This week, the House Agriculture Committee approved its version of the Farm Bill, moving the legislation to the floor for consideration of the full House of Representatives. Congressman Bill Owens, who has long advocated for the Farm Bill to move forward, praised the bipartisan effort and called on his colleagues to swiftly advance the bill.
Owens also applauded the inclusion of a number of local initiatives he either sponsored or co-sponsored earlier this year. H.R. 1297, the Agricultural Credit Expansion Act, and H.R. 1298, legislation to increase export opportunities for local apple growers, were both originally introduced by Rep. Owens and included this week in the Agriculture Committee's markup of the Farm Bill. In addition, H.R. 1272, the Maple Tapping Access Program Act, was also included in the bill. Rep. Owens joined Rep. Peter Welch as a co-sponsor in introducing that legislation earlier this year.
"I am encouraged to see a Farm Bill moving forward in the House, and pleased we were able to include a number of items in support of local producers," said Congressman Bill Owens. "Strong farms lead to strong local economies in New York, and so it is imperative that we do everything we can to provide an environment where agriculture can thrive. This Farm Bill is a long time coming and will help provided support and certainty to small farmers and others in the agricultural community across the State. "
Congressman Peter Welch, who introduced the Maple Tapping Access Program Act, joined Rep. Owens in applauding the measure with the following statement:
"Maple syrup and those who produce it are part of the fabric of Vermont and the northeast" said Congressman Peter Welch. "Their trade goes back generations and is an important part of our economy as well as a key defining characteristic of our state brand. These investments in the Farm Bill for the maple industry will ensure it remains a strong part of Vermont's economy and identity for generations to come."
Apple Bill (H.R. 1298)
According to the New York Apple Association, the elimination of the required inspection would immediately offer a savings to growers of approximately $300 per truckload. Additionally, removing this regulation would allow apple growers to distribute their products on their own schedule without working around costly after-hours inspections procedures, providing them the opportunity to save money and streamline operations. Owens introduced identical legislation in the 112th Congress (H.R. 3914).
Owens legislation would streamline U.S. apple exports to Canada by exempting bulk shipments of apples to Canada from inspection under the Apple Export Act.
Farm Credit Bill (H.R 1297)
Owens also introduced H.R. 1297, the Agricultural Credit Expansion Act. This legislation would expand the range of business structures that qualify for loans and loan guarantees through the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Two types of business structures increasingly common among family farms do not currently qualify for loans through the FSA. These include when family farms divide into a farm ownership LLC or farm operating LLC to facilitate ownership by multiple family members, and farms operating with an "embedded entity structure," which are also currently ineligible for an FSA loan. An embedded entity occurs when one entity is owned wholly or partly by another entity. Owens introduced identical legislation in the 112th Congress (H.R. 874).
Owens legislation would give farmers the flexibility to structure their business as they see fit while maintaining their eligibility for the programs that allow them to grow and succeed.
Maple Bill (H.R. 1272):
Congressman Bill Owens also joined Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) in introducing H.R 1272, legislation that would authorize grants under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to promote activities related to maple production. This includes maple syrup operations, natural resource sustainability for the maple syrup industry, promotion of maple products and increased access to land for maple-sugaring activities.