California is number one in the nation in agricultural revenue. Our state's 76,400 farms and ranches produce over 400 commodities and drive our economy with a record $47 billion in product value. California farms produce nearly half of U.S.-grown fruit, nuts and vegetables.
In the two counties I represent, Stanislaus and San Joaquin, the gross value of agricultural production in 2015 was over $3.9 billion and $2.7 billion, respectively. In addition to direct farm sales, our economy is supported by thousands of jobs in the upstream and downstream agricultural supply chain, from farm credit lenders, crop insurance providers, conservation experts, disease specialists and veterinarians, transportation, marketing, packers, retailers and many other jobs.
As an almond farmer myself, I understand the specialized needs of various sectors of our agriculture economy across the country. As a conferee for our last Farm Bill, my first priority was to provide long-term certainty for farmers and ranchers while saving taxpayer dollars by eliminating costly direct payments, streamlining programs, and reforming nutrition programs for the first time since 1996.
In regards to California priorities, the 2014 Farm Bill included provisions that will ensure a stronger dairy industry for producers and consumers alike. It also supports crop insurance access for - and research investment in - specialty crops, ensuring these vital commodities remain viable in the future. Finally, the bill upheld states’ right to protect their own individual agriculture industries by passing laws related to safety and agriculture production. The defeat of the overreaching King amendment preserved California’s egg production law and gave certainty to our in-state producers.
Ultimately, this legislation supports our farmers, businesses and communities. As we approach the deadline for reauthorization of the 2018 Farm Bill, we must stay on schedule and focus on improving and maintaining initiatives important to Valley farms. We must protect our specialty crops, maintain reliable crop insurance, support pollinator health, improve pest and disease detection and prevention, and ensure effective conservation efforts.
Other issues I am focused on in committee include reforming complicated and unrealistic bureaucratic mandates, promoting pollinator protection and research, strengthening our nation’s food inspection safety infrastructure, curbing food waste in our schools, reviewing biotechnology in crop varieties, and supporting the Market Access Program (MAP) and other initiatives that increase U.S. exports.
We can and must support pro-ag, pro-business programs and policies that will give our farmers, ranchers, and ag workers the foundation they need to continue growing, create jobs, and feed America.