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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 28, 2005

In Final Stop Of 62 County Tour, Schumer Visits Columbia County To Reveal Impact Of High Costs Of Gas On Local Farmers

Skyrocketing Oil Prices Drive Up Costs By 107 Percent Over the Past Three Years For Average Upstate New York Farmer, Schumer To Be Joined By Columbia County Farmers, Community Leaders

As Farm Bill Negotiations Ramp-Up, Schumer To Push For Increased Funding For Conservation Programs

Schumer Will Also Present New York State Gift of Life Medal To Local Resident For Heroic Life-Saving Act

Farmers in the Columbia County are paying 107 percent more for fuel to operate their farms, Senator Charles E. Schumer revealed today. Schumer today unveiled new data showing that the average New York farmer is paying more than $8,756 over 2002 costs and announced plans to lower the cost of crude oil and make energy bills more affordable for all of New York’s farmers. Schumer discussed how farmers are hit particularly hard by rising gas prices because most farm planting and harvesting equipment uses diesel fuel or gasoline.

“Everyone is feeling the pain at the pump these days, but farmers are being hit particularly hard,” Schumer said. “Since farmers are already being stretched too thin, the skyrocketing price of oil should be the last thing they have to worry about. This must be taken into account at the federal level and we need some solutions soon.”

Compared with 2002, fuel farm prices are up over 100% across New York State, and specifically 107% in Columbia County. New York’s farmers are paying double what they were three years ago. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 500 farmers in Columbia County will each face an increase of $8756 for fuel this year. Collectively this is a total increase of $4.3 million, which is a 107.5% increase over 2002.

When farmers applied fertilizer this year, they got hit twice by higher fuel costs. Not only do high energy prices result in increased fertilizer prices (natural gas can account for up to 90% of the cost to produce nitrogen fertilizers), but increased costs to run the equipment needed to apply that fertilizer. This winter farmers are paying high heating bills to keep their barns and greenhouses warm. In addition, during harvest season, farmers will suffer from high costs when they bring their goods to market, as trucking prices, highly dependent on fuel costs, continue to rise.

As negotiations for the 2007 Farm Bill move through Congress, Schumer will push for increased funding for conservation programs like, Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which provides funding for farms to upgrade operations to meet and exceed environmental standards. Schumer said today he will push to both increase funding levels and expand eligibility, to make sure that New York farmers get their fair share. Schumer also said he would push for increased funding for the Resource Conservation and Development Program, which research funds to develop ideas focused on agriculture and energy conservation/ renewable energy strategies. Title IX of the Farm Bill includes grants and loans to assist farmers, ranchers and rural small business to be come more energy efficient and use renewable energy technologies. Schumer said today he’ll make sure that Title IX gets adequate funding.

Schumer today also requested a study from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, on possible conservation techniques for farmers, and ways to apply fuel efficient technologies to agricultural equipment. In addition to bringing gas prices down, this could have both a positive economic and environmental benefit. Schumer said this would be a major step toward being smarter about how we use energy resources. At a time when hybrid cars are being introduced into the market, we should explore adapting this technology to other sectors.

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