Report from Washington: Farm Bill and MAP Update


The California Walnut Commission (CWC) is the largest commodity recipient of MAP funds in the state, at approximately $4 million annually. Although the MAP program is authorized, a Congressional Continuing Resolution is needed to fund the remainder of the fiscal year.

When asked about the state of things in Washington, "the one word that comes to mind is uncertainty," states Daniel Haley, lobbyist for California Walnut Commission. "The last few months have culminated in a series of events that continue to have us asking more questions in navigating what is next," he goes on to say. This past New Years Eve, Congress passed a one year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill authorizing the Market Access Program (MAP) at $200 million dollars. The California Walnut Commission (CWC) is the largest commodity recipient of MAP funds in the state, at approximately $4 million annually. Although the MAP program is authorized, a Congressional Continuing Resolution is needed to fund the remainder of the fiscal year.

In early March, the House and Senate approved legislation to extend the government through the remainder of the year with funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) at the full $200 million. However, MAP is subject to sequestration resulting in across the board federal spending cuts which took effect March 1, 2013. The USDA Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) reduced program allocations 10% in anticipation of sequestration, as the exact reductions were uncertain. The CWC program saw an 8% reduction due to sequestration and program costs that were held out of the $200 million.

The fiscal issues before Congress have delayed hearings on the new Farm Bill, which are now expected in late spring. The process toward a new bill will be largely dependent upon the funding level available, which will determine the scope of the mark-ups for programs included in the bill. To which Haley says, "there is an old Washington, DC saying that goes...if you are not at the table when your programs are debated...you are probably on the menu." California walnut growers were in Washington in April and met with Congressional officials to maintain a voice for industry while remaining engaged in the process. A report on the status of these meetings will be presented at the Industry's Annual Spring Meeting on June 6, 2013.