Issue Position: Promoting Family Farms
In Congress I am committed to promoting family farming and ensuring that rural America has the resources they need. That is why I specifically requested to serve on the House Agriculture Committee to give upstate New York farmers a voice in this nation's farming policies. Currently I am the only member of Congress from New York in the majority on the committee and one of only three northeast representatives.
The very first bill I ever introduced was the American Dairy Farmer Protection Act to help ensure our local family farms can stay in business so our families can have fresh and affordable dairy products and we can preserve the rural character of our community that makes living in upstate New York so great.
I was very fortunate and honored to play a role in shaping the Farm Bill in my first term in Congress. The Farm Bill is only brought up once every five years and is the best opportunity to secure the funding needed to help New York's rural communities and farmers. I am happy to report that this past summer, the Agriculture committee passed the largest increase ever in assistance to New York in the 2007 Farm Bill (HR 2419)
The new Farm Bill passed the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 231-191. Not only did this bill include an extension of the successful MILC safety net program for dairy farmers - something that I fought to have included in the baseline and incorporated into the Farm Bill - but it also included $4.3 billion more for popular conservation programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentive Program, and the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program.
I am proud to have been part of the bipartisan effort to write the 2007 Farm Bill, and I believe that the bill strikes a balance between the needs of farmers throughout the country, while still providing needed reforms of subsidy programs and large increases for dairy and fruit farmers in the Northeast.
The bill that passed the House also included two amendments that I sponsored to address issues particularly important to the agricultural economy of Upstate New York.
* Buy Local Amendment- Directed the USDA to provide loans to businesses that promote buying and distributing within 400 miles of the farms where the product was produced. This provision will specifically help agricultural businesses in the Northeast because of the large markets in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Promoting local distribution also helps to keep local economies strong and prices low because consumers do not have to pay the high cost of transporting products long distances. Moreover, it helps save energy and reduces pollution by decreasing the truck and train traffic needed to haul products long distances.
* Organics Transition for Small Farms Amendment- Provided $50 million in grants and free technical assistance to farmers that want to transition from traditional farming to organic farming. Many of New York's farmers are operating on the financial edge and can not afford the high investment that is required to transition to organic. This amendment addresses that need and will help keep many of our small farms in business. Further, the organic market has been growing exponentially recently - especially in New York City - and the Upstate economy can benefit immensely from this increased demand.
In addition to working on the Farm Bill, I have worked to provide more funding for rural hospitals, broadband connectivity, and low income housing by voting to increase grant programs and provide more low interest loans for small communities.
I am committed to the long term viability of our agricultural sector in order to protect our national food security and ensure that Americans have a low-priced, clean and healthy food supply. That is why, moving forward, I am determined to find a more sustainable method for pricing dairy products, to strengthening our rural economies, and ensuring that our Upstate farms and open spaces are protected from New York City sprawl.
Other important highlights of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2419) include:
· Imposes real payment limitations that crack down on subsidies, saves more than a half billion dollars, and redirects funds to the people who need it most: working family farmers and ranchers.
· Strengthens payment limits to ensure that people making more than $1 million a year (adjusted gross income) can't collect conservation and farm program payments and closes loopholes that allow people to avoid payment limits by receiving money through multiple business units.
· Expands the USDA Snack Program, which helps schools provide healthy snacks to students during after-school activities to all 50 states and continuing the DOD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides a variety of fresh produce to schools.
· The legislation also includes critical provisions that support Democratic efforts to make our nation energy independent and fight global warming. The bill makes historic investment in renewable energy programs providing $2 billion in loan guarantees for the development of refineries that process renewable fuels, a key step toward bringing more renewable fuels to market in America and includes $1.5 billion for production incentives for ethanol and biodiesel made from agricultural, forest, and waste plant materials.
· Strengthens and enhances the food stamp program by reforming benefit rules to improve coverage of food costs and expand access to the program with additional funding support.
· Includes key provisions that invest in rural communities nationwide, including economic development programs and access to broadband telecommunication services.
· Establishes a new National Agriculture Research Program Office to coordinate the programs and activities of USDA's research agencies to minimize duplication and maximize coordination at all levels and creates a competitive grants program.
· Protects and sustains our nation's forest resources.
· Makes important new investments in renewable energy research, development and production in rural America.
· Approves language that will finally allow full implementation of Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for meat in the Farm Bill. This language is a victory for consumers who overwhelmingly support the program.