U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today revealed the details of the newly released Senate Farm Bill. The senators said the bill could benefit key Upstate New York industries, and urged their colleagues in the Senate to pass the bill as quickly as possible.
Senators Schumer and Gillibrand detailed several major areas in which the Farm Bill will be a major boost to Upstate farmers, growers, and producers, as well as other New York businesses, like Hickey Freeman.
Schumer and Gillibrand said the newly announced bill reflects a variety of different priorities they pushed for on behalf of the New York agricultural community. Schumer said the bill will give New York's agricultural industry a shot in the arm, and vowed to preserve Upstate New York’s priorities as the bill goes through the legislative process.
“The pending Senate Farm Bill is a major victory for Upstate New York and its large and vital agricultural community. It includes important positive provisions that should push this bill over the finish line,” Senator Schumer said. “Ensuring the passage of a Farm Bill focused on agricultural policy is vital for New York’s agricultural community and our economy as a whole.
"The bill makes further investments to help Upstate New York dairy farmers, boosts the rapidly growing organic sector, builds on New York’s burgeoning industrial hemp industry, and protects important New York jewels like Hickey Freeman from unfair foreign competition.
"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. Most importantly this bill will also help deliver immediate certainty for our farmers at a time when they need it the most."
“New York State’s farmers and producers are vital to our economy and they work day and night to feed millions of families across our country,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “After hearing from farmers and producers all across our state, I fought hard on the Senate Agriculture Committee from the very beginning to make sure this year’s Senate Farm Bill had New York’s best interests at its core.
"I will always fight to support New York’s agriculture community, and I was very proud to support this legislation in committee.”
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, through 2023. U.S. manufacturers and wool producers -- and their American workers -- would be hard hit by the 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.
The Senators said the Senate Farm bill funds key environmental programs that are essential to farmers, like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). These programs are voluntary conservation initiatives that farmers can utilize through the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to help them continue to be good stewards of the land.
Agriculture and Farming/Growing:
The newly introduced Senate Farm Bill established mandatory funding of $11.5 million for the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP), which helps support farmers who want to become involved in the organic market by providing reimbursements of some of their annual fees for United States Department of Agriculture USDA organic certification. It includes an increase in critical funding for organic research through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative from its current level of $20 million to $50 million by FY2022.
Finally, the Senate version of the Farm Bill increases the authorization for the National Organic Program (NOP). Both Senators have been major supporters of this program that helps USDA protect farmers from having to unfairly compete against fraudulent organic imports while also helping to maintain consumer confidence in the USDA certified organic brand. This bill increases the authorization for the NOP to $16.5 million in FY2019, $18 million in FY2020, $20 million in FY2021, $22 million in FY2022, and $24 million in FY2023.
The Senate 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 Senate Farm Bill, according to Schumer and Gillibrand, provides vital funding to key programs that aid specialty crop producers, such as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. These programs help provide support to New York's specialty crop industry in the form of robust research funding.
The Senate Farm Bill reauthorizes Schumer’s original legislation known as The Maple Tap Act, which Schumer said is now officially called the Acer Access and Development Program. This provision will continue to help maple producers in the Hudson Valley and across Upstate New York boost their production and become more competitive with places like Canada, which produces 85 percent of the world's maple product.
The senators said, specifically, this provision provides an authorization for USDA grants to states that create programs to encourage individual and 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 University.
Another important provision Schumer and Gillibrand fought to include was the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. Schumer, a cosponsor of the Hemp Farming Act, said the provision could help unlock Industrial hemp’s full potential as an agricultural commodity across Upstate New York by removing hemp from a federal list of controlled substances.
The senators said the bill will do four important things for farmers nationwide including in New York State:
- Remove industrial hemp from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act;
- Empower states to be the principal regulators of hemp;
- Allow hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture;
- Finally, it would make hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance.
Most importantly, the senator’s said this important provision would allow for New York’s agricultural community to grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity if they so choose, allowing New York growers more flexibility.
The bill directs the National Agricultural Statistics Service of USDA to document barley production in New York State. This would ensure that producers have the information they need to decide on future plantings.
The information would be valuable for growers because it would provide sufficient data for crop insurance companies to expand insurance offerings and eventually offer a malting barley endorsement.
The newly introduced Senate Farm Bill also includes major victories for Upstate New York dairy farmers and producers. The newly introduced Farm Bill invests in programs to help give much-needed relief to Upstate New York dairy farmers and producers.
The Senate Version of the Farm Bill includes a variety of helpful reforms including: an investment of $100 million to help improve the Federal dairy insurance program to help make the program work better for small to medium dairy farms; a provision waiving administrative fees for beginning, veteran, and underserved farmers; a provision continuing the vital changes made in the Omnibus Budget bill that allowed for the creation of new dairy insurance tools in the future; legislation introduced by Senator Gillibrand, The Dairy Premium Refund Act, which would return $77.1 million in insurance premiums paid by farmers for insurance coverage that did not work, while also establishing a milk donation program to reimburse eligible dairy organizations costs incurred for donating their milk.
The newly introduced Senate farm bill also includes a vital provision called the Pet and Women Safety Act (PAWS) Act, which both Senators are currently cosponsors of. This bill would help give victims of domestic violence and their pets greater access to safe sheltering options, as well as provide stronger legal protections of pets. According to the Humane Society, up to one-third of domestic violence victims delay leaving a dangerous situation, because they fear for the safety of their pets, and up to one-fourth return to an abuser due to concern for their pets.
Local Food Programs
The Senate Farm Bill creates a new Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) by combining the Value Added Producer Grants Program and the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. The value-added producers grant program helps dairy farmers that start producing artisanal cheese or apple growers that enter the hard cider industry.
The grants administered through the new LAMP program will continue to support strengthening our local food systems from rural farmers to urban consumers.
Water, waste disposal, and wastewater facility grants
The Senate Farm bill provides funding to support and strengthen rural water infrastructure. Funding to Rural Development programs like the Water, Waste Disposal, and Wastewater Facility Grant program will help families and businesses across Upstate New York and nationwide continue to have access to clean drinking water.
Community facility investments
The Senate Farm Bill supports Community Facility investments to continue to help provide resources to construct hospitals, improve schools, while also improving fire and police stations across small towns in New York State.
This year’s Senate Farm Bill includes a provision, based on Senator Gillibrand’s bipartisan Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act (B-CROP Act), which would make grant funding available for rural broadband projects in high-need areas.
Gillibrand worked with her colleagues on the Senate Agriculture Committee to include this provision in the Senate Farm Bill, which would help encourage more high-speed broadband deployment to high-need areas by awarding grants in combination with the current loan funding available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service.
Federal funds would target the highest-need rural and tribal areas, allowing for grants of up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, and up to 75 percent for remote, high-need areas, to be awarded in combination with the current loan funding available through USDA. The Senate Farm Bill also increases the annual funding level of the USDA broadband program to $150 million.
The Farm Bill would reauthorize the Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zone designation for Sullivan County and the Town of Wawarsing in Ulster County. The REAP Zone program provides specialized technical assistance from USDA to assist in community development efforts, including rehabilitating rural housing, developing local and regional food systems, supporting rural entrepreneurs, small businesses, and infrastructure improvements to community facilities, water, and wastewater systems, and other similar projects that are critical to an area’s economic development. Senator Gillibrand worked with Senator Leahy (D-VT) and the Agriculture Committee to include this amendment in this year’s Farm Bill.