February 13, 2020
Dear Friend,

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Rep. Vela's Bill, The Protecting America's Food and Agriculture Act, Passes in the U.S. House of Representatives

On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed my bipartisan bill, the Protecting America's Food and Agriculture Act.

Agriculture Inspectors, Technicians, and Canine Teams are critical to the protection and growth of our trade and agriculture industries, and my bill authorizes U.S. Customs and Border Protection to hire 240 new Agriculture Specialists and 200 Agriculture Technicians until staffing shortages are resolved.

The U.S. agriculture industry is crucial to the U.S. economy and generates more than $1 trillion in annual economic activity. Agricultural specialists at U.S. ports of entry intercept thousands of invasive pests and prevent the introduction of foreign animal diseases into the United States, protecting U.S. natural resources and the U.S. economy. Texas farms alone sold $24.9 billion in agricultural products in 2017, but those economic gains are threatened when our international ports of entry do not have the resources to mitigate pest and disease threats such as African Swine Fever.

I am honored the Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives with support from both sides of the aisle, and to have worked in partnership with Senator Peters to ensure this legislation gets signed into law. I want to thank my colleagues, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, and Senator Gary Peters for their help in ensuring passage of this critical legislation.

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Rep. Vela Instrumental in Protecting the Laguna Madre and other Estuaries

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protect and Restore America's Estuaries Act, legislation to help ensure our estuaries are restored and preserved.

This bill nearly doubles the amount of funding available to support natural estuaries, allowing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to consider adding more of these necessary ecosystems to the National Estuary Program.

As one of only five or six hypersaline lagoons in the world and the only one in the U.S., the Laguna Madre has unique conservation requirements. Adjacent to the longest barrier island in the world, Padre Island, the Laguna Madre is home to five species of endangered sea turtles, and a critical migratory bird habitat for dozens of endangered or threatened bird species. The EPA previously designated the Upper Laguna Madre as a national estuary.

I look forward to working with our Senators to help enact this legislation, and with our local officials and our governor, so we can finally secure a National Estuary Program designation for the Lower Laguna Madre as well.

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Rep. Vela Announces $292,500 NeighborWorks Grant for the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville

On February 11, the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB) received a federal grant totaling $292,500. This funding will help support CDCB's efforts to help families fulfill their dream of owning a home. 

CDCB is the largest private, non-profit producers of single-family housing for homeownership in Texas and has helped South Texans obtain safe and affordable housing since 1974. As one of 250 national NeighborWorks local and regional partner organizations, CDCB has utilized their national network to provide essential services to TX-34 residents. In 2017, CDCB built and financed nearly 150 homes, created 121 jobs, and assisted 59 families with over $1 million in down payment and closing costs assistance, made possible with the help of this vital funding.

This funding will help support CDCB’s mission, and I will continue to work with NeighborWorks and CDCB to ensure affordable housing opportunities for South Texas residents.

 

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Rep. Vela Meets with Texas Grain Sorghum Producers

Last week, I met with Texas Grain Sorghum Producers on the status of sorghum production in TX-34. Sorghum production accounts for over 250,000 acres and $123 million in direct sales alone in our district. 

The National Sorghum Producers and the Texas Grain Sorghum Producers were thankful for the passage of USMCA and the Phase 1 China deal. The passage of these trade deals is the first step toward normalization of farm economies after the administration's reckless tariff wars. They are hopeful that these agreements will help normalize sorghum prices, which have dropped by 40% since 2013. Additionally, we discussed the importance of allowing producers to have access to grain elevators in order to export stored grain.

Sincerely,

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Filemon Vela
Member of Congress