Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-20) announced today that he voted in support of the H.R. 6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2012. The bill was reported out of the House Committee on Agriculture by a strong bipartisan vote of 35-11. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.
"This bill represents a significant regional victory for local farmers. While not perfect, the FARRM Act contains a number of important provisions that will assist local family farms struggling with profitability, for which I thank Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Colin Peterson for their leadership and cooperation. Importantly, 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. "Most notably, this bill came together with bipartisan partnerships, including at a regional level with Congressman Bill Owens, to achieve the best result. We continued to work together on issues like dairy and the broadband loan program, which is critical for our rural communities. Moving forward, I think we can continue to improve the FARRM Act to address remaining concerns on ensuring reforms to SNAP don't unduly impact New Yorkers who count on the program."
Congressman Owens also noted the bipartisanship with which the Farm Bill was crafted, "This Farm Bill is the product of a rare bipartisan effort to put politics aside to do the work our constituents sent us here to do. I would like to thank my colleague on the committee, Congressman Gibson, for his leadership during this process and for always being willing to reach across the aisle."
"We are pleased Rep. Gibson fought hard for our farmers providing a strong voice for New York agriculture in Congress. He is working to have fair safeguards in place to protect farmers especially for dairy and specialty crop farmers who deal with huge price swings and extreme weather conditions that can destroy a year's worth of work in one storm," said Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau President.
"Representative Gibson displayed true leadership yesterday during the Farm Bill markup, working in a bipartisan manner to win farm to school provisions important to farmers and communities in his District and throughout the country," Helen Dombalis, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
Key Gibson Provisions in FARRM Act
·DOD Fresh Pilot Program: In an effort to encourage local and regional agricultural markets in New York, Congressman Gibson worked to include a proposal authored by Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) that allows schools to opt out of an existing USDA produce program, and purchase local fresh fruit and vegetables. The five state pilot program is supported by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and will help support local and regional food systems.
·Broadband Loan Program Reform and Reauthorization: The 2012 House Farm Bill reauthorizes the Rural Utilities Service Broadband Program at $25 million. The Farm Bill also includes legislation Rep. Gibson introduced in the House of Representatives, which makes two improvements to the RUS Broadband Loan Program. The first change increases transparency for incumbent providers by giving them the option of providing USDA with details of the service they are already providing in an area being considered for a USDA RUS Broadband Loan. The second amendment directs the Secretary to consider long-term technology needs, including upgrade or replacement costs, when evaluating loan applications.
·Veterans Liaison Amendment: Establishes a veteran's liaison position at United States Department of Agriculture. The FARRM Act contains numerous provisions to assist our nation's veterans. This bipartisan amendment creates the administrative arm necessary to oversee these important initiatives.
Key Overall Provisions in FARRM Act
·Diary Premium Adjustments: After painful volatility in the dairy markets, this bill overhauls the dairy safety net by eliminating costly and dysfunctional dairy programs and replacing them with a new voluntary marginal insurance risk management program. This program allows producers to purchase specific levels of coverage depending on the size of their operation and their risk management needs. In the Senate version of the Farm Bill, an adjustment was made to make certain marginal insurance premium levels more affordable for New York Dairy producers. Rep. Gibson championed this adjustment in the House. This bipartisan compromise will improve the safety net contained in the underlying bill.
·Risk Management Improvements: Currently, there are few viable risk management options available to Northeast farmers. In particular, the crop insurance system has failed diversified specialty crop farmers. The devastating storms last summer and early fall provided a tragic example of the shortcoming of our federal crop insurance programs. While much work remains, working with Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Congressman Gibson fought to include whole farm risk managements options as well as a reform to the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), that will enable farmers to purchase additional coverage. While the crop insurance model has been a successful one in many parts of the country, the Northeast has been disadvantaged. The reforms included in the House-passed bill are important first steps.
·Protects critical conservation programs: The bill's conservation title saves $6 by consolidating and streamlining 23 programs into 13. Without overlapping functions and goals, the new conservation framework will ensure we have programs that work for upstate New York. This title protects our environment and provides financial incentives and technical assistance for our state's farmers. Despite reduction throughout the bill, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a program that has worked well for upstate New York was protected.
·Enhances Beginning Farmer and Rancher Provisions: With the average age of our nation's farmer steadily increasing, Congressman Gibson has focused on targeted programs that assist younger Americans entering Agriculture, including our veterans. In addition to other credit provisions in the bill, FARRM supports beginning farmers and ranchers-reauthorizations along with enhancements to current programs.
·EBT Pilot for Mobile Technology: As we seek to reform our nutrition programs (SNAP), it is important to encourage the use of SNAP benefits at farmers' markets, and other direct producer-to-consumer outlets. Building on efforts by made by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, this pilot program will help promote the use of nutrition benefits at local farmers' markets.