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U.S. House Agriculture Committee members hear New York priorities for upcoming Farm Bill

Barn silos
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Barn silos

A listening session on the upcoming Farm Bill was held recently in Binghamton. Members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee heard from a range of stakeholders about their priorities for the updated bill.

The current Farm Bill was signed into law in 2018 and is up for renewal this year. It sets policies for agriculture, nutrition programs and conservation. House Agriculture Committee Chair Pennsylvania Republican Glenn Thompson is holding listening sessions across the country.

“I define American agriculture pretty simply. It’s science, technology and innovation. You know the 2023 Farm Bill is for the farmers of today and we need to do that for the farmers through 2028 technically because it’s normally a five-year bill. But we want to build a platform for the farm of the future.”

The Broome County meeting drew farmers and stakeholders from across the state.

First-term Republican Congressman Marc Molinaro of the 19th District is a member of the Agriculture Committee. He says farming in New York presents some unique challenges.

“Agriculture, agritourism remains the largest industry in the state of New York. It’s an economic engine and job creator. Now farming in New York and upstate New York is a little bit more unique. We run the challenges of living in a regulatory environment governed in large part by the state. And the challenges of balancing the markets that we can access in New York City and beyond with the challenges of maintaining agriculture farmland and open space in upstate New York remain real.”

Judy Whittaker operates Whittaker Farms, a 108-year-old dairy farm.

“One of the programs that we are able to participate in is the EQIP Program which is the Environmental Quality Incentive Program through the USDA. It has kept our farm environmentally feasible to operate. Farmers are some of the original environmentalists. Adopting practices that help us maintain those practices is critical for the future of farming.”

New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Deputy Commissioner for Dairy and Food Safety Jennifer Trodden outlined a number of priorities for the Farm Bill.

“As part of our ask we would like federal funding that would support research and marketing programs for specialty crops. That has remained flat over the last five years. It is our hope that the Farm Bill will correct this.”

Hollenbeck Cider Mill owner Matt Hollenbeck is a land fellow for the National Young Farmers’ Coalition.

“We need to make sure that agricultural land is accessible and affordable for young and beginning farmers, which is important because the average age of a farmer in the U.S. is over 59 years old. We can help two generations of farmers by providing funding and resources for young farmers to succeed our retiring farmers.”

NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance oversees SNAP benefits, which are part of the Farm Bill. SNAP Policy Bureau Chief Sherry Tomasky says New York has been a leader in expanding eligibility.

“More than 2.9 million New Yorkers receive SNAP benefits each month. SNAP enrollment has grown more than 14 percent statewide since March of 2020. We do need a Farm Bill that supports work and doesn’t punish those who are seeking work.”

Other issues brought up included industrial hemp, climate resiliency, agriculture research, wetland and wildlife conservation and organic farming.