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senator charles schumer

July 18, 2018 - 2:12pm

Press release:

Last week, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer spoke directly to United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to urge him to secure a level playing field with Canadian producers during the renegotiation of the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

According to Schumer, in recent years, Canada has established dairy pricing policies and has maintained high tariffs that have effectively created a “Dairy Wall” -- stopping most U.S. dairy products from accessing Canadian markets and distorting global trade. Dairy farmers and producers from across New York State have been severely hurt by Canada’s manipulative and protectionist dairy trade practices, and it will only get worse without action.

Schumer, in his call, urged USTR Representative Lighthizer to press forward during NAFTA negotiations to secure free and fair trade for dairy farmers and producers in New York State and beyond. While NAFTA negotiations have stalled and there have been no scheduled NAFTA rounds, new rounds of negotiations are anticipated.

“During my call with United States Trade Representative Lighthizer, I made it clear that our hardworking New York dairy farmers and producers across Upstate New York are the most competitive in the world, but they depend on stable and fair rules to compete fairly in the nearby Canadian market," Senator Schumer said. "But Canada has erected a de facto protectionist ‘dairy wall’ and is not playing by the rules, and the current NAFTA renegotiation must be used to rectify that.

"I urged Representative Lighthizer to do more and do it now, so that dairy farmers and producers can finally compete on a level playing field, and am calling on him again to use this opportunity to fix the unfair Canadian dairy trade barriers that have plagued dairy farmers and producers across Upstate New York.”

Schumer explained Canada has an unfair advantage over New York dairy farmers and producers. In addition to Canada’s 270-percent tariff on milk, a program called the “Class 7” pricing program, a market-distorting supply management system, has caused severe pain to New York dairy producers since it came into force last year.

In fact, Canada has used the Class 7 program to triple its milk powder exports in the past year, by creating excess milk production capacity within Canada then dumping the resulting milk powder onto world markets. To further prove this dumping exists, Schumer added that Canada’s dairy farmers are some of the highest paid in the world, yet Canadian dairy companies are still able to be among the lowest cost sellers of Class 7 products globally.

Schumer made clear in his call that as the United States, Canadian and Mexican trade officials are closing in on a deal to revamp NAFTA, dairy farmers must be protected, and that more must be done to finally dismantle Canada’s market-distorting policies and ensure a level playing field for Upstate New York ’s dairy farmers and producers.

Schumer said that he has directly stressed the importance of securing meaningful changes in our dairy trade relationship with Canada to past and current administration officials, including President Trump, current United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Ambassador to the United States David MacNaughton, and the U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft -- who have all committed to address this issue.

Recently, Schumer joined Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to urge U.S. trade officials to do more to secure a level playing field with Canadian producers during NAFTA negotiations.

June 7, 2018 - 1:43pm

Press release:

On the heels of new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) finding that the amount of crude oil moving by rail to Northeast refineries is on the rise, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer demanded the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Department of Energy (DOE) propose and quickly finalize volatility standards.

***This will stabilize highly explosive crude oil before shipping it through New York.

Schumer said current law allows dangerous crude oil to be shipped by rail without being stabilized, making violent explosions far more likely.

In addition, Schumer explained that DOT and DOE should complete the ongoing formal process requesting comments from stakeholders and studying how crude oil properties affects its combustibility in rail accidents, which will inform this new rule.

Bakken crude barreling through local communities

“Every day across Upstate New York, oil railcars laden with Bakken crude pass through backyards and by schools and homes and near places of business putting communities in Upstate New York at risk if tank cars derail or puncture," Senator Schumer said. "It is clear to me that we need an all-of-the-above approach to safety, so I am urging the Federal Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy to finally publish and finalize standards that will stabilize highly explosive crude oil before shipping it through Upstate New York.

"These new regulations are an additional layer of safety that New Yorkers deserve and will help keep communities safer. We have tank cars barreling through communities throughout the state on a daily basis, and we should leave no stone unturned to further protect residents.”

According to a new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the volume of oil shipped by rail is again on the rise. Refineries in the Northeast, used about 3.1 million barrels of oil in March, a level not seen since early 2017.

Schumer said that this news in conjunction with the fact that next month is the fifth anniversary of the tragic explosion in Lac-Mèantic, which left 47 people dead in the Canadian Province of Quebec in July 2013; the issue of oil-by-rail safety is urgent.

Schumer said new crude oil volatility standards would make oil-by-rail safer. Schumer said existing efforts, including stakeholder comments collected by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) oil volatility study, should be quickly finished and used to create these new standards so shipment is safer. Schumer said is it vital the feds continue to address oil-by-rail safety concerns so that communities in Upstate New York and beyond are protected.

“The bottom line is – any time you are transporting volatile chemicals, there is a risk of explosion," Schumer said. "Things like safer tank cars, better braking, and lower speed limits – they all help make the rails safer.

"But when it comes to crude, one of the most powerful things we could do would be to set a good standard for the stability of what’s actually inside the tank cars.”

Additionally, according to a report published by the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in 2014, the Bakken crude oil that is transported on New York State rail lines is more volatile than most other types of crude oil and other products shipped by rail, and its greater volatility is linked to increased ignitability and flammability.

Schumer said this is particularly dangerous during derailments, punctures, and breaches and added that according to the PHMSA, this Bakken crude oil is primarily light and sweet, compared to heavier crude oils produced from conventional domestic reservoirs and imports. As a result, this lighter, sweeter crude oil is a higher quality and easier to refine into commercial products than the heavier crude oil.

However, this kind of oil is also easier to ignite because the flash point—the lowest temperature at which ignition can occur—is lower for Bakken than for other crude oils. This volatility is a measure of the tendency for the oil to vaporize or move from a liquid to a gaseous state. Because this Bakken oil is “lighter” and has a higher vapor pressure than most crude oils, it is particularly dangerous during rail transport, when derailments and breaches, and subsequent explosions, near communities are most likely to happen.

Although this kind of oil has been produced for decades, the recent boom in crude oil extraction in North Dakota, where a big portion of the Bakken oil emanates from, and similar deposits elsewhere has led to this dangerous and unexpected development in the industry.

Urging agencies to make a stabilization plan for highly flammable oil

Specifically, Schumer is calling on federal agencies to work together on a plan that would require oil companies to stabilize highly flammable and dangerous Bakken crude oil prior to transport. Stabilization technology is not a new concept and has been used previously in oil fields in other regions of the country and the world.

Schumer said that while North Dakota has attempted to address this issue on a state level, their regulations have not gone far enough. The North Dakota law requires that oil be stabilized to at least 13.7 pounds per square inch, a standard that the oil that caused a deadly explosion in the Lac-Mègantic disaster likely would have met.

Schumer said that because the oil in this disaster would have met this new requirement, it would have done little to prevent the disaster. Instead, Schumer said, the DOT and DOE must go even further. Schumer is asking these two agencies to work together to develop a standard for stabilization that would greatly reduce the risk of Lac-Mègantic-type disasters and require oil companies to follow it. Schumer said requiring that Bakken crude be stabilized prior to transport could help greatly improve safety.

The senator has long pushed for other key safety components in order to protect communities, including operational changes that enhance standards for new and existing tank cars, reduce train speed limits, and create reporting requirements so that first responder can be prepared in the case of a derailment or disaster.

Furthermore, in 2016 Schumer announced that, following his push, the DOT and DOE began collecting stakeholder comments and studying crude oil volatility as the first major step toward requiring oil companies to stabilize their highly flammable crude oil before shipping it by rail.

He highlighted that while that first step is important, USDOT and USDOE should not take their feet off the gas and should continue to advance the stabilization rule all the way through the regulatory process.

***For previous coverage about volatile products being transported across Genesee County, click here.

April 23, 2018 - 4:26pm

Press release:

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today called on U.S. trade officials to secure a level playing field with Canadian producers during the renegotiation of the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Schumer said that in recent years, Canada has established dairy pricing policies and has maintained high tariffs that have effectively created a “Dairy Wall” stopping most U.S. dairy products from accessing Canadian markets and distorting global trade.

Dairy farmers and producers, like the 340 dairy farmers who make up Upstate Niagara Co-Op, which supplies O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative Inc. in Batavia, have been severely hurt by Canada’s manipulative trade practices and it will only get worse without action.

O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative Inc., with more than 400 employees and majority owned by Upstate Niagara, has already lost millions of dollars in contracts due to Canada’s actions “Dairy Wall.”

Schumer said that the time to secure a level playing field with Canada by expanding market opportunities and eliminating Canada’s unfair pricing policies – is now and we cannot let this opportunity go to waste.

“Our hardworking New York dairy farmers and producers like Upstate Niagara Co-Op’s 340 farm family members across the Finger Lakes and O-AT-KA Milk Products in Batavia are the most competitive in the world, but they depend on stable and fair rules to compete in a global economy, to sell their dairy products, expand their business and create new local jobs,” Schumer said.

“As trade officials near a deal to renegotiate NAFTA – an issue President Trump and I both agree on – we must make it a top priority to begin reversing restrictive dairy pricing policies in Canada that are hurting our dairy producers at their core, and now is a real opportunity to do just that.”

Schumer explained Canada has an unfair advantage over New York dairy farmers and producers. In addition to Canada’s 270 percent tariff on milk, a program called the “Class 7” pricing program, a market-distorting supply management system, has caused severe pain to New York dairy producers like Avon’s Anderson Farm and their fellow Upstate Niagara Co-Op dairies since it came into force last year.

In fact, Canada has used the Class 7 program to triple its milk powder exports in the past year by creating excess milk production capacity within Canada, then dumping the resulting milk powder onto world markets. To further prove this dumping exists, Schumer added that Canada’s dairy farmers are some of the highest paid in the world, yet Canadian dairy companies are still able to be among the lowest cost sellers of Class 7 products globally.

Anderson Farm is one of the 340 dairy farm members of the Upstate Niagara Co-Op, which is the majority owner of the O-AT-KA Milk Products facility in Batavia. More than 400 employees work at O-AT-KA. Upstate Niagara dairies throughout the Rochester Finger Lakes Region like Anderson Farm depend on O-AT-KA to purchase their milk to then manufacture and sell milk products for the domestic and international markets.

Since Canada’s implementation of Class 7, O-AT-KA lost $19 million in annual sales of Ultra Filtered milk (UF Milk), a product used to make cheese and other dairy products that it had been exporting into Canada. Moreover, the production of this UF milk for the Canadian market had accounted for 20 percent (about 180 million pounds) of all of O-AT-KA’s milk volume.

This severely undercut a $16 million investment made by O-AT-KA in 2012 to build a two-story addition at its Batavia plant to manufacture UF Milk to support its export business to Canada. When Canada unfairly cut off UF Milk imports and implemented Class 7, it dealt a significant blow to the local agriculture economy and was a factor in the current U.S. milk inventory imbalance that is contributing to now drive the price of milk down.

Schumer was joined by Jim Anderson, fourth generation owner of Anderson Farm, O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative Inc. President & Chairman John Gould, local dairy farmers, and elected officials.

Gould, who also owns an Upstate Niagara Co-Op dairy farm in Genesee County, said “Canada has a long history of erecting barriers to trade when it comes to dairy and the creation of Class 7 is an example of that. Canada's Class 7 market manipulation has caused harm to O-AT-KA Milk Products and their farm family owners, whose investments in serving legitimate customers in Canada have been blocked.

"As NAFTA is renegotiated, it is time that Canadian gamesmanship ends and a constructive agreement is reached that allows market participation and access under rules that all trading partners can follow. We thank Senator Schumer for his leadership and work in keeping this important issue top of mind as negotiations proceed."

As U.S., Canadian and Mexican trade officials are closing in on a deal to revamp North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Schumer said now represents a real opportunity to dismantle Canada’s market-distorting policies and ensure a level playing field for American dairy farmers and producers.

Schumer noted that he has directly stressed the importance of securing meaningful changes in our dairy trade relationship with Canada to past and current administration officials, including current United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, President Trump, Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton, and the U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft who have all committed to address this issue.

Right now, products manufactured by O-AT-KA Milk Products include non-fat dry milk powder, buttermilk powder, whey powder, canned evaporated milk, butter, fluid condensed milk, iced coffee, nutritional beverages and other various drinks.

O-AT-KA has gross annual sales of more than $300 million and is a significant employer and economic development engine in Upstate NY’s dairy and manufacturing industries. Schumer said that in order for Upstate Niagara member dairies and O-AT-KA to continue to be global leaders, Canada’s rapacious dairy-related trade policies need to be addressed and that NAFTA represents a major opportunity to do so.

Here's Schumer's letter to Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative:

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

As the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations come towards a conclusion, I would like to again emphasize the importance of securing meaningful concessions from Canada to provide stable market access for our dairy producers. Securing meaningful and enforceable commitments that will allow U.S. dairy producers to compete with Canada’s on a level playing field should be a top priority in NAFTA renegotiations. As I have expressed to you many times, I strongly believe that we should not miss this opportunity to protect our dairy producers from Canada’s recent predatory trade practices.

As you know, Canada’s Class 7 pricing program, a market-distorting supply management system, has caused severe pain to New York dairy producers since it came into force last year. Canada has also maintained large tariffs on dairy products, including a 270 percent tariff on milk. New York’s dairy farmers and companies like Cayuga Milk Ingredients, O-AT-KA Milk, and Ideal Dairy Farm, rely on market-based trade with Canada for a significant percentage – millions of dollars – of their revenue. Not only are New York’s producers locked out of Canada’s ultrafiltered milk market, but in just a year’s time, Canada has used its Class 7 program to triple its milk powder exports, dumping powdered milk products into global markets and undercutting New York dairy producer’s exports. This Class 7 system is likely a violation of Canada’s World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments, but addressing it quickly through NAFTA renegotiation is needed, rather than waiting for years for a WTO determination. This Class 7 system should be dismantled through new NAFTA commitments.

In our discussions, you have committed to me that you would prioritize addressing this issue through NAFTA renegotiations. The President has also privately expressed to me his explicit desire to address this issue and has publically emphasized, many times, the unfair way that Canada has treated our dairy producers, noting just last month: “Canada must treat our farmers much better. Highly restrictive.”

Our hard working dairy producers are the most competitive in the world, but they depend on stable and fair rules to compete in a global economy. Again, I urge you to make meaningful and enforceable commitments that level the playing field for our dairy producers a top priority as NAFTA renegotiations conclude.

Thank you for your attention to this issue.

September 29, 2016 - 5:38pm

Press release:

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that, following his push, $36 million in federal funding for the construction phase of the newest National Veterans’ Cemetery in Western New York has been included in the final continuing resolution (CR) package.

This final appropriations bill includes the FY2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill and it is set to be signed into law by the president soon. The cemetery will be located on 132 acres on Indian Falls Road in Pembroke.

Schumer said the Veterans’ Cemetery in Genesee County will be the first and only of its kind in the Buffalo-Rochester area, and will save thousands of military families from having to travel upward of 100 miles to visit their loved ones at what is now the closest vet cemetery in Bath.

The Pembroke cemetery will provide a fitting burial option to approximately 96,000 currently underserved veterans and family members living in Western New York. Veterans with a qualifying discharge, their spouses and eligible dependent children may be buried in a VA national cemetery. Also eligible are military personnel who die on active duty, their spouses and eligible dependents. Burial benefits available for all eligible Veterans, regardless of whether they are buried in a national cemetery or a private cemetery, include a burial flag, a Presidential Memorial Certificate and a government headstone or marker.

Additionally, with the anticipated completion of the VA’s required Environmental Review by the end of November 2016, the VA anticipates it will complete the acquisition of the two adjoining parcels, a 60-acre parcel and a 77-acre parcel, by the second quarter of FY17 (early calendar year 2017) to enlarge the area of the cemetery. Currently the VA parcel is 132 acres. The acquisitions of the two parcels would effectively double the size of the cemetery.

According to guidance provided by the VA on cemetery development timelines, it can typically take up to 24 months to complete the cemetery master planning and design process. Following the completion of that phase, the construction phase typically requires 24-30 months to compete, with early-use burial areas made available approximately 12 months after the start of construction. Now that the $36 million to fund the construction is secure, the VA anticipates it will begin solicitation of a General Contractor to award construction. Solicitation and contract award is anticipated to require approximately six months.

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