another round of retaliatory tariffs this week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) elected to provide additional assistance to farmers who are hurt from the volatile trade market. The coalition of representatives has asked that the USDA include specialty crops, including walnuts specifically, in the expanded program.
The text of the letter is below and an original copy is available here.
Dear Secretary Perdue,
Thank you for your leadership supporting our nation’s farmers and overseeing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). We appreciate the opportunity to work together to help our agriculture communities thrive. We understand that the USDA is actively working on another trade aid package to assist our farmers. We ask that as your office creates this trade mitigation package, it ensures that all specialty crops are included.
Farmers are the bedrock of our rural economy, representing one of our nation’s top industries. They are navigating declining commodity prices and unstable trade markets all the while net farm income continues to fall. Our farmers deserve predictability in national trade policies, especially given the impact of trade deals on the agricultural economy. As these trade negotiations and tariff issues persist, it is important to ensure the needs of fruit, vegetable and tree nut producers are heard and reflected in these policies.
As you know, the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) was created to help those who were directly impacted by foreign retaliatory tariffs and the loss of traditional export markets. MFP helped address the financial sting of tariffs for some farmers, but the reality is that many were consciously left out of this program, such as walnut and table grape growers. While we were pleased to see sweet cherries and almonds added to the MFP, there are many other specialty crops that have suffered from the ongoing trade disputes that deserve to be included in the next trade assistance package. As a result we request that specialty crop farmers receive direct assistance payments in a similar fashion to their program crop brethren.
Additionally, we would like to express our support in expanding any export promotion program that may be a component in the trade package USDA is developing. Specialty crop growers throughout the country have spent decades developing these markets that are now at risk. As such they will need to rely heavily on export promotion and market retention efforts to stay competitive. Furthermore, with higher than average adjusted gross incomes, we anticipate not all our growers will be able to access a direct payment option, should one be made available to them. We therefore request all unused direct payment funds be reallocated towards the export promotion component of the trade assistance package (with that money maintained for the respective specialty crop).
Thank you, Secretary Perdue, for your attention to this important issue. We look forward to working with you.