Local Matters

Community Sponsors

senator charles schumer

December 21, 2019 - 1:38pm

Press release:

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced Thursday, following their tireless advocacy, $14 million in federal funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to combat Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases and the Kay Hagan Tick Act were included in the final, soon-to-pass bipartisan spending package for Fiscal Year 2020.

The $14 million in funding amounts to a $2 million increase over last year’s level. Last year, a Schumer-backed amendment in the must-pass Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations bill secured the first increase in CDC Lyme disease funding in five years.

The bipartisan Kay Hagan Tick Act, named in honor of the late Senator Kay Hagan who recently passed away due to complications from Powassan virus, a rare tick-borne disease, is cosponsored by both Schumer and Gillibrand and complements the CDC funding.

The senators explained that since New York remains the #1 target for tick-related disease in the United States, they went back to the mat to secure additional funding for the critical CDC program this year and fight for adoption of the Kay Hagan Tick Act.

“Upstate New York has been feeling the brutal bite of Lyme disease and tick-borne diseases for years now, and thankfully this sorely needed increase in CDC funding and the Kay Hagan Tick Act, combined, will give us the resources we need to strike back,” said Senator Schumer. “New Yorkers and their children shouldn’t have to worry that spending time outside in their backyards will leave them with a debilitating ailment like Lyme disease, and this funding will help prevent that.

"I was proud to lead the charge in securing the crucial funding and imperative legislation to combat the spread of tick-borne diseases throughout New York and will keep fighting until we can stamp out these persistent diseases.”

“I am very pleased that Congress has included in the year-end budget package funding for Lyme disease and tick-borne illness research, surveillance, prevention, and outbreak response,” said Senator Gillibrand. “New Yorkers have felt the impact of tick-borne illness for years, we need to step up our efforts to protect our communities.

"It is particularly meaningful this year, as we lost my dear friend and colleague, former-Senator Kay Hagan to tick-borne illness just a couple of months ago. I am hopeful that with this funding we will be able to prevent other Americans from suffering from the often-devastating and life-altering impacts of tick-borne illness.”

Schumer and Gillibrand said that the increase in funding for the CDC will specifically be used to target vector-borne pathogens which cause diseases in humans.

The funding will contribute to a better understanding of when, where, and how people become exposed to vector-borne pathogens, as well as boost prevention efforts related to vector-borne pathogens and mitigate potential consequences of infection.

Additionally, the funding will be used to help implement vector-borne disease diagnostics, surveillance, control, and prevention programs.

The Kay Hagan Tick Act requires HHS to develop a national strategy for vector-borne diseases, including tick-borne diseases, in an effort to coordinate efforts among various government agencies.

The bill also reauthorizes the Regional Centers of Excellence in Vector-Borne Disease for five years at $10 million per year.

Schumer and Gillibrand noted that this is especially important for New York State, as Cornell University is home to the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases.

Lastly, the Kay Hagan Tick Act will allow the CDC to make grants to state, local, and tribal health departments in order to improve the ability to identify, report, prevent, and respond to vector-borne diseases and related outbreaks. 

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection carried by deer ticks, which can be transmitted through a bite to a human or animal. If left untreated, the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi travels through the bloodstream, manifests itself in body tissues, and causes mild or severe symptoms, depending on the case.

Lyme disease begins as a rash at the location of the tick bite and then spreads to the nervous system and joints. Early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment are crucial to recovery, and appropriate antibiotic use in the early stages of Lyme disease typically results in a swift recovery. Untreated and undiagnosed Lyme disease can lead to debilitating effects on a person’s health.

Senator Schumer and Gillibrand have long fought for federal funding for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease, which have contributed to a major spike in cases across New York State.

Last year, Schumer fought to secure more than a 12-percent increase in CDC Lyme disease funding, for a total of $12 million, which was the first increase of its kind in five years.

In 2018, during an in-person meeting with CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, Schumer received a firm commitment from the director that he would be working to address Lyme disease in New York State.

Schumer and Gillibrand also helped secure a $2 billion increase in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding last year, which can be used to expand and build upon existing NIH-funded Lyme disease research that is already occurring at New York institutions, such as Stony Brook, Columbia University, in the SUNY system, and at Hunter College.

Schumer has traveled throughout New York State advocating for increased funding to fight tick-borne diseases and will continue to advocate for these funds for New Yorkers.

December 19, 2019 - 12:51pm

Press release:

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that they secured $2.5 million for the National Firefighter Cancer Registry as part of the bipartisan spending agreement, which is expected to pass Congress shortly.

In June 2018, Congress passed Schumer-backed legislation that established a specialized National Firefighter Cancer Registry, which is now managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Schumer has long fought on behalf of this critical registry that aims to improve collection capabilities and activities related to the nationwide monitoring of cancer incidence among all firefighters, both career and volunteer.

Additionally, Schumer and Gillibrand fought to secure critical, $5 million increases for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program. 

“Firefighters risk their lives every day, charging into extreme danger, and exposing themselves to harmful toxins and pollutants. We owe it to these courageous men and women to ensure that if they fall ill, they receive first-rate medical care and treatment,” Senator Schumer said.

“That’s why I was so proud to lead the effort in securing a boosted $2.5 million for the absolutely paramount national firefighter cancer registry, which not only helps researchers track the incidence of cancer among firefighters, but also informs efforts to treat and eventually prevent firefighters being stricken by cancer, and major increases in federal funding for two of the grant program our first responders depend on most: AFG and SAFER. I’ll always have the backs of our local heroes—our fighters—who throw themselves in front of harm’s way to protect their communities.” 

“Firefighters put their lives on the line to protect all of us and that risk extends far beyond their firefighting. It is imperative that we give these brave responders access to the medical care they need to combat cancer and other ailments brought on by their exposure to smoke and other harmful toxins,” Senator Gillibrand said.

“I am proud that Congress has dedicated funding for the National Firefighter Cancer Register to better understand the connection between firefighting and cancer and give our firefighters access to the resources they need, and that funding for two critical firefighting grant programs has increased. This is great news for our first responders, and I will continue to advocate for them in Congress.”

According to a five-year study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, there are twice as many firefighters in the United States with malignant mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, when compared to the general population. The same study also found that firefighters have an increased risk of death from lung cancer and leukemia as compared to the general population.

The senators explained that firefighters are exposed to a range of harmful toxins when responding to emergency situations, often as a result of the noxious flame retardants and other chemicals that are used in everyday items, such as furniture, clothing, and children’s toys.

Experts and scientists have repeatedly sounded the alarm on the danger of these toxic chemicals because they have been found to cause developmental delays in children from long-term exposure in addition to rare cancers in firefighters when these products burn and the toxins become airborne.

Schumer and Gillibrand said research has indicated that there is a strong connection between firefighting and an increased risk for several major cancers, including testicular, stomach, multiple myeloma, and brain cancers.

Prior to 2018, there had never been a long-term registry established to track the potential connections between firefighting and incidences of cancer. Schumer and Gillibrand, therefore, said this national firefighter cancer registry is of the utmost importance, so experts and researchers can more effectively monitor nationwide trends and incidences of various cancers among firefighters – both career and volunteer.

The senators said this registry could also help medical professionals more effectively identify and treat cancer in firefighters over the long-term.

Specifically, this national firefighter cancer registry does the following:

  • Compiles epidemiological information submitted by healthcare professionals related to cancer incidence among firefighters in one comprehensive database;
  • Makes anonymous data available to public health researchers so that they have access to comprehensive datasets that will allow them to expand groundbreaking research related to firefighting and cancer;
  • Improves understanding of cancer incidence, which could potentially lead to the development of advanced safety protocols and safeguards for firefighters on the front lines each day;
  • Allows for increased collaboration between the CDC and epidemiologists, public health experts, clinicians, and firefighters through regular and consistent consultations to improve the effectiveness and accuracy of the registry. 

Schumer supported the creation of the national firefighter registry from its earliest stages, traveling from one corner of the state to the other to push the legislation that eventually established it as one of its original cosponsors.

The AFG Program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency in cooperation with the Department’s United States Fire Administration. The grants are awarded on a competitive basis to the applicants that most closely address the program’s priorities and demonstrate financial need.

The SAFER grant program was established by FEMA within the Department of Homeland Security to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help them increase the number of trained, “front line” firefighters available in their communities.

The goal of SAFER is to enhance the local fire departments' abilities to comply with staffing, response, and operational standards established by the National Fire Protection Association and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

October 23, 2019 - 2:55pm
posted by Billie Owens in hemp, CBD, agriculture, business, senator charles schumer.

Press release:

On a conference call with reporters and in the midst of an industrial hemp explosion across Upstate New York — triggered by a Schumer-championed provision in the recently passed Farm Bill — U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue guidance and allow producers to fully take advantage of the popular cannabidiol (CBD) market and also protect consumers.

Even though CBD products have gained popularity since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the farming, manufacturing, and selling of industrial hemp, Schumer explained that the FDA has yet to set regulations or safety requirements for CBD derived from hemp.

According to Schumer, the lack of federal guidance and clarity is sowing chaos for both consumers and in the rapidly-emerging Upstate New York industrial hemp industry, which saw sales of CBD products surpass $200 million nationally in 2018.

To address this lack of clarity, to protect consumers, and to allow the industrial hemp industry to maximize job creation from this cash crop, Schumer urged the FDA to expediently issue guidance on the classification, labeling, quality, marketing, and sale of CBD products.

“CBD is brimming with potential to be a billion dollar industry across New York State, bringing along countless jobs and truly meaningful economic development with it. But before that can happen, farmers, growers, producers, consumers and vendors need to know exactly what the rules of the road are and right now they’ve got no idea,” Senator Schumer said.

“That’s why I’m calling on the FDA to do its job in a timely manner and issue guidance related to CBD classification, labeling, quality, marketing, and sales. And once the feds spell out these ABC’s of CBD, the industry will seed and grow from one corner of the state to the other, many jobs will be created in the industrial hemp space, and farmers will be able to safely cash in on this cash crop.”

CBD is one of the two main chemical compounds that can be found in the cannabis plant. However, CBD is not psychoactive, meaning that it cannot get a person high—like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the other chemical compound found in many types of cannabis plants, primarily marijuana. CBD products have become exceptionally popular in the marketplace, with estimated sales of CBD-containing products, such as oils, gummies, balms, lotions, and capsules, surpassing $200 million in 2018.

According to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, there are currently just under 500 people, businesses, and organizations spread across New York State licensed to grow and process industrial hemp.

According to news reports, roughly three-quarters of those licenses were approved for the purposes of cultivating and extracting CBD. Currently, there are 18,000 acres of land licensed for industrial hemp growing in New York State, with 14,000 designated for CBD cultivation and extraction.

Furthermore, of New York’s 62 counties, 56 are home to industrial hemp farms and related growing operations. Schumer says these figures show just how much potential CBD products have to boost the economy across New York State, should clear guidance on CBD be issued by the FDA.

Schumer pointed out that the FDA is responsible for protecting public health, and guidance related to CBD is desperately needed to ensure that products on the market are safe. He also said that consumers rely on the FDA to conduct timely and appropriate oversight of new and emerging ingredients, like CBD, and that guidance from the agency would provide crucial direction for manufacturers seeking a pathway to develop safe and credible products for consumers.

Schumer argued that the market for CBD products is rapidly growing and that the agency must expedite its efforts to promote accuracy and transparency within the CBD industry. Specifically, Schumer called on the FDA to provide an outline of its plans for a regulatory framework related to CBD, as well as a timeline for when comprehensive enforcement policies for CBD products will be finalized and implemented.

The Schumer-backed Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was introduced by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). It passed and was signed into law as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. This legislation:

  • Removes industrial hemp from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act;
  • Empowers states to be the principal regulators of hemp;
  • Allows hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); and
  • Makes hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance.

Industrial hemp is a type of cannabis plant that is grown largely for industrial uses, but it can also be used for food, oil, and cosmetic products. Hemp contains a very small amount of THC, typically between 0.2 and 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis, and while from the same species of plant as marijuana, the two plants have varied widely in use.

However, due to the existence of THC in hemp, Schumer explained, both plants were considered “controlled substances” under federal law, meaning the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was the primary regulator for hemp production.

Schumer argued that this narrow view has undermined the crop’s agricultural and economic potential. With the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 passed by Congress and signed into law last year, this unnecessary roadblock has been lifted, and industrial hemp’s significant potential to become a cash crop in Upstate New York’s will be unleashed.

Below is the full text of the letter Schumer sent to Acting Commissioner Norman Sharpless.

***************

Dear Acting Commissioner Sharpless:

We write today to ask that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urgently clarify and implement regulations for cannabidiol (CBD) derived from hemp. Since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill (P.L. 115-334), which paved the way for industrial hemp cultivation and marketing, farmers, processors and retailers across the country are eager to enter this new market and leverage its potential. With new products containing CBD becoming available nearly every day, your agency’s lack of an official stance on this ingredient remains confusing to manufacturers and potentially dangerous to consumers. It is now imperative that the FDA finalize and implement a comprehensive regulatory framework for CBD, including guidance on the classification, labeling, quality, marketing, and sale of CBD-containing products, to ensure each manufacturer is producing safe and effective products for consumers. In accordance with your agency’s July statement regarding CBD oversight, we expect an update on your activities no later than 90 days from today’s date.

The CBD industry has exploded in recent years. Estimated annual sales of CBD-containing products were over $200 million in 2018, and CBD oils, gummies, balms, lotions, capsules, and other products are broadly available and widely advertised in stores and online. However, as the CBD industry expands, the lack of clarity and regulation around CBD use has created significant confusion and uncertainty among stakeholders in every segment of the supply chain. It is crucial that the FDA remain proactive in its duty to safeguard public health, protect consumers from potentially unsafe products, and provide a predictable pathway to market for producers and manufacturers.

Purveyors of CBD-containing products attribute a wide range of health benefits to this ingredient, including relieving pain and anxiety, preventing seizures, treating post-traumatic stress disorder, and easing inflammation. But consumers still lack answers to questions about the potential risks, including adverse side effects and drug interactions, associated with CBD.

Consumers rely on the FDA to conduct timely and appropriate oversight of new and emerging ingredients, and guidance from the FDA would also help manufacturers to develop safer, more effective, and more credible products for consumer use. The market for CBD products is rapidly outpacing the FDA’s current regulatory efforts, and your agency clearly must expedite its efforts to promote accuracy and transparency within the CBD industry. It is imperative that any comprehensive regulatory framework for products containing CBD provide straightforward guidance to manufacturers and retailers who wish to incorporate CBD into new products.

Consumers and manufacturers of this fledgling industry are counting on regulatory oversight and certainty that only the FDA can provide. Your efforts to date have been woefully inadequate. Within 90 days please provide our offices with an outline of your agency’s current plans for a specific regulatory framework related to CBD along with a timeline for when comprehensive enforcement policies for CBD products will be finalized and implemented.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to your response.

U.S. Sen. Charles E. 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.

Subscribe to

Calendar

S M T W T F S
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
9
 
10
 
11
 
12
 
13
 
14
 
15
 
16
 
17
 
18
 
19
 
20
 
21
 
22
 
23
 
24
 
25
 
26
 
27
 
28
 
29
 

Copyright © 2008-2019 The Batavian. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service
 

blue button