New York Farm Bureau members attended the Farm Bill Now Rally in Washington, DC today pushing for quick action on the 2012 Farm Bill before the current bill expires at the end of September.   Already the delay has rolled back the safety net for New York’s dairy farmers and further inaction puts critical programs in jeopardy of being underfunded or scrapped altogether.

 Rob Noble, a dairy farmer from Livingston County, was among the hundreds who gathered near the U.S. Capitol.  He said, “I hope lawmakers here in Washington hear our concerns and work hard in the coming days to pass the Farm Bill. Dairy farms in New York are already struggling and the consequences of not passing a Farm Bill now are serious. Weaker safety nets and deeper cuts to important conservation programs will be the result if the House fails to act. After floods, droughts and challenging economic times, producing food and feeding people shouldn’t be political anymore.”

In addition, New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton has sent a letter this week to each member of the New York Congressional delegation asking for their support and encouraging them to put pressure on the leaders in the House to allow it to come to the floor for a vote.  The 2012 Farm Bill has already passed the Senate and came out of the House Agriculture Committee with overwhelming bipartisan support.  Failure to pass in the next few weeks will open up the door for a one-year extension of the current Farm Bill which comes with many risks.

President Norton said in his letter, “We need farm and food policy in place by Sept. 30, but an extension of the current Farm Bill will hurt New York agriculture. It threatens to take away all the improvements our farmers and the Agriculture Committee worked so hard to include in the bill. Reforms will be lost, improved safety nets will be delayed and uncertainty will remain for farmers attempting to recover from several poor growing years.”

President Norton’s letter further explains how an extension will almost surely lead to deeper cuts in the conservation programs that are needed in New York to comply with state and federal environmental mandates.  The dairy safety net has been weakened and is not protecting our farmers during the period of high feed prices that we are currently experiencing and will last at least until the next harvest, and many of New York’s specialty crop farmers will continue to have virtually no protection from crop losses. In addition, a number of other programs benefiting important research, business development, organic farming, and farmers’ markets may be lost for good.

However, it is not just farmers who will be hurt but also low-income New Yorkers who depend on the availability of local food to feed their families healthy meals.  The five-year Farm Bill provides the necessary bridges between the people who grow food and the people who have the most trouble accessing it including senior citizens and school age children. The improvements in the 2012 Farm Bill mean that farmers will better be able to provide fresh dairy, produce, meat and other products to consumers in the state—a relationship that improves the health of our population and the economy of many of our communities.

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