Farm bill passes the House, includes cuts to food stamps

By Kelly McCarthy

January 30, 2014 Updated Jan 30, 2014 at 7:22 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Local farmers are one step closer to getting government-backed support once again. The House of Representatives passed what's known as the farm bill on Wednesday and it now heads to the Senate.

For the past two years, Bradd Vickers and members of the Chenango County Farm Bureau have gone to Washington DC to fight for passage of the farm bill.

"There's always been some excuse in the past," said Vickers, President of the Chenango County Farm Bureau. "Elections, or we need to get through this, and then we'll do it, so we're quite pleased this have finally moved out of the house which has been one of the big hang ups."

The House passed a version of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act, that includes government-backed insurance programs for crop loss, and milk income loss. Added insurance that Vickers calls "safety nets" for small local farmers.

"I think the ability to assist our farmers and help maintain the local food production," Vickers said, "Is probably the most important thing."

Smaller dairy farmers can look forward to having a Dairy Margin Insurance Program that protects from income loss when the price of milk drops, and can help keep small farms viable.

"If we lost even a portion of that industry which they are fighting to stay afloat," Vickers said, "And keep young people involved in it, you not only lose your food supply, you lose your open spaces, you lose a tax base."

Congressman Richard Hanna applauds the bill and says it should easily pass the Senate sometime next week.

"It's good for New York," said Hanna - R, 22nd District, "By and large the bill is very good for New York."

Hanna said upstate New York dairy farmers will see benefits from the new bill.

"Dairy is a big deal in New York State," Hanna said, "Especially where I am, I was raised, summers anyways, on a small dairy farm in Upstate New York, the margin insurance is voluntary now, so that's a big help. I think it takes the heavy hand of government out of the milk supply."

The bill comes with $8 billion in savings over 10 years from cuts to food stamps. It cuts the entire Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) about one percent.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is disappointed to see cuts to food stamps included.

"This bill will result in less food on the table for children, seniors and veterans who deserve better from this Congress, while corporations continue to receive guaranteed federal handouts. I cannot vote for it on the Senate floor," Gillibrand - D, said.

The Senate is likely to pick up the farm bill sometime next week and then it would have to go to the President for final approval. If passed, the bill will be in effect for the next five years.

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