Senator Boxer has been a longtime champion of California’s agricultural industry, and she understands its vital importance to the state’s economy. She has fought to open international markets for California-grown agricultural products and to help protect California crops from diseases and pests. She has worked to make federal food inspection programs more effective, and her efforts to strengthen conservation programs will help protect California’s agricultural resources for future generations.
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Protecting Crops from Pests and Disease
- Pest Detection and Surveillance - The 2008 farm bill included a provision authored by Senator Boxer giving the USDA authority to enter into cooperative funding agreements with states to enhance pest detection and surveillance programs. The provision increased inspections at domestic points of entry, implemented pest trapping systems and created pest eradication and prevention programs.
- Pierce’s Disease - Senator Boxer works every year to secure funding to help grape growers fight the spread of Pierce’s Disease, which is spread by the glassy-winged sharpshooter. In May 2000, Boxer urged then-Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman to issue a formal emergency declaration for the disease; USDA issued the declaration the next month and immediately committed $22 million to the fight. Since 2001 Senator Boxer secured $62 million to combat Pierce's Disease.
- Sudden Oak Disease - In 2001, Senator Boxer secured $2.4 million to combat the spread of Phytophthora or Sudden Oak Death Syndrome, a microscopic fungus that poses a deadly threat to thousands of oak trees throughout California. Since 2001, Boxer has secured over $15 million in additional federal appropriations to combat the disease.
Supporting California’s Agricultural Producers
- Dairy Farmers - A strong voice for dairy farmers, Senator Boxer led the successful overturning of anti-dairy laws that limited California milk producers’ pricing flexibility. In 2009, she helped convince the Agriculture Department to provide producers relief from falling dairy prices by purchasing more dairy products for USDA feeding programs – including $60 million for a cheese purchase program – and she advocated for an increase in the Dairy Price Support program. Senator Boxer also has advocated for the equitable distribution of emergency assistance to California and western dairy farmers.
- Specialty Crops - With Senator Boxer’s leadership, the 2008 farm bill recognizes the importance of specialty crops to our nation’s economy for the first time. Senator Boxer led the effort to ensure funding for a number of important specialty crops programs including: specialty crops block grants, organic farming assistance, farmers’ market programs, trade assistance and foreign market access programs, the community foods program, and important specialty crops and organics research.
- Pollinator Protection Act – Nearly $18 billion in crops grown nationwide depend on a healthy honey and native bee population. In the last few years there has been a loss of about 25 percent of the nation’s honey bee population due to unknown causes. To help protect producers from crop losses Senator Boxer authored the Pollinator Protection Act, which was included in the farm bill and authorized up to $100 million over five years for high priority research dedicated to maintaining and protecting our honey bee and native pollinator populations.
- Haas Avocado Promotion - To help promote sales of California avocados abroad, Senator Boxer co-authored the Hass Avocado Promotion, Research, and Information Act, which was enacted in 2000. The fees collected under this law help California avocado growers conduct research and promotion activities that are critical to expanding markets.
- California Almonds - Senator Boxer successfully worked with the government of India to reverse its restrictive trade policy toward California almonds.
California Stone Fruit - In 1998, Senator Boxer worked with then-Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman to convince the Mexican government to continue the successful Non-Fumigation Systems Approach for California stone fruit exported to Mexico. The program – started by the California tree fruit industry, USDA, the California Department of Food and Agriculture and county agriculture officials – was in danger of being cancelled by Mexico.
Protecting Agricultural Communities
- Family Farms - Senator Boxer secured $35 million in funding for the Farmland Protection Program that protects family-owned farms from being converted to commercial use. Additionally, Senator Boxer supported successful efforts to reform the inheritance tax and raise tax thresholds so that families can pass ranches and farms on to their children and grandchildren. These provisions were part of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997.
- Easing Water Transfers in the Central Valley – Senator Boxer successfully offered an amendment to the fiscal year 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations bill to facilitate voluntary water transfers among Central Valley Project contractors, providing the flexibility to deliver water to agricultural communities when they need it most. These transfers have been identified by the Bureau of Reclamation and numerous water contractors as one of most effective ways to provide immediate relief to communities in the San Joaquin valley that are suffering from drought conditions.
- The Water Facilitation Transfer Act of 2009 – Senator Boxer and Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to permanently ease water transfers in the Central Valley. The measure includes more water users in the transfers, requires a report from the Department of the Interior on obstacles to transfers, and requires a more programmatic approach to environmental review. The Department of the Interior estimated that this legislation could facilitate the transfer of 250,000 to 300,000 acre-feet of water per year. Learn more about Senator Boxer’s record on water issues.
- Air Quality Improvements in Agricultural Areas - In rural areas around the country, smog and soot are threatening public health, polluting communities, and reducing crop productivity. Senator Boxer joined Congressman Dennis Cardoza to include language in the 2008 farm bill authorizing a new program to allocate $150 million over the next five years to improve air quality in agricultural communities with poor air quality.
- Prevented Rollback of Conservation Programs - Senator Boxer fought for California farmers to continue to receive conservation payments by successfully preventing an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) means test that would have limited participation in conservation programs. She believes that Congress should encourage more farmers to participate in conservation initiatives, and that is why she led the effort to include an additional $4 billion for agricultural conservation programs in the farm bill.
- Citrus Freeze – Senator Boxer helped secure funding in Congress to help California growers, farm workers and small businesses cope with losses from a devastating 2007 freeze. She also worked to provide relief for California citrus growers after severe freezes in 1990 and 1998-99.
Strengthening Food Safety and Nutrition
- Meat Inspection Laws – Originally, the farm bill included language that would have allowed meat and poultry plants to choose more lax state inspections over federal inspections. Working with consumer groups and labor unions, Senator Boxer negotiated compromise language to protect the integrity of federal meat inspections and the safety of the nation’s meat products. In January 2008, Senator Boxer wrote to the USDA Secretary and California Attorney General demanding an investigation of the Westland/Hallmark meat processing plant in Chino, California for numerous federal violations. The subsequent investigation confirmed that the plant had been slaughtering downer cattle and led to the recall of 143 million pounds of meat, the largest meat recall in U.S. history.
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program - Senator Boxer has been a longtime champion of childhood nutrition programs and took an active role in expanding the Snack Program. The Snack Program is critical in the fight to reduce childhood obesity and will provide as many as 3 million low-income elementary school children a fresh fruit or vegetable snack everyday at school. The farm bill provides over $1 billion in funding for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, expanding it to all 50 states.
- School Lunch Program - Senator Boxer secured $56.8 million in fiscal year 2002 for the purchase of specialty commodities from California farmers for school lunch programs. USDA agreed to purchase walnuts, almonds, raisins, dates, figs, and dried plums from California farmers for school lunch programs. In 2003, Senator Boxer asked USDA and USAID to buy California raisins to help fight world hunger. She also successfully urged USDA to purchase more than $5.7 million in canned peaches.