brSchumer Announces Passage of Farm Bill Would Boost Key Funding Programs For Apple, Grape, Onion, Maple Syrup And Other Products Bill Would Also Make Major Reforms To Crop Insurance Programs For Upstate NY Specialty FarmsbrbrFrost and Flooding From Irene And Lee Revealed Huge Problems With USDA Programs Farm Bill Passed This Week in Senate Would Make Significant ImprovementsbrbrSchumer: Plan Helps Protect Upstate Agriculture from Disaster, Ensure Key Funding is Maintained, and Sow the Seeds f

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the Senate has passed the Farm Bill with overwhelming bipartisan support, 66 - 27, and called on the House of Representatives to do the same. 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 few years 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. Additionally, the farm bill expands eligibility for rural development funds, increases the opportunity to insure crops that were previously uninsurable, and would allow farmers who lost crops in the freeze and frost of the past year to retroactively apply for higher levels of insurance. In the wake of the past few years marked by flooding and drought, the farm bill would increase the crop insurance budget by $5 billion. 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 highlighted changes 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, including Schumer's Acer Access and Development Act also known as the Maple Tap Act. This bill would provide USDA grants of up to $20 million per year to states that create programs to encourage individual landowners to open up their trees to maple tapping. Schumer's plan also provides grants to states to support market promotion, maple industry research and development, and education through leading institutions, like Cornell.

"The Senatepassed Farm Bill has some real gems for our Upstate farmers, so I will keep my foot squarely on the gas. I am calling on the House to take up and pass this bill as soon as possible," said  Senator Schumer.

Schumer continued, "This bill both retains programs that are crucial for our Upstate agricultural economy and provides funding for new programs that will greatly benefit our specialty crop farmers. Grapes, apples, onions, cherries, peaches and a host of other specialty crops are a huge part of the Upstate agriculture economy, and this bill reflects that. This bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, which shows that as good as this bill is for New York, it's as good for our farmers across the country, with programs to help our farmers export their crops, help our maple syrup tappers expand their supply, and assistance for farmers whose crops don't have insurance programs, but are struck by natural disasters."

"Senator Schumer has been proactive to include a number of initiatives within the Farm Bill that will assist the diverse farms throughout New York State, and we are grateful he has partnered with New York Farm Bureau to fight for our members' needs. The Farm Bill is now one step closer to becoming a reality following the Senate's passage in a bipartisan fashion, and we are hopeful the House will follow suit to alleviate the uncertainty that exists amongst farmers,"  said Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau.  

Schumer noted that the Senatepassed farm bill creates significant savings for taxpayers by ending direct payments and eliminating more than 100 duplicative programs and authorizations. Eliminating direct payments creates a savings of $15 billion by ending payments to farmers that in the past were awarded regardless of losses or even if crops are planted. The Senate passed farm bill also ends unnecessary payments to nonfarmers, which is known as the "management loophole," by tightening USDA's definition of who is actually an actively engaged farmer. The bill sets new limits on any person with an adjusted gross income of more than $750,000 receiving farm program payments as well.

Without any baseline in the budget, the key programs detailed by Senator Schumer 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 passed by the Senate 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 2013 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.

Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) $25 million in FY2014: This program was created in order to improve the quality and efficiency of farms through innovative research. Eligible projects must address research subjects like plant genetics to improve crops characteristics, invasive species, new technology, food safety hazards in production and more. 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.

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.

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 preclearance 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, or new equipment.

Market Access Program (MAP) : 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 initiatives in the bill will  increase the ability of farmers markets to sell local produce directly to consumers by (1) increasing support for farmers markets and (2) spurring the creation of food hubs to connect farmers to schools and other communitybased consumers. 

The Farm Bill would also make significant improvements to the Noninsured Crop Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance to producers of noninsurable 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 noninsurable crops in their fields or farm in counties where insurance for their particular crops is not offered.  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. 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 which passed the Senate this week would make it easier for New York farmers to design insurance policies and products that work for their unique needs by providing a subsidy to groups with limited means, and allowing them to petition USDA to begin offering said insurance policies.

The bill also standardizes the definition of "rural" across each Rural Development Program. The proposed language would define "rural" as a city or town with fewer than 50,000 people which is not contiguous or adjacent to a city or town with more than 50,000; some of the current population thresholds for Rural Development programs are in the 10,00020,000 range. Schumer noted that this change in language would bring new areas of New York into eligibility for rural development funds in the areas such as waste water management and expanding broadband access.


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