Five-year reauthorization vote to occur later this year
FALLON — Cattlemen and other Nevada food producers met with U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., last week to express their thoughts on what should be included in the 2023 Farm Bill.
Cortez Masto conducted a town hall meeting at the Rafter 3C Arena that was attended by local food producers and representatives from the Nevada Farm Bureau and Nevada Cattlemen’s Association. Field hearings began in 2022 and will continue through the next several months before the Senate discusses and then votes on the reauthorization sometime during the late summer.
During her one-hour session in Fallon, Cortez Masto received input for the 2023 Farm Bill.
“We need to open up and talk about it, what to keep in it,” Cortez Masto said. “Really, the focus from this discussion is on the farm bill and how we ensure Nevada’s voices are put into that farm bill, and we get something out of it.”
Cortez Masto added some programs have already been identified from the roundtable discussions. The second-term senator said she’s been in discussion with both the cattlemen’s and beef associations.
Doug Busselman, executive vice president of the Nevada Farm Bureau, expressed concerns about last year’s drought situation and how it has affected the industry.
Cortez Masto then listed priorities after Bussleman’s remarks for the 2023 Farm Bill. She said tribal nutrition was an importation provision for the farm bill, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs has developed its own list of tribal priorities.
Other priorities include a sage grouse habitat conservation and connectability program, Mormon cricket and grasshopper management, a dairy assistance program that would look at pricing and powder milk production, U.S. Department of Agriculture money to foster more hemp production and research, foreign market development, continued support for nutrition programs and prioritizing grants.
“This is what we’re hearing from the committee,” Cortez Masto pointed out.
Lyndsey Langsdale, president and farm manager for Reno Food Systems, said she had previous conversations with staff about the farm bill, but she didn’t hear any of that information in Cortez Masto’s priorities.
Langsdale said her priorities included specialty crops, justice for all with socially disadvantaged farms and communities, growing local and eating local, and conservation and regenerative practices tied into federal payments.
“There’s only ‘so much to go around’ may determine what we need for our state,” Cortez Masto replied.
Cortez Masto was asked if she was aware of information provided to Nevada State Treasurer Zach Conine when he began visiting communities in August 2021. The Nevada Recovers Listening Tour that stopped in Fallon centered on food and agriculture and how the state can use and invest more than $6.7 billion provided from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Cortez Masto said she was aware of the study.
The 2021 Fallon session included food producers from three groups: young farmers, farmers who grow food for people and people who work at the intersection of agriculture and food security.
Concerns focused on water and food security. A local cattle producer said he has problems in hiring reliable workers. After the meeting in Fallon, Kelli Kelly, director of the Fallon Food Hub, listed ideas on the hub’s website:
“Food hub facilities for support of Nevada farmers for post-harvest handling, aggregation, and distribution of produce and products; more USDA meat processing infrastructure; prioritizing water for agriculture and improving infrastructure on water delivery; improving agricultural education including a curriculum-based accredited program at UNR; (and) access to capital for young farmers to acquire land for farming).”
After last week’s Fallon meeting, Cortez Masto re-emphasized the need for input into the farm bill. Because the coronavirus pandemic affected the food supply and distribution, Cortez Masto discussed the lessons learned. She reiterated all Nevada farmers and ranchers must have their needs met in the farm bill. She also said their thoughts on what should not be included are just as important.
“The farm bill probably won’t have the dollars to increase it, but we’ll work to get support in our communities,” she said.
During her presentation and after the meeting, Cortez Masto said many of her colleagues in the Senate don’t realize Nevada has farms and ranches. She then discussed the Dairy Farmers of America’s dry milk plant east of Fallon and how proud she is of its presence. Former Churchill County Commission Chairman and dairyman Pete Olsen gave her a tour of the facility before the townhall.
“I don’t know if a lot of Nevada knows what we are doing here … feeding the country and around the world with dry milk,” she said. “It’s state-of-the-art and supports our dairy farmers in Nevada. It gives the ability to compete.”
Olsen said it’s important for the senator to notice the farming in Churchill County and understand what food producers do. Since the DFA plant opened in 2014, Olsen said Cortez Masto is the only U.S. senator who has visited the plant.
During her recent visit in Fallon, Olsen provided her input from the DFA and what the national milk marketing cooperative would like to see in the farm bill.
Olsen said he’s appreciative of the time she has spent in Churchill County including her work to ensure passage of the recent National Defense Authorization Act and touring the Rafter 3C Complex in November.
Cortez Masto said generations of Nevadans have operated the family-owned farms.