Farm bill grows certainty for local farmers

By Erika Mahoney

February 7, 2014 Updated Feb 7, 2014 at 7:22 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) After more than a year and a half of waiting, farmers can finally rest assured that a new farm bill has been signed into law.

The bill, which drew plenty of controversy over the roughly one percent cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, was singed into law by President Barack Obama Friday in Michigan.

While the bill cuts the SNAP program, it does bring some certainty to local farmers.

Congressman Richard Hanna met with several Southern Tier farmers to discuss the part of the bill that focuses on farming. He said the five-year plan is long overdue.

"We should do everything we possibly can to appreciate farming, the value of farming, both to families, but to the future of this community, in New York, which has so much wonderful farmland," Hanna said.

Hanna said the new Farm Bill is a step toward that necessary appreciation for farmers like Brian Aukema.

Aukema owns Dutch Hill Creamery, which opened in May 2013. It's a small creamery on the Aukema-Dairy Farm.

Aukema said now that the rules have been set in stone, he can play the game. Essentially, he no longer has to work around the outdated policies of the previous farm bill and can focus on doing business around permanent, modern standards.

"We know what's coming, we know what to expect at this point," Aukema said. "The last 18 months or so, we had no idea what was coming and what was going on, so it's been a shot in the dark."

Those modern standards include a number of reforms, such as a major reform to the nation's dairy policy.

According to Hanna, the new dairy policy offers voluntary margin insurance protection program and excludes heavy-handed government milk supply controls.

The law also expands crop insurance options and improves conservation programs.

Hanna said one of the best parts of the law is that it supports the small, family farms that make up the Southern Tier.

The law provides support for dairy farms with fewer than 200 cows, new farmers, and farmers working with specialty crops or with organic foods.

"It helps, it helps," Hanna said. "There are resources available, there's money available, but more than anything, there's certainty."

Hanna said the next step to help farmers is immigration reform so farmers have more access to finding long-term help.

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