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With The Farm Bill Approaching, Schumer Meets With Orange And Sullivan County Agricultural Community To Discuss Challenges Faced By Local Growers And Farmers

Senator's Comprehensive Proposal for the Northeast Region Will Help Upstate Farms Stay Competitive - Region's Dairy Farms, Specialty Crop Growers, in Addition to Providing Funding for Conservation and Nutrition Programs

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer met with local growers, dairy farmers, and other members of the agricultural communities in Orange and Sullivan counties to discuss the upcoming Farm Bill.  In response to years past-when the needs of farmers and the agricultural community in Upstate New York and the Northeast have been left behind in favor of major agriculture conglomerates in the Midwest and on the West Coast-Schumer sponsored comprehensive farm legislation to provide targeted relief to upstate New York farmers.


The socalled "Northeast Marker Bill" will ensure that the leaders on the farm bill cannot ignore the unique needs of Orange and Sullivan County farmers. The legislation will support small farmers, dairy producers, and growers of specialty crops.  It will expand specialty crop funding, promote government purchases of fresh fruit and vegetables, and improve crop insurance to ensure that the types of diverse farm operations in the region have access to better risk management tools, expand the MILC program.


"Agriculture and farming are critical to the Hudson Valley economy and we need to do everything we can to ensure it stays that way," Schumer said. "New York farmers and farmers across the Northeast have unique needs that differ, sometimes significantly, from their Midwestern and West Coast counterparts, which is why I laid out our region's priorities in the Northeast Marker Bill, and why I am going to fight to ensure that the needs and concerns of Upstate New York don't get plowed over in the 2007 Farm Bill."


·         Crop Insurance - Schumer's proposal would expand the crop insurance programs to ensure that specialty crop growers are covered and receive a fair share of payments. Although the list of covered commodities has grown in recent years, 80% of total policy premiums and federal subsidies are accounted for by just four commodities - corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton.  Nearly 56% of payouts go to farmers in four states Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Oklahoma.  Schumer's proposal would double the Agricultural Management Assistance program, reauthorize and improve the Adjusted Gross Revenue Insurance Pilot Program, and expand crop insurance incentives to include beginning farmers, as an incentive to enter agriculture.


In addition, the bill increases funding for the Agricultural Management Assistance Program and retains the current flexibility of use provision. This bill makes several program improvements including higher levels of coverage, establish a floor to the 5year income history, and revise the definition of "animals" to include contract livestock growers. It creates a pilot product that would provide revenue insurance plans to new and beginning farmers, and that offers higher subsidies on crop insurance premiums as incentive to enter agriculture and provides producers with coverage area flexibility to better match their operations.


·         Dairy Safety Net - Schumer's legislation includes an extension and expansion of the existing MILC program developed in conjunction with Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand (DNY).  It also raises the federal milk marketing orders target price for class I milk to $15.58/hwt.  The bill would require USDA to study the economic benefits to producers of establishing two classes of milk, require mandatory reporting of all dairy commodity transactions and establish a loan guarantee program to encourage investment in new processing technologies. The bill will also expand funding for research into and expanded cost share assistance for methane digestion.


·         Conservation - The bill would authorize funding for working lands conservation programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP).  Specifically, Schumer would raise funding for EQIP to $2 billion every year, up from $1.3 bill annually and increase funding for FRPP to $300 million.  These programs are extremely important to farmers in New York where there is a huge backlog of unfunded applications.  Schumer's proposal also includes fully funding the Conservation Reserve Program, which removes producing cropland into conservation uses for about 10 years.


·         Energy - In addition to Schumer's previous legislation to boost corn based ethanol production in upstate New York, Schumer's proposal would provide direct incentives to speed up development of cellulosic ethanol.  Specifically, Schumer's proposal would reauthorize Section 9008 of the 2002 Farm Bill, which funds research and development on production of biobased fuels, including feedstock production, harvesting, transport, and storage.


·         Market and Economic Development - The bill proposes a new program focused on fostering farm profitability for all producers. The program would be administered through each state's department of agriculture, with USDA playing the critical role of ensuring program accountability. State departments of agriculture would distribute grant funds within each state to eligible entities for allowable uses consistent with the priorities and needs identified through statelevel strategic plans. Program funds could not be used to directly subsidize the price of an agricultural commodity.


·         Honey Bees Population Loss - The bill authorizes $250 million to combat Colony Collapse Disorder that is decimating the bee population in upstate New York and across the country.


Congress is set to reauthorize the provisions passed in the 2002 Farm Bill, which is massive legislation that supports the farming economy across the country.  The provisions in the current farm bill will expire on September 30, 2007 unless reauthorized.  The House of Representatives recently passed its version of the Farm Bill, and the Senate bill is slated to be marked up after the August recess.


Agricultural production returned over $3.6 billion to the farm economy in 2005. About 25 percent of the state's land area, or 7.55 million acres, are used by the 35,600 farms to produce a very diverse array of food products. Milk is New York's leading agricultural product and is produced all across the state. Milk sales account for onehalf of total agricultural receipts. Production in 2005 was 11.7 billion pounds with a preliminary value of $1.91 billion, placing New York as the nation's third leading producer.


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