As Congress begins debate over the next Farm Bill, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the first New Yorker to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years, today met with Finger Lakes Region farmers to continue her statewide listening sessions to discuss new efforts to help New York farmers and farming communities. Senator Gillibrand plans to focus on key areas of the Farm Bill that will have major influence on New York, including access to financing, new market opportunities, assistance for specialty crops, and investments in renewable energy. From dairy farms to black dirt farms, and apple orchards to vineyards, artisanal cheeses, and other specialty crops, New York farmers and communities will have a lot to gain in the next Farm Bill.
"New York is home to the hardest working farm families and the finest locally-grown produce in the world, but outdated regulations and a bad economy are hurting our farmers and farming communities across the state," Senator Gillibrand said. "We need to make sure the next Farm Bill is a good deal for New York. I plan to take the next several months to listen to farmers and businesses in every corner of the state and discuss my ideas on how to help farmers survive and prosper in the new economy."
Senator Gillibrand plans to hold similar listening sessions in agricultural communities in every corner of New York to listen to concerns and discuss ideas to make sure the next Farm Bill is good for New York.
Over 35,000 farms stretch across 7.1 million acres -- making up one-fourth of New York State. New York's agriculture industry generates nearly $4.5 billion for the state's economy.
Issues Addressed In Listening Session
Addressing the Dairy Crisis
Due to outdated dairy pricing regulations, dairy farmers pay more to produce their products than they make from selling them. Senator Gillibrand is working to overhaul the milk pricing system, secure a fair price for producers, and make the opaque pricing system more transparent.
Senator Gillibrand is committed to providing producers with the tools that they need to protect profit margins in this time of high fuel and feed costs and is working with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to streamline and improve access to these programs.
Providing Access to Capital
Like all small businesses, family farms are struggling to secure access to the financing they need to grow or, in many cases, survive in this difficult economy. Senator Gillibrand plans to strengthen the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program to help New York farmers develop value-added products.
Senator Gillibrand will work to ensure that the Farm Services Agency (FSA) loan program is able to give farmers the resources they need to purchase land, livestock, equipment, feed, seed and other supplies.
Expanding New Markets
Senator Gillibrand will work to secure more federal funding to promote the USDA's Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program to give New York farms more opportunities to supply schools with fresh, locally grown products. Earlier this summer, Senator Gillibrand wrote a letter with her colleagues to the Chair of the Agriculture Appropriations Sub-Committee supporting full funding for the Market Access Program, which helps New York producers sell their products globally.
Targeted Assistance to Specialty Crop Farmers
Senator Gillibrand defends the current funding allocations for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), as well as introduce a new program, called the Conservation on Muck Soils (COMS), to provide additional assistance to New York's specialty crop farmers. She also champions the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and targeted research, aimed at helping specialty crop farmers develop new breeds and products for market. She also supports pest management, which is essential for defending our fields and orchards against invasive species.
Investing in New Sources of Clean, Renewable, New York Energy
New York's agriculture industry is rich with opportunity to help lead America to a clean energy economy that can create good-paying jobs and rebuild our economy, strengthen our national security, and cut pollution. Senator Gillibrand plans to work for more investments in the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) that provides loans and grants for farmers and small rural businesses that build renewable energy systems, such as anaerobic digesters. Senator Gillibrand also intends to push for greater investments in the Rural Energy Self Sufficiency Initiative, which assists with installation of integrated renewable energy systems in rural communities that make use of wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal and biomass sources.
Additionally, Senator Gillibrand plans to work to secure more investments in the Biomass Research and Development Program and the Biomass Crop Assistant Program to harness more of our state's potential to convert biomass and agricultural waste into renewable energy.