Many Central New York farmers are probably breathing a sigh of relief now that the Farm Bill has made its way through Congress. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer claimed success in securing many of its provisions, including relief for struggling dairy farmers.
New York Farm Bureau spokesperson Steve Ammerman is pleased with the strengthened safety net.
"The original margin protection plan in the last farm bill simply didn't work. A lot of farmers bought insurance to see absolutely no give-back when it came to the critical drop in milk prices. This one does expand coverage, it does reduce the premiums farmers pay as they look to buy up more coverage."
Ammerman says the farm bill is helpful, but long-term, dairy farmers are also looking for expanded markets, decreased supply, and removal of tariffs that depress milk prices. The farm bill also benefits specialty crop producers, from fruits and vegetables to maple syrup. Then there’s the emerging hemp market. Ammerman says the bill opens the opportunity for farmers interested in growing the commodity.
"Hopefully by decriminalizing it, it will allow the market to take hold, find processors more interested in buying crop. Clearly there has to be a market in place before you see a huge number of farmers willing to grow it.
Hemp can be used in food, and health and beauty products. Overall, Ammerman calls the farm bill an investment in the food system.
"It offers protections for farmers facing difficult weather or economic factors that are out of their control. But it also provides for rural economid development. While it doesn't guarantee the success of the farmer, it does provide some basic programs, and funding for critical research needs that ultimately benefit all of agriculture."
Ammerman says that includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which survived cuts and additional red tape. He says that ensures more access to food grown by farmers. Ammerman says President Trump is expected to sign the Farm Bill next week.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE FARM BILL
The following were provided by Sen. Chuck Schumer's office:
The newly introduced Farm Bill invests in programs to help give much-needed relief to Upstate New York dairy farmers and producers. The Farm Bill includes a variety of helpful reforms including, an investment of $100 million to help improve the Federal dairy insurance program to help make the program work better for small to medium dairy farms, a provision waiving administrative fees for beginning, veteran, and underserved farmers, a provision continuing the vital changes made in the Omnibus Budget bill that allowed for the creation of new dairy insurance tools in the future, and a program that would provide funding to dairy organizations who chose to donate their products.
This Farm Bill focused on investing in our small rural communities across New York State and nationwide. One example of this was the establishment of a new grant program that will target high-need, rural areas seeking to undertake broadband internet projects. These projects will help connect our most in need areas and upgrade to more modern internet access. Additionally, the Farm Bill made important investments in programs that help grow our rural small businesses, as well as those that help to fight the opioid crisis.
Agriculture and Farming/Growing
The newly introduced Farm Bill establishes mandatory funding of $24 million over FY19-23 for the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP), which helps support farmers who want to become involved in the organic market by providing reimbursements of some of their annual fees for United States Department of Agriculture organic certification -- it includes an increase in critical funding for organic research through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative from its current level of $20 million to $50 million by FY2023. Finally, the Farm Bill increases the authorization for the National Organic Program (NOP). This bill increases the authorization for the NOP to $16.5 million in FY2019, $18 million in FY2020, $20 million in FY2021, $22 million in FY2022, and $24 million in FY2023.
The Farm Bill contained a number of provisions beneficial to Upstate farmers, but especially to farmers of specialty crops. New York produces a wide range of specialty crops (fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, herbs and spices, maple syrup, Christmas trees, etc.) that rank highly nationwide in terms of both production and economic value. The Senate Farm Bill provides vital funding to key programs that aid specialty crop producers, such as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. These programs help provide support to New York's specialty crop industry in the form of robust research funding.
The Farm Bill reauthorizes Sen. Schumer’s original legislation known as The Maple Tap Act, which is now called the Acer Access and Development Program. This provision will continue to help maple producers in the Hudson Valley and across Upstate New York boost their production and become more competitive with places like Canada, which produces 85 percent of the world's maple product. This provision provides an authorization for USDA grants to states that create programs to encourage individual and private landowners to open up their trees to maple tapping. The legislation would also provide grants to states to support market promotion, maple industry research and development, and education through leading institutions, like Cornell.
The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 could help unlock industrial hemp’s full potential as an agricultural commodity across Upstate New York. Key provisions include:
· Remove industrial hemp from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act
· Empower states to be the principal regulators of hemp
· Allow hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture
· Make hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance
· Most importantly, Schumer said this important provision would allow for New York’s agricultural community to grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity if they so choose, allowing New York growers more flexibility
The Farm Bill requires the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service to record all barley production in New York State. By ensuring that this critical information is accessible for barley farmers, they will be able to better determine any future plantings. Additionally, the provision would give crop insurance providers access to this essential information, which could spur them to expand coverage and potentially even offer a malting barley endorsement.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP):
The Farm Bill creates opportunities for job training for some of the most in-need New Yorkers who participate in SNAP, to help them find and keep good-paying jobs. Second, the Farm Bill simplifies paperwork for New York seniors who participate in SNAP to ensure they get the nutritional assistance they need and deserve as quickly as possible. And lastly, the Farm Bill creates the “Farm to Food Bank” initiative, which will help provide New Yorkers using SNAP with locally-grown, New York produce and other food.
The Farm Bill funds key environmental programs that are essential to farmers, like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). These programs are voluntary conservation initiatives that farmers can utilize through the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to help them continue to be good stewards of the land.
The newly introduced Farm Bill also includes a vital provision called the Pet and Women Safety Act (PAWS) Act. This bill would help give victims of domestic violence and their pets greater access to safe sheltering options, as well as provide stronger legal protections to pets. According to the Humane Society, up to one-third of domestic violence victims delay leaving a dangerous situation, because they fear for the safety of their pets, and up to one-fourth return to an abuser due to concern for their pets.
Local Food Programs:
The Farm Bill creates a new Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) by combining the Value Added Producer Grants Program and the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. The value-added producers grant program helps dairy farmers that start producing artisanal cheese or apple growers that enter the hard cider industry. The grants administered through the new LAMP program will continue to support strengthening our local food systems from rural farmers to urban consumers.
Water, waste disposal, & wastewater facility grants:
The Farm Bill provides funding to support and strengthen rural water infrastructure. Funding to Rural Development programs like the Water, Waste Disposal, and Wastewater Facility Grant program will help families and businesses across Upstate New York and nationwide continue to have access to clean drinking water.
Community facility investments:
The Farm Bill supports Community Facility investments to continue to help provide resources to construct hospitals, improve schools, while also improving fire and police stations across small towns in New York State.