Local farmers weigh in on farm bill

by Carol Thompson

Last week U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called on leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to include New York State in any disaster relief program in the 2012 Farm Bill.

“For New York State’s economy to grow, we need our farms to thrive,” Gillibrand said in a press release. “Still recovering from last year’s back-to-back natural disasters and a late spring frost, this drought is just the latest drain on our farmland’s productivity – costing our state even more crops. America has always stood by those who are suffering and helped them to rebuild. And we need to continue standing by New York’s farmers so they can get back to business, and keep our agricultural industry on the move.”

As Gillibrand fights to include the state in the drought relief program, Legislator Morris Sorbello, who is an onion farmer, said the rain came just in time.

“It looks like it’s going to help us,” he said of Sunday’s rainfall. “The soy bean has been the nicest we’ve seen.”

Sorbello said he is concerned with Congress taking a summer recess prior to voting on the Farm Bill. He said the stall in the vote could impact farmers in the mid-west, hence, impacting all consumers.

“I would hope to think these farmers can still function,” Sorbello said. If they can’t, he noted. “Eventually this will spread to the consumers.” Price increases across the nation are possible if the farmers struggle with the drought and lack of action on the Farm Bill.

Apple farmer Eric Behling, who serves as the District 6 director of the New York State Farm Bureau, said the Farm Bill is caught in the political climate.

“The Farm Bill is a large political football that both sides toss around due to its makeup which encompasses not only modest safety nets for farmers but nutritional programs, for example, food stamps etc.that make up close to two thirds of the bill.” He continued, “In overall federal spending the farm bill is less than one percent of the federal budget but gets a huge front and center position in political drama due in large part of proposed cuts in social programs and streamlining the agricultural component to balance the federal budget.”

Behling said in recent farm bills there has been less direct subsidies to farmers and more emphasis on the farmer insuring his products against weather or market type losses.

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