SCHUMER: JUST-RELEASED FARM BILL REPORT INCLUDES MAJOR VICTORIES FOR UPSTATE NY DAIRY, FRUIT, VEGETABLE FARMERS MORE CALLS ON COLLEAGUES TO SWIFTLY PASS BILL
brSchumer Announces that the Bipartisan Farm Bill Conference Report Has Been Released With Dozens of Important Victories for New Yorks Dairy, Fruit Vegetable Farmers MorebrbrbrSchumer Also Outlines Other Hard-Fought Priorities for Upstate New York, Including his Maple Tap Act, the Wool Trust Fund and Specialty Crop Block Grantsbrbr brSchumer: After Over a Year of Fits and Starts, the Time is Now to Pass the Farm Bill Will Help Protect Upstate Agriculture from Disaster, Ensure Key Funding is M
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed the details of the justreleased Farm Bill conference report, outlined how they benefit key Upstate New York industries, and urged his colleagues in the Senate and House to pass the final bill as quickly as possible. On a conference call, Schumer detailed several major areas in which the farm bill will be a major boost to fruit and vegetable farmers, dairy producers, maple tappers, farmers markets and other New York businesses, like Hickey Freeman. 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, creating insurance products for crops where none before existed. Schumer also announced that two of his top legislative priorities for the Farm Bill have been included in the conference report: the Wool Trust Fund and the Maple Tap Act, now known as the Acer Access and Development Program.
Schumer said that the conference report of the bill reflects the vast majority of priorities he has pushed for on behalf of New York farmers, and that on balance it should be passed - and passed swiftly - to give New York's agricultural industry a huge shot in the arm. The report, which has already been agreed to by key representatives from the Senate and House of Representatives, could be ready for voting on the floor of the House of Representatives as soon as Wednesday. Schumer was joined by New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton who is supportive of the report language.
"After over a year of fits and starts - and indeed some false starts - the Farm Bill is again gaining momentum with the release of the conference report, which includes important compromises that should propel this bill across the finish line. Ensuring the Farm Bill's passage is of the utmost importance to New York, because it maintains or grows scores of programs for Upstate New York dairy, fruit and vegetable farmers, maple syrup producers and even New York jewels like Hickey Freeman. While the bill does not contain everything that we fought for, it is ultimately a win for the farmers that are the heart of Upstate New York: it will not only pay large dividends down the road, but also delivers immediate certainty for our farmers at a time that they need it"
"This is an important moment for every farmer in New York. They have long advocated for a sensible Farm Bill that offers an improved safety net for the state's diverse agricultural community. New York Farm Bureau greatly appreciates the efforts of Senator Schumer to make a new Farm Bill a reality, " said Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau President.
Given the challenging budget environment, the programs detailed by Senator Schumer in the conference call were all subject to potentially devastating cuts in this year's farm bill. Schumer noted that he strongly disagrees with the cuts being made to the SNAP program, and fought hard during the negotiations to avoid cuts to this program, which hundreds of thousands of families rely on. Schumer will fight to undo these SNAP cuts in the near future. However, the conference report contains robust levels for key programs that New York farmers rely upon. Schumer outlined specific measures included in the conference report that would help the Upstate agricultural industry, dairy industry, and in general, spur business growth.
New York Business Growth
Schumer fought to extend and fully fund the Wool Trust Fund program, which Rochester icon Hickey Freeman relies on for crucial import tax relief. The program was created more than a decade ago to compensate the domestic suit industry for the competitive disadvantage that results from an unfair tariff inversion where the duty on the imported finished product is lower than the duty on the inputs used to make the product here at home. Under the Wool Trust Fund program, U.S. manufacturers of wool clothing and fabric are eligible for a partial refund of duties paid on imports of wool inputs. The Wool Trust Fund program also provides U.S. wool producers with funding for improvements in wool production methods and development of the wool market. The conference report restores Wool Trust Fund payment levels for recent years when the program was underfunded and extends its authorization for five additional years, through 2019. U.S. manufacturers and wool producers - and their American workers - would be hard hit by elimination of the Wool Trust Fund program. Hickey Freeman has saved millions of dollars over the past few years through the program and this provision will ensure they receive the dollars they are owed.
Schumer successfully fought to include his original legislation known as The Maple Tap Act, now officially called the Acer Access and Development Program, into the conference report. Schumer's legislation will help maple producers in the Hudson Valley and in Upstate New York boost their production and become more competitive with places like Canada, which produces 85% of the world's maple product. Across New York State, there are over 280 million maple trees with syruptapping potential, but less than one percent of them are currently used for maple tapping. Specifically, Schumer's bill would provide USDA grants of up to $20 million per year to states that create programs to encourage individual, private landowners to open up their trees to maple tapping. Schumer's legislation would also provide grants to states to support market promotion, maple industry research and development, and education through leading institutions, like Cornell.
Furthermore, in the conference report, the Market Access Program (MAP) will receive sustained funding at $200 million. MAP is a program that will help jumpstart potential exporters in the agricultural industry, especially wine and apple growers, by providing USDA grant funds to help producers finance promotional activities and conduct market research.
The conference report strengthens Rural Development grant and loan programs, such as the value added producers grant program, which helps dairy farmers that start producing artisanal cheese or apple growers that enter the hard cider industry. These programs strengthen opportunities for farmers to expand into the value added business ventures. These grants allow farmers to engage in entrepreneurial ventures to turn agricultural goods into products they can sell for a premium, which provides a great source of income. Additionally, the bill strengthens the connection between rural farmers and urban consumers through the promotion of farmers markets and food hubs, which gives consumers access to fresh local food. The Farmers Market Promotion Program is expanded to include local foods projects, such as establishing food hubs and other central facilities to store, transport and distribute food, improving our local food system from farmer to consumer.
Agriculture and Farming/Growing:
Schumer explained that 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 justreleased report increases or sustains funding for a series of key programs that aid specialty crop producers, such as: the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops, the Agricultural Marketing Service for Specialty crops and the National Clean Plant Network. These programs, taken together, will provide a support structure to New York's specialty crop industry unlike never before-in the form of increased research funding (e.g. into inhibiting the spread of invasive species or increases in production efficiency), technical assistance, crop disease protection, and marketing resources.
Also, the bill expands crop insurance to fruit and vegetable growers who traditionally did not have access. The bill 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. What's more, the bill includes a conservation compliance agreement, which will ensure crop insurance remains strong while conserving millions of acres of land. The bill funds key environmental programs that are essential to farmers, like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
Moreover, the bill will help cherry and peach growers recover from the unexpected and devastating early thaw and freeze in the Spring of 2012 by improving the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) program and making it retroactive for frost and freeze that occurred in 2012 and allowing them to purchase a higher level of coverage than is currently available. NAP provides catastrophic coverage for noninsurable crops, like cherries and peaches. The 2012 early thaw/freeze weather prompted USDA issued a total of four federal agriculture disaster declarations for 34 counties in New York, including major cherry and peach growing regions like Wayne County, representing $2.09 billion in agricultural production. Across the state, more than 3 million acres of farmland lost 30% of their crops or more, with many farms reporting losses ranging upwards of 100%. Particularly hardhit were fruit producers, including cherry and peach growers, all of whom would be eligible for the relief under this new provision in the Senate's Farm Bill. Schumer highlighted that this means that Wayne County cherry and peach farmers who were devastated this spring and lost more than 35% of their crop would be retroactively eligible for insurance of up to 65% of their yield loss from 2012.
Schumer's office can provide further information on these specific programs and their funding levels upon request.
For consumers of dairy, passing a permanent Farm Bill would avert what's known as the "dairy cliff." If Congress were to continue without passing an extension of the Farm Bill, the USDA would have to revert to a depressionera policy that requires the federal government to priceset dairy products. Such a reversion of policy could as much as double the price of milk for consumers. In fact, Schumer noted, we have already gone over the dairy cliff, so time is of the essence to pass the Farm Bill to ensure price sanity for dairy consumers.
Furthermore, the Farm Bill conference report creates a new dairy margin insurance program that includes lower premium rates for small dairy farmers that have less than 200 cows. Schumer explained that because the average herd size in New York is roughly 120 cows, the vast majority of New York's dairy producers will benefit from more affordable insurance premiums. Schumer said that overall, this report language creates a stronger safety net than the MILC program for the dairy industry.