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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

Potential Legislative Changes Affect Local Farmers

By | News

SARATOGA COUNTY – An upcoming bill renewal could mean more potential opportunities, but considerable programming cuts and reform for some rural communities in Saratoga County.

 The package of legislation commonly referred to as the “farm bill” is coming before Congress this fall and will set the nation’s policies on agriculture, nutrition and conservation for the next several years. Both the House and Senate have created their own versions of the expiring bill, and some of the Senate’s proposed changes to the 2008 legislation might allow for increased access to government grants for places like Moreau, Milton and Wilton.

The current legislation defines a rural community eligible for water, waste disposal and wastewater facility loans and grants as having less than 10,000 citizens, while under the Senate’s proposed Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, that minimum gets raised to 50,000 people. This allows larger rural communities access to previously unavailable sources of funding.

Developed by the House Agricultural Committee, the House’s bill, the Federal Agricultural Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM), includes additional safeguards for farmers and provisions to provide regulatory relief to farmers and rural communities.

“The National Farmers Union (NFU) is pleased that the committee included some protection for long-term price collapse, which is a critical part of any safety net,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The House Agriculture Committee also did well to preserve funding levels for conservation programs, which a recent NFU poll found is a priority for farmers across the country.”

“The bill overhauls the safety net program for dairy farmers, encourages the growth and sustainability of local and regional agriculture and organic farming, protects conservation programs, and helps beginning farmers access the capital they need to enter the field,” said Congressman Gibson.

Both the House and Senate versions of the farm bill include substantial cuts and program consolidation. The Senate bill aims to save taxpayers $23 billion, while the House bill cuts an estimated $35 billion in mandatory funding, and both streamline efficiency through the combining and elimination of programming.

Programs like SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) seem to be the hardest hit, with the Senate enforcing stricter eligibility and distribution standards and the House cutting $16 billion in funding.

“NFU [is] concerned with the deep cuts to the nutrition title,” said Johnson. “During these economically difficult times, cutting $16 billion from such an important safety net for so many people does not make sense.”

“While not perfect, the FARRM Act contains a number of important provisions that will assist local family farms struggling with profitability,” said Gibson “Moving forward, I think we can continue to improve the FARRM Act to address remaining concerns on ensuring that reforms to SNAP don’t unduly impact New Yorkers who count on the program.”

While both bills have passed in their respective houses, the bill that ultimately replaces the farm bill will likely be a combination of both, and farmers around New York can expect some significant changes.

“I look forward to working with both chambers of Congress to complete this legislation by September 30, when the current farm bill expires,” said Johnson.

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