Senator William "Mo" Cowan (D-Mass.) today applauded the passage of the 2013 Farm Bill by the Senate Agriculture Committee. The bill was passed by a vote of 15 to 5, and will now move to the floor of the United States Senate where it is expected to be debated in the coming weeks. Three amendments submitted by Senator Cowan were included in the Committee-passed legislation.
Senator Cowan is the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Food and Agricultural Research. It is the first time a Massachusetts Senator has sat on the Senate Agriculture Committee since 1879 and only the third time since the Committee was established in 1825.
"Today's committee passage was a win for our farmers across the Commonwealth. This legislation will provide robust funding for specialty crops, bring more fresh produce to tables, and will support our hard-working farmers, both old and new, by giving them greater financial security, strong conservation programs, and the tools they need to grow," said Sen. Cowan. "I was incredibly proud to represent the people of the Commonwealth in today's debate, but this bill is still not where we want to be. I will continue to advocate for our farmers and fishermen and fight to restore the cuts to the crucial nutrition assistance funding as this bill moves forward."
The following amendments submitted by Senator Cowan were included in the bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee today:
Farm Service Agency (FSA) Credit for Local & Regional Food Producers
This amendment underscores FSA's ability to offer all of its credit programs to farmers and ranchers producing for local and regional food markets. It requires FSA to develop unit prices or other alternative forms of valuation to facilitate lending to local and regional farmers, and to do special outreach to these potential borrowers. Studies over the last few years show that local and regional food networks can help stabilize community markets and create permanent jobs. Local and regional food networks can also improve health outcomes by creating greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Despite clear job, economic, and health benefits, however, it is often difficult for local and regional food producers to access capital, which is why Senator Cowan introduced this amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill. Our local and regional farmers deserve our support, and extending credit options to them can strengthen our communities, create jobs, and improve health outcomes.
Fisheries Insurance Study
This amendment directs USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) to study and propose a mechanism for insuring seafood harvesters through a USDA crop insurance product. Our fishermen are facing extremely difficult times. We need to do everything we can to help them through these difficult times, and insurance is one way to reduce risk. Our farmers have access to crop insurance; our fishermen should as well.
Fishermen as Eligible Recipients of Emergency Disaster Loans
As Senator Kerry pushed last year, this provision expands the Emergency Disaster Loan program to include fishermen. When a county has been declared a disaster area by either the President or the Secretary of Agriculture, agricultural producers in that county may become eligible for low-interest emergency disaster (EM) loans available through USDA's Farm Service Agency. EM loan funds may be used to help eligible farmers, ranchers, and aquaculture producers recover from production losses (when the producer suffers a significant loss of an annual crop) or from physical losses (such as repairing or replacing damaged or destroyed structures or equipment, or for the replanting of permanent crops such as orchards). Senator Cowan ensured that this provision was included in the 2013 Farm Bill.
The following amendments cosponsored by Senator Cowan were included in the bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee today:
Cosponsor of the Amendment To Restore Nutrition Programs to Levels Included in the Bipartisan, Senate-Passed Farm bill of 2012
This amendment returns three key nutrition programs to the funding levels provided in S. 10 and the bi-partisan Senate-passed farm bill of 2012:
1) The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP);
2) SNAP Employment and Training (this program helps people get the training they need to rejoin the workforce and become self-sufficient);
3) Community Food Projects (this program promotes self-sufficiency and community-based nutrition and food security improvement projects in low-income communities)
In Massachusetts, there are 806,480 food insecure individuals, including 235,480 children. And, while we are recovering from the recession, many Americans remain out of work. With unemployment at 7.6% nationally and 6.4% in Massachusetts, programs like SNAP and TEFAP are essential.
Cosponsor of the Red Tape Elimination for Bulk Bin Apple Exports to Canada
Currently apple producers who export bulk bin apples to Canada have to pay $300 per load for a duplicative inspection. This antiquated law from the 1930's requires apple producers to pay an unnecessary fee and should be removed in the spirit of good governance. This amendment will save our apple growers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.