2014 Farm Bill includes three provisions drafted by North Country Rep. Owens
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - 5:35 pm

The 2014 Farm Bill establishes a new dairy insurance program, cuts food stamps by $9 billion, promotes the maple industry and broadens access to farm credit.

“Passage of the Farm Bill provides farmers the long-overdue certainty they deserve and contributes significantly to deficit reduction, ”Representative Bill Owens said. “I am confident this bipartisan agreement will help New York agriculture thrive.”

A program designed to keep milk prices stable was one of the major sticking points in the final days of negotiations between leaders in the House and Senate.

The final Farm Bill contains changes to federal dairy policy, including the creation of a new margin insurance program for dairy farmers and a new Dairy Product Donation Program that will allow USDA to purchase dairy products in the event of low operating margins and donate them to organizations that provide nutrition assistance to low income populations.

This compromise will help address the volatility in dairy farmers’ milk prices, according to Owens.

The final bill includes changes to the program that will save roughly $9 billion over ten years. This is about $32 billion less than cuts to the program that were included in the version of the Farm Bill that passed the House in July 2013.

“This has been a difficult process to say the least, but I am satisfied that the compromise on the dairy title will address price volatility for New York’s farmers,” Rep. Bill Owens said.

The Farm Bill combines an overhaul of the nation’s agricultural commodity programs with a package of reforms that will produce an estimated $23 billion in 10-year savings. Three provisions drafted by Rep. Owens were included in the Farm Bill:

Apple Exports to Canada

This Owens provision will streamline U.S. apple exports to Canada by exempting bulk shipments of apples to Canada from inspection under the Apple Export Act. 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. Additionally, removing this regulation will 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.

Access to Farm Credit

This Owens provision will expand the range of business structures that qualify for loans and loan guarantees through the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Increasingly common structures that do not currently qualify for loans through the FSA include family trusts when family farms divide into a farm ownership LLC or farm operating LLC to facilitate ownership by multiple family members, as well as farms operating with an “embedded entity structure.” An embedded entity occurs when one entity is owned wholly or partly by another entity.

Maple Promotion

This provision drafted by Owens and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) will help 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.

“Family farmers help strengthen New York’s economy,” Rep. 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.”

The Farm Bill also governs the nation’s nutrition policy, including the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program SNAP, which feeds low-income seniors, veterans and children across the nation.

“This bill is a remarkable achievement considering the dysfunction that has plagued Washington. I commend Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson for their tireless efforts to get this important work done. This bill serves as an example of what we can accomplish when both sides come together and I am hopeful we can continue this momentum through the year,” he said.

New York State Farm Bureau said the passage was significant for farmers who are seeing the cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the Farm Bill lifting away in Washington.

“The improved safety net for our dairy farmers as well as many of our fruit and vegetable growers who have had little recourse following a natural disaster is a worthy investment into our food system. The sensible approach not only saves taxpayers billions of dollars, but also reassures farmers and consumers alike that our food system is protected during times of need,” a release from the bureau said.