By U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich
I grew up helping my parents run a small cattle operation, which is where I learned to truly value the hard work farmers and ranchers do each and every day to produce the food we eat. Our farmers help drive New Mexico’s economy, especially in rural communities. According to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, our food producers grow approximately $3 billion of goods each year. They have also long shaped our state’s history, as many come from families that have cultivated land for generations.
I am proud to represent New Mexico’s agriculture communities in the Senate. And I am grateful for the work Farm to Table does to promote wellness through improving access to locally-grown, nutritious, and sustainable foods. I am committed to policies that support New Mexico’s long tradition in agriculture and promote long-term, sustainable use of our land and water.
That’s why I fought so hard for provisions to support New Mexico’s farmers and increase access to healthy foods for all of our families in the latest bipartisan Farm Bill that passed in the Senate in July. The Farm Bill—the federal government’s primary agriculture and food policy legislation—authorizes federal funding for important programs for agriculture, soil and water conservation, rural economic development, disaster assistance, renewable energy and food and nutrition programs.
As a father, in addition to putting food on the table, I care deeply about knowing what my boys eat so I can be sure it’s keeping them healthy. I supported a provision in the Farm Bill to fully fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic Data Initiative to provide consumers with accurate information about organic foods. I also supported funding to incentivize small and beginning farmers to transition to organics. The bill also includes training programs to help all farmers enhance natural habitats for beneficial insects and pollinators to reduce pest problems and cut down use of pesticides.
I was also proud to secure measures in the Farm Bill to support our state’s traditional and unique strengths in agriculture. Continued support for specialty crops—like the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and Specialty Crop Block Grants—will help New Mexico’s unique crops like chile. I also successfully passed an amendment that will help combat marketplace fraud of traditional foods and tribal seeds. And I joined Sen. Tom Udall in including language to make New Mexico’s acequias eligible for grants and technical assistance from conservation and environmental programs.
In the richest nation on Earth, none of our children should go hungry. I joined the effort to fight back against proposals to impose new eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the Farm Bill that could create barriers that would prevent children, seniors, people with disabilities and families experiencing hardship from qualifying for the help they need to put food on the table. New Mexico has the third-highest proportion of SNAP recipients per capita—nearly one quarter of the state’s residents rely on food assistance.
I have also supported increased federal investments in federal food assistance grant programs. That includes the Emergency Food Assistance Program—which helps local agencies, like food banks, feed needy families—and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program—which helps SNAP recipients purchase more fresh fruits and vegetables through cash incentives that increase their purchasing power at locations like local farmers’ markets.
Importantly, during this era of severe drought, extreme wildfires and climate disruption, I also worked to secure policies to assist farmers and other water users in New Mexico who are facing difficult and unprecedented sustainability challenges. I authored a provision in the Farm Bill to establish a Water Source Protection Program within the U.S. Forest Service. This program would build on partnerships between cities, businesses, water utilities, farmers and ranchers and the Forest Service—like the Santa Fe Water Fund and Río Grande Water Fund—to support forest health projects on lands that provide water resources for downstream users.
I also fought to expand the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, which allows local community collaborative groups to take on large, landscape-scale forest and watershed restoration projects. These local efforts are critical to restoring the health of forests and watersheds that are integral to life in New Mexico and ensuring our communities have clean drinking water and bolstering our agriculture industry.
The Senate Farm Bill is a major step forward for our state’s farmers and consumers. I won’t stop working to advance policies that help every family in New Mexico eat healthy and nutritious food.