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House Committee on Agriculture to Hold Hearing in San Joaquin Valley on the 2012 Farm Bill

Members of the House Agriculture Committee will be in Fresno on Monday as part of a series of nationwide meetings to gather input on the 2012 farm bill.

Committee members will likely hear from dozens of farmers and agriculture organizations on topics including battling invasive species, securing a more stable water supply and helping the struggling dairy industry.

The hearing begins at 9 a.m. at Fresno City Hall.

The farm bill is major legislation authorizing funding for programs such as farm support, conservation, energy, marketing and food assistance.

The committee is led by Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and members include Valley Reps. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced.

Fresno's committee hearing is one of four to be held this year; the others are in Iowa, Indiana and Wyoming.

Agricultural leaders said they are looking forward to the opportunity to provide their views on the programs they would like to see funded.

"This is a big deal," said Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. "Typically you have to go back to D.C. to participate in something like this."

Barry Bedwell, president of the Fresno-based California Grape & Tree Fruit League, said he would like to see the U.S. Department of Agriculture play a greater role in decisions made by other federal agencies that affect the flow of water to farmers.

Along with fighting for more water, California farmers have also battled a slew of pests and diseases.

Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual, said the new farm bill should take a harder look at tightening the USDA's regulations for preventing pest or disease outbreaks.

The citrus industry is dealing with an infestation of the Asian citrus psyllid, the aphid-size insect that can carry the deadly plant disease known as citrus greening.

Dairy operators say they hope the farm bill can help address problems of low prices and restoring stability to a volatile market.

"We have been through one of the worst 18 months in the dairy industry's history," said Ray Souza, a Turlock dairyman. "And we are looking for solutions."