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Post Star - Owens Discusses Farm Bill

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This is the first segment from an interview with U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, in Glens Falls on Friday.

Q; The farm bill. The Senate has passed the farm bill. And, according to Sen. Gillibrand's office, one of the aspects of that is a rural broadband program. Is that also in the House version that's being discussed?

A: "There are, I know, some proposals. I'm not sure because (Chairman Frank) Lucas (R-Okla.) originally told us we were going to see the bill this week. We didn't. He's now saying that we won't have a markup on that bill until after July 4th.

"Clearly we're hoping that the broadband is in there. We do know that a couple of areas that we are interested in. We had a bill that I have submitted that would address FSA loans. You know farmers have gotten much more sophisticated in the last few years. We're trying to make sure that no matter how they own the property that they are eligible for FSA loans and guarantees.

"We're also hopeful that a maple bill that I worked on with (Rep.) Peter Welch (D-Vt.) will be in there. (The bill that would make it a felony to mislabel syrup.)

"And we also have a piece of legislation that would drop some requirements on apples that are being shipped to Canada to eliminate the need for inspection of those."

Q: And that is in the Senate version?

A: "And that is in the Senate version. We do know that. We don't know if all of those will make it into the House bill, because there is still ongoing negotiations about that."

Q: Is there anything in the Senate version that you're not comfortable with?

A: "I haven't read it. One of the areas clearly we want to look at is make sure that the milk proposal -- (Rep. Collin) Peterson's (D-Minn.) milk proposal -- is in there largely intact.

"There's a couple of pieces that I think are very important. Obviously the margin insurance and the supply management, but also the opt out provisions, which is something I pushed when we were going forward to the Super Committee and Peterson and Lucas ultimately included in the bill."

Q: Tell me about the opt out provision -- what that involves?

A: "Under this program, if you elect to participate in the margin insurance then you also must participate in the supply management. So that if you receive payments under the margin program, you will have to decrease supply, or at least likely you would have to decrease supply.

"The opt out provision allows you to stay out of the margin and the supply management.

"Now, the groups that are going to be interested in that are probably the large farms, because they feel they have enough negotiating power that they can negotiate both with their cooperative and the cooperative with processors."

Q; You're going to give a commencement speech at Newcomb tomorrow. What is your advice to graduates going to be?

A: "Well, Newcomb is a unique place. They've developed a program to bring in students from overseas to attend their school because of declining enrollment.

"The superintendent came to see me about a year ago, and we cosponsored some legislation that would change the visa process that would allow those students to stay for longer than a year.

"Right now, private schools can have students for longer than a year. Public schools can't. We think that's unfair.

"We think that in small communities like Newcomb, this is a great way to sustain the schools, but also give the children and the families there exposure to other folks. In other words, create a little diversity. We think that's a really good idea.

"But it also brings money in to the community because those students are paying to go to school. So it reduces the burden on the taxpayer. I think it's very creative, and I want be as supportive as I can of anyone who is being creative."


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