Buchanan, Florida Delegation Fight For Farm Bill

Todays News

Photo by Jacob Ogles: Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Vern Buchanan in Washington.

The state of agriculture and America’s health care run hand in hand, according to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key.. The Republican co-chair of Florida’s congressional delegation led a meeting of Florida’s House Representatives in Washington on Thursday, and heard from state experts on how much is at stake in an upcoming Farm Bill.

“Agriculture is one of Florida’s leading industries, contributing more than $159 billion to the state economy every year and providing more than 2.5 million jobs,” he said. “However, between hurricanes, citrus greening and Mexico’s illegal dumping of specialty crops, it’s been a trying year for our farmers and ranchers.”

Hurricane Ian caused about $1 billion in production losses in the state, hitting citrus particular hard in many counties east of the Sarasota-Bradenton area.

Florida leaders have increasingly tied the issue of thriving agriculture to national security, something stressed by Mike Risola, who testified to the delegation on behalf of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“We are cognizant, as you are, that food security is indeed national security,” he said. “Together, we can protect and preserve Florida's agriculture for future generations through this Farm Bill and beyond.”

Congress passes a Farm Bill every five years, and the legislation is expected to cover a range of topics from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP, to subsidies from farms across the nation. Block grants regarding storm recovery could also be included and are being independently discussed by Congress in separate legislation as well.

Buchanan and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic co-chair of the delegation, said it was important Florida’s bipartisan contingent in the House meet before an August recess and ahead of the release of initial drafts of the Farm Bill get published in September or October. Wasserman Schultz said she would like to have a field hearing in Florida later this year as well.

“I was really glad to see that there is commitment and concern around both making sure that we have the most robust nutrition title, as well as a robust agricultural title in the bill,” Wasserman Schultz said. “The Florida delegation steps up and is very unified around the issues that are the most important to our state. Those are the times when we put partisanship aside.”

Buchanan agreed. He also stressed that the Farm Bill will surely extend to other portions of policy impacting Floridians and everyone around the country. He also chairs the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, and noted Americans now spend $4.3 trillion on health care, with that cost ballooning every year. "We can't go in this direction of a sicker and sicker society, and we are spending more,” he said.

Dr. Scott Angle testified that Florida is a major domestic producer of fruits and vegetables, and better incorporation of those crops will innately improve the nutrition of Americans as a whole.

“Our food is making us sick, and the best and the easiest solution to improve health is simply to eat more fruits and vegetables,” Angle said. “It’s very, very simple. And that's what Florida does. We are the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the country. That industry is on the ropes right now.”

Buchanan said it's fiscally sound to support farmers and good policy to improve the health of Americans.

“We have fresh fruits and vegetables here,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to get that more to families at risk — young children, everybody. It makes a big difference, because we don’t have enough money to continue spending the dollars that we are on health care.”

Photo by Jacob Ogles: Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Vern Buchanan in Washington.

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