Senator William "Mo" Cowan (D-Mass.) today made the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed the 2013 Farm Bill by bipartisan vote of 66 to 27. A companion Farm Bill will be debated in the House of Representatives, and the two bills will be reconciled in Conference in the coming months.
Three provisions authored by Senator Cowan were included in the bill passed by the U.S. Senate today.
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.
"While this is not a perfect bill, I was pleased that I could help to include critical provisions for Massachusetts that will support our local and regional food producers as well as recognize and provide some relief for our fishing industry. Additionally, this legislation will go a long way in boosting our economy by creating a number of jobs across the Commonwealth and the nation," said Sen. Cowan. "Unfortunately while we were able to get much-needed support in some key areas, the final bill falls short of protecting all crucial funding for nutrition assistance that folks back home and around the country rely on every day. When the bill goes to conference we must work hard to hold the line and steer clear of the draconian cuts to the nutrition program proposed by the Republicans in the House of Representatives."
In May, Cowan held two listening sessions in Middleborough and Worcester to highlight the importance of Massachusetts' agriculture sectors and to hear from local farmers and agriculture industry representatives about their priorities for the 2013 Farm Bill.
The following provisions authored by Senator Cowan were included in the bill passed by the U.S. Senate 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.