Farm Bill, immigration, regulatory reform and trade are included in the agenda
New York Farm Bureau outlined its federal public policy agenda today stressing the importance of having an improved safety net for farmers and making serious reforms to immigration and regulatory policy in the nation’s capital. New York Farm Bureau President, David Fisher, and several of his fellow farmers traveled to Washington, D.C. last week where they discussed the priority issues with members of New York’s congressional delegation. These priorities were shared this morning with members of the media during a press conference call. The priorities are listed below.
This year, the Farm Bill is up for renewal and New York Farm Bureau will be heavily engaged with our federal representatives to ensure its members’ public policy priorities are reflected in the final legislation. This includes improving the safety net for dairy farmers. The Margin Protection Program was not successful in the previous Farm Bill.
Milk prices are in their fourth year of a low price cycle, net farm income continues to fall, and it is a struggle for most farms in this farm economy. Even though Congress passed reforms to MPP last week, concerns remain regarding the overall impact of the program. New York Farm Bureau would like to see additional support, like a Dairy Revenue Protection program that is similar to other commodity insurance programs that farmers buy into for protection. Farms would choose the value of the milk that would be protected as well as the amount of production to cover. They would also set their limit of coverage. This would better reflect regional differences in production and price and give famers greater stability in unstable times. New York Farm Bureau is also pleased that Congress removed the $20 million cap on the Livestock Indemnity Program last week, which will allow more farmers to participate in the program.
New York farm Bureau is also looking for a Farm Bill that better reflects the diversity of crops that we have in New York. Many farms grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but the crop insurance available to them will only cover a fraction of what they produce. We are supportive of making the Whole Farm Revenue Protection Program workable for these farms. This would provide risk management for all commodities on the farm under one insurance policy. It would include any farm that grows specialty or organic crops as well as livestock, and those farms that direct market to consumers. It is also important to keep the Whole Farm Revenue Protection Program a pilot program to allow flexibility within the program and to allow constructive feedback to USDA.
A couple of other priorities in the Farm Bill include maintaining cost-sharing conservation programs to help farms met regulatory requirements. These programs improve environmental stewardship on farms. New York Farm Bureau also opposes splitting off the nutrition title of the Farm Bill from agriculture. By keeping the two together, it helps bring urban and rural lawmakers together to pass effective legislation.
“Ultimately this is a food security bill, making sure there is sound farm policy in this country for farmers to be able to grow food as well as providing access to food for those who can least afford to buy it,” said NYFB President David Fisher.
Immigration reform remains a top priority for our farmers. While this is something New York Farm Bureau has been talking about for a long time, the issue remains front and center with the American public as well as lawmakers in Washington.
Reforms should allow current, trained workers to stay on farms and maintain a consistent workforce to plant and harvest crops, and care for livestock. This would have profound impacts for farmers and their employees. New York Farm Bureau will work with President Trump’s administration and our representatives in Congress to find a workable solution that strikes an important balance between strong enforcement and a strong guest visa program.
“We have to have a system in place that will allow farms in this country to grow the food we need to feed ourselves,” said Fisher.
Regulatory reform is another national priority for the organization. Its members believe the regulatory process in this country should be a transparent one based on facts, sound science and reflects the will of Congress.
The Supreme Court recently sent the case back to the District Court level to review and it will likely be tied up in the courts. Still New York Farm Bureau believes the EPA should move forward with the process to rescind the rule and work on an appropriate alternative. We need rational and effective environmental regulations in this country.
Other major regulations rolling out of Washington include the Food Safety Modernization Act and new Worker Protection Standards.
“We will work with Congress and federal agencies to ensure the roll-out of recently enacted regulations reflect the intent of Congress as well as try to mitigate any negative affects they may have on farms,” said Lauren Williams, New York Farm Bureau Associate Director of National Affairs.
Last, but not least, is trade. This country is in the middle of renegotiating NAFTA with Canada and Mexico. Agriculture is one of the areas at the center of that agenda with dairy policy continuing to be a sticking point. Despite the differences the countries may have, New York Farm Bureau believes that we cannot afford to throw the baby out with the bathwater. In other words, this country cannot walk away from NAFTA. U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have increased from $8.9 billion to $38 billion annually since NAFTA came into effect in 1993.
“Trade is vitally important to farmers in New York. We need markets to sell our products and if NAFTA fails, the farm economy will take another serious blow,” said Williams.
New York Farm Bureau is also supportive of the next generation of trade negotiations that aim to remove barriers and expand markets for farmers around the world. Members also continue to oppose the limitation of the use of geographic indicators for some products. For example, using names like parmesan cheese. If our farmers could not use those names, it would hurt the marketability of those products.