This op-ed piece was written by the New York state directors of USDA Farm Service Agency and USDA Rural Development:
This fall, Congress has an important opportunity to create jobs and grow the economy by passing a long-term, comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. The Farm Bill impacts every American, every day by providing a wide range of programs that strengthen our nation.
The Farm Bill is crucial to maintaining a strong agriculture sector and an abundant food supply that benefits all Americans. Over the past two years, producers have faced a multitude of disasters – from drought, to flooding, to blossom-killing or late spring freezes.
These events demonstrate how important the safety net is to keeping producers going strong. Under the 2008 Farm Bill, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) was able to provide $4.3 million dollars in disaster assistance to New York farmers using Farm Bill programs.
A new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would provide a strong crop insurance program, reauthorize the now-expired disaster assistance programs, and provide retroactive assistance for livestock producers. By reforming the safety net to eliminate the direct payment program – which pays producers whether or not they are in need of assistance – the Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would also save billions of dollars in the next decade.
Farm Service Agency State Executive Director James Barber said “A successful Farm Bill helps safeguard our food supply and provide stability to the rural economy by providing stability to the agricultural community. Agriculture is the economic engine that drives the rural economy; and farmers in NY would greatly benefit from the Farm Food and Jobs Bill that recognizes the importance of both commodity and non-commodity crops and supports the efforts of those embarking on a career in agriculture.”
A new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would help Main Street businesses grow and hire more, strengthen infrastructure in our small towns and provide new opportunities in natural resource based businesses and renewable energy.
For example, in New York, USDA has provided more than 300 projects totaling more than $16 million since 2009 to help farmers, ranchers and rural businesses save energy through the Rural Energy for America Program. This and many other efforts could continue with a new Farm Bill.
“Without question, passage of this bill would be an invaluable investment in our state,” said Lee Telega, USDA Rural Development State Director. “We would see communities benefit through continued support for rural educational, housing, public safety and infrastructure projects. We would also see funding for continued use in renewable energy sectors, rural broadband expansion, access and adoption as well as economic opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
"Rural Development remains committed to assisting our rural partners wherever and however we can. We work collaboratively with our colleagues at the state and local level to find those vital linkages to maximize resources to make important projects happen,” he said.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a vital component of our nation’s poverty safety net. Last year more than $70 billion assisted with the food bills of low income families and individuals, veterans, seniors and children nationwide. In 2013, over 3 million New Yorkers relied on and received this critical nutrition assistance.
The $5 billion of SNAP assistance that NY received also serves as an economic stimulus -- if more food is being purchased, more food has to be stocked, shelved, packaged, processed and trucked from farm to market. SNAP is a program that is important not only to people, but to states and certainly the country as a whole.
A new Farm Bill would enable USDA to continue our work with more than 500,000 producers and landowners throughout the nation to conserve the soil and water. It would undertake new strategies to improve agricultural research, and it would ensure an abundant, safe food supply.
In addition, it would allow USDA to continue export promotion efforts that have led to the best five-year period in agricultural trade in American history. Foreign markets are a new frontier for some of our NY producers. A new Farm Bill will provide FSA and RD with the tools to extend additional farm and food business credit in New York to meet the growing worldwide demand for safe, nutrition US-produced food.
All of these efforts strengthen our nation. A new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would continue the job growth we’ve seen in recent years and help grow New York’s rural economy. That’s why President Obama has identified passage of a new Farm Bill as one of his top three legislative priorities this fall.
This is a prime opportunity to give America’s farmers, ranchers and producers the certainty they need about the next five years of U.S. farm policy, while investing in the rural communities that stand at the heart of our values.
The Farm Bill has stood as a model of bipartisan consensus for decades and it is high time that both Democrats and Republicans come to a compromise on this new Farm Bill. It is our hope that Senate and House conferees will reach a consensus quickly and move a Farm Bill forward as soon as possible.
To learn more about the USDA Rural Development or Farm Service Agency available programs, funding or eligibility criteria log on to: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/ny or http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/nyhome. Or contact us by phone or E-mail at our New York State Office, located in Syracuse, NY at: Farm Service Agency 477-6300 or Rural Development 477-6400.
State Executive Director
USDA NY Farm Service Agency
State Director - NY
USDA Rural Development