FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 6, 2012
SCHUMER: BIPARTISAN FARM BILL ON SENATE FLOOR THIS WEEK WOULD BE BIG BOOST TO UPSTATE NY FRUIT AND VEGETABLE FARMERS – SENATOR DETAILS BENEFITS TO FARMERS STATEWIDE
Frost Earlier This Year And Last Year’s Flooding From Irene And Lee Revealed Huge Problems With USDA Programs – Farm Bill Being Taken Up This Week In Senate Would Make Significant Improvements
Schumer Announces Support For Farm Bill That Would Boost Key Funding Programs For Apple, Grape, Onion And Other Crops – Bill Would Also Make Major Reforms To Crop Insurance Programs For Upstate NY Specialty Farms
Fruit And Vegetable Crops Are Worth $86 Million To Hudson Valley, $43 Million To Capital Region, $302 Million To Rochester-Finger Lakes Region
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced his support for the bipartisan Farm Bill that is being considered on the Senate floor this week. On a conference call, Schumer detailed several major areas in which the farm bill will be a major boost to fruit and vegetable farmers that have suffered over the last year in the wake of record flooding and devastating frosts. In particular, Schumer said that grant programs and changes to the way farmers create and purchase insurance will be especially helpful to New York farmers. The Specialty Crop Competitiveness Act Block Grant will jump from $55 million to $70 million, the National 22 Clean Plant Network will rise from $50 million to $60 million, and important funding for the Market Access Program (MAP) and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) that was targeted for cuts will be preserved. Schumer also detailed a key change that will make an important crop insurance program work better for farmers with a wide variety of crops and changes that will make it easier for farmers to create crop insurance programs specifically suited to their needs. The bill reflects the priorities Senator Schumer has pushed for on behalf of New York farmers.
“Grapes, apples, onions, and a host of other specialty crops are a huge part of the Upstate agriculture economy, and this bill reflects that,” said Schumer. “Between the frost earlier this year, and the floods last year, New York’s farmers haven’t had an easy go, but I’ve made it a priority to make sure their interests are reflected in the Farm Bill. By ensuring that key funding streams are protected and improving a key crop insurance program, we can help farmers improve their businesses over the long run and prepare themselves for tough weather that can often make things tougher. This year’s Farm Bill includes funding for programs that will help our farmers export their crops, and assistance for farmers whose crops don’t have insurance programs, but are struck by natural disasters. The Senate should retain these programs, and the House needs to follow suit.”
“The specialty crop provisions in the Senate’s Farm Bill represent great improvements for our fruit and vegetable farmers in New York,” said Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau. “Increases in specialty crop block grant and research funding are key to successful crops in our climate in the Northeast and a buy-up option for non-insurable crops (NAP) offers a great enhancement to the risk management plans our farmers can purchase to protect their farms from weather-related disasters. We appreciate Senator Schumer’s efforts to protect and support fruit and vegetable programs for our farmers and we would like to see the Senate pass these provisions and move forward toward completing the Farm Bill this year.”
Without any baseline in the budget, the programs detailed by Senator Schumer in the conference call were all subject to potentially devastating cuts in this year’s farm bill. Maintaining and even increasing the funding levels for these programs was not a given, especially in a very challenging budget environment, but the bill introduced on the Senate floor contains robust levels of key programs that New York farmers rely upon. The following are descriptions of the key grant programs that will impact New York’s specialty crop farmers, along with proposed funding levels in the 2012 Farm Bill:
Specialty Crop Block Grant Program -- $70 million: This program provides funding to State Departments of Agriculture to enhance the competiveness of specialty crops. Each fiscal year, states submit applications to the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service to receive funding, which is based on the proportion of the value of the state’s specialty crop production in relation to the national value of specialty crop production. In the last four years, New York has received $4 million, which has funded over 35 projects, including research into invasive species, apple orchards, and corn fields at Cornell University.
Market Access Program (MAP) -- $200 million: This program uses funds from the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to help U.S. producers, exporters, private companies, and other trade organizations to finance promotional activities for U.S. agricultural products. This program is essential in helping New York farmers export their products overseas, including apple growers who seek to sell to Canada and vineyard owners who are seeking to market wine to rapidly growing markets like China. The funds can help finance marketing campaigns, provide key market research, and navigate the intricacies of overseas markets for Upstate farmers that can be extremely lucrative but difficult to navigate.
Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) -- $25 million in FY2013: This program was created in order to improve the quality and efficiency of farms through innovative research. Projects that are eligible for funding must address at least one of five focus areas: (1) research in plant breeding, genetics, and genomics to improve crop characteristics; (2) efforts to identify and address threats from pests and diseases like the Asian long-horned beetle, and other invasive species that have been present in New York; (3) efforts to improve production efficiency, productivity, and profitability over the long term; (4) new innovators and technology, including ways to delay or inhibit ripening to protect buds from spring frosts and freezes; and (5) methods to prevent, detect, monitor, control, and respond to potential food safety hazards in the production and processing of specialty crops. New York has benefitted from approximately $10 million in funding to support research programs on viticulture, specialty crop innovation, and maintaining the health of New York’s potato farms.
National 22 Clean Plant Network -- $60 million: The program is essential to specialty crop farmers to enhance mitigation capabilities for dealing with pest and disease threats. It aims to prevent crop disasters by providing early plant pest detection and surveillance. Additionally, the program conducts surveys of pests of national significance, helps safeguard nursery production, and preforms outreach and education.
Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) for Specialty Crop market news -- $9 million: The AMS program creates an agriculture news service that provides critical information and specialty crop data to farmers in order to aid in decision making related to which crops they plant and sell. This program allows local reporters to collect and release economic data concerning specialty crops to assist farmers in making intelligent business decisions in reaction to changes in the market. Market news reporters provide current and unbiased price and shipment information on a daily and weekly basis, which includes data such as quality, pricing, and movement of crops.
Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) -- $9 million: Addresses technical barriers to the export of U.S. specialty crops by providing funding to U.S. organizations for activities such as seminars and workshops, study tours, field surveys, pest and disease research, and pre-clearance programs. This program is designed to help farmers identify and tap into new markets abroad to sell their crops, creating an increased demand that could mean additional revenue that can be reinvested in hiring additional workers, purchasing new land, new equipment, or other purchases that can stimulate economic growth.
The Farm Bill would also make significant improvements to the Noninsured Crop Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory, or prevented planting occur due to a natural disaster. This program is vital to New York, which is home to thousands of farmers who plant non-insurable crops in their fields or farm in counties where insurance for their particular crops is not offered. Under the current program, a farmer who produces less than 50% of their anticipated yield due to a disaster is paid 55% of the average market price for the lost crop. The Senate Farm Bill would seriously improve the program by allowing farmers to purchase more NAP coverage that would kick in for farmers who produce less than 65% of their expected yield. Those losses would also be paid out at 100% of market value under the proposal. Schumer pointed out that the devastating crop losses thanks to Irene and Lee, and this year’s spring freezes, highlighted the need for this stronger NAP program.
The bill also provides new opportunities for farmers to work with other producers of similar crops to create new insurance products that fit their needs. Under current USDA law, farmers have the opportunity to develop proposals for their own crop insurance policies, but doing so is often difficult and costly. Crop insurance is generally designed in ways that are beneficial to large Midwestern farms that grow massive amounts of a relatively small number of crops. Northeastern farms, like those in New York, typically grow a wider variety of crops for which there may not be insurance programs so they lack assistance in the event of a freeze or flooding. The Farm Bill on the Senate floor this week would make it easier for New York farmers to design insurance policies and products that work for their unique needs.
Current law allows the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) to reimburse half of the expenses involved in researching and creating a new policy. Unfortunately, pooling together with other farmers with similar crop portfolios to create a new insurance policy can be time consuming and involve significant up-front costs. The new Farm Bill removes barriers to farmers with crops that are currently underserved by existing crop insurance policies and makes it easier for them to develop their own crop insurance policies by giving them an additional 25% reimbursement of their development costs up front. This means that, if a producer organization spends its own money creating a new policy, the FCIC could reimburse farmers with a greater share of that cost upfront making it much more affordable for farmers to develop insurance policies that work for them. The new Farm Bill also allows the FCIC to conduct research and development to improve existing policies or develop new crop insurance products that are specifically tailored to meet the needs of small farmers.
According to the most recent USDA agricultural census, specialty crops were worth over $600 million to Upstate farmers in 2007. The figures below include the value of potatoes, sweet potatoes, melons, berries, fruits, tree nuts and other assorted vegetables. Here is how those figures break down across the state:
§In the Capital Region, specialty crops were valued at $43,600,000
§In Western New York, specialty crops were valued at $100,564,000
§In Central New York, specialty crops were valued at $57,577,000
§In the Rochester/Finger Lakes Region, specialty crops were valued at$302,989,000
§In the Hudson Valley, specialty crops were valued at $86,276,000
§In the North Country, specialty crops were valued at $9,538,000
§In the Southern Tier, specialty crops were valued at $34,989,000
New York produces a wide range of specialty crops (fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, herbs and spices) that rank highly in the nation in terms of both production and economic value. New York is a leader in the following fields:
§5th for fresh market vegetables ($325 million)
§2nd for apples ($224 million)
§7th for floriculture products ($171 million)
§7th for processing vegetables ($61.7 million)
§3rd for wine and grape juice ($58.4 million)
§3rd for cabbage ($54.5 million)
§2nd for maple syrup ($17.8 million)
§7th for Christmas trees ($8.8 million)
§4th for tart cherries and pears ($7.3 million)
“This year’s Farm Bill looks out for New York’s fruit and vegetable farmers who are all too often overlooked,” continued Schumer. “Protecting these key programs and reforming crop insurance to make it work for New York will be a shot in the arm for an industry that is absolutely essential to the economic health of our rural communities across the state.”