- The 2012 Farm Bill cleared the House Agriculture Committee early this morning by a bipartisan vote of 35-11. The legislation, which reauthorizes federal agriculture programs for five years, represents a good step forward toward reducing the nation's federal deficit and the House striking a bipartisan compromise with the Senate.
Congressman Bill Owens, who serves on the committee, was successful in including several provisions important to New York agriculture in H.R. 6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2012.
"Agriculture has played a foundational role in New York's economy for generations," Owens said. "I am pleased Republicans and Democrats were able to come together to send legislation to the House floor that will support specialty crops and dairy in our region, improve program efficiency, and provide farmers and growers the certainty they need to improve our economy and maintain a secure food supply."
Legislation previously introduced by Owens, H.R. 874, which would improve access to credit for family farmers, was included in the 2012 Farm Bill that passed early this morning. The Agricultural Credit Expansion Act would expand the range of farm business structures that qualify for loans through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to ensure more New York farmers are eligible for credit during economically challenging times.
Owens legislation to streamline U.S. apple exports to Canada by exempting bulk shipments from inspection under the Apple Export Act was also included in the 2012 Farm Bill. This provision was previously introduced by Congressman Owens as H.R. 3914 and would save New York apple growers about $450,000 a year by eliminating an unnecessary fee.
Owens was also successful in amending the bill during committee consideration to include language to increase maple syrup production and promote economic development in New York. The amendment would provide support for private tapping, research, marketing, and education in syrup production. Owens joined Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) last year in introducing similar legislation to boost the New York maple industry.
Owens expressed disappointment that a separate amendment to reauthorize the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) was not accepted by the committee. The NBRC supports economic development in 36 counties in the northeastern United States including Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Oswego, St. Lawrence, Cayuga, and Seneca counties in New York. The NBRC provides a uniquely responsible and efficient investment through a match of $7 of public or private funds to every $1 of federal funds and has supported several small businesses in the 23rd Congressional District with critically important grants in 2010 and 2011. Owens will continue to work with his colleagues in the northeast to include language reauthorizing the commission when the Farm Bill comes to the House floor.
"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," Owens said. "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."
Congressman Chris Gibson (R-NY) also praised the bipartisan nature in which the Farm Bill was crafted, "This bill is 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," said Congressman Gibson. "Most notably, this bill represents a number of 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."