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Gillibrand says Senate-approved Farm Bill will strengthen NY’s rural communities

Posted 5 July 2018 at 6:42 pm

Press Release, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that several provisions she secured in the Farm Bill have passed in the Senate. These include new grant programs to help invest in New York’s rural economies and $77 million for dairy farmers who paid millions of dollars into an insurance program that did not help them when milk prices dropped.

Gillibrand worked in the Senate Agriculture Committee to include these provisions in the Senate Farm Bill to strengthen New York’s rural economy and protect farmers, and helped ensure that they were passed by the full Senate.

“New York has one of the best agriculture traditions in the country, and this year’s Senate Farm Bill will help feed families all over our state, it will protect our farmers and producers, and it will strengthen our rural economy,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “I was proud to work hard to make sure that this year’s Senate Farm Bill had New York’s best interests at its core. I will continue to fight to make sure the final Farm Bill that is eventually signed into law serves every New Yorker, and I am very pleased that my Senate colleagues have passed this legislation.”

Below are the provisions that Senator Gillibrand successfully included in the recently passed Senate Farm Bill:

Dairy Insurance Refunds

Gillibrand secured a provision in the Senate Farm Bill to refund more than $77 million in insurance premiums to farmers who paid millions of dollars into an insurance program, the Dairy Margin Protection Program, that did not help them when milk prices dropped. This provision in the Senate Farm Bill was modeled after Senator Gillibrand’s Dairy Premium Refund Act, which she introduced in February.

Another provision also directs the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to present dairy farm data in order to better describe the health of the dairy industry and help ensure that policy makers understand which types of dairy producers are most at risk of farm failure.

Rural Broadband

The Senate-passed Farm Bill includes a provision to make grant funding available for rural broadband projects in high-need areas. This provision, based on Senator Gillibrand’s bipartisan Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act (B-CROP Act) would help encourage more high-speed broadband deployment to high-need areas by awarding grants in combination with the current loan funding available through the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service.

Federal funds would target the highest-need rural and tribal areas, allowing for grants of up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, and up to 75 percent for remote, high-need areas, to be awarded in combination with the current loan funding available through USDA. The Senate Farm Bill also increases the annual funding level of the USDA broadband program to $150 million.

Rural Jobs and Investment

The Senate-passed Farm Bill includes a bipartisan provision led by Senator Gillibrand to expand access to much-needed resources and investment for rural entrepreneurs in Upstate New York to start and expand local businesses. This provision is based on Gillibrand’s Rural Jobs and Investment Act and would create a new grant program to invest in local efforts to launch new companies and create new jobs in New York’s rural communities. It would also expand the use of the USDA Community Facilities Program to invest in business incubators, makerspaces, and job training centers to provide additional resources for communities to support their entrepreneurs.

In addition, Gillibrand’s provision would also expand access to capital for rural entrepreneurs by encouraging investment in rural areas. Currently, the USDA’s Rural Business Investment Program helps address these capital challenges, but this program is limited in the types of industries that it can invest in, as well as the amount of capital it can attract. Gillibrand’s provision would improve the program to allow investments across all industries, encouraging more capital to be invested in rural entrepreneurs.

Aquaculture

Gillibrand also included a provision to protect Long Island shellfish producers by expanding their insurance coverage options. Shellfish producers are at high risk of losing their crops and equipment because of weather, diseases, and changes in the marine environment. Gillibrand’s provision would treat the different growth stages of shellfish and other aquaculture species as separate crops, which would allow the Whole Farm Revenue Insurance Program policies to be more comprehensive and fair for shellfish producers.

Shellfish production is a growing industry in New York. Clam production in the state increased by more than 70 percent between 2012 and 2013, and in 2017, the New York shellfish industry was valued at $16.2 million.

Barley

The bill directs the National Agricultural Statistics Service of USDA to document barley production in New York State. This would ensure that producers have the information they need to decide on future plantings. The information would also be valuable for growers because it would provide sufficient data for crop insurance companies to expand insurance offerings and eventually offer a malting barley endorsement.

Banning Dog and Cat Slaughter

Senator Gillibrand introduced an bipartisan provision with Senator Toomey (R-PA) to ban the slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption. This provision was cosponsored by Senators Rubio (R-FL) and Blumenthal (D-CT) and a similar provision is included in the House Farm Bill.

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