U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, who voted in favor of the farm bill that passed the House Wednesday, had three provisions included.
"Passage of the Farm Bill provides farmers the long-overdue certainty they deserve and contributes significantly to deficit reduction," Owens said in a press release. "I am confident this bipartisan agreement will help New York agriculture thrive."
Owens, D-Plattsburgh, authored the Apple Export Act, which will exempt bulk shipments of apples from the the U.S. to Canada from inspections. According to the New York Apple Association, the elimination of the required inspection will immediately offer a savings to growers of approximately $300 per truckload.
U.S. Rep. Bill Owens visits a bison farm in Vermontville in October.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
Another provision drafted by Owens and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., will 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.
The third provision will expand the type of businesses that can qualify for loans and loan guarantees through the Farm Service Agency. The new provision will include family trusts.
"Family farmers help strengthen New York's economy," Owens said. "I am pleased the conference committee recognized the importance of access to credit for family farms, streamlined access to the Canadian market for apple growers, and the potential for growth in the maple industry."
Of special relevance to the North Country, the bill overhauls subsidies for dairy farmers, something they say has been sorely needed for years. Farmers got squeezed in 2009 by low milk prices and high feed costs, and many went under. The federal government currently pays farmers if the price of milk sinks below a certain point, but it doesn't consider their costs.
The legislation would scrap those subsidies in favor of subsidized insurance to pay farmers when the difference between milk and feed prices becomes too small to cover their other expenses.
The Farm Bill also governs the nation's nutrition policy, including the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, which gives money for food to those with low income. The final bill includes changes to the program that will save roughly $9 billion over 10 years, or $800 million per year.