Candidates in NY-27 on the Farm Bill Impasse
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The United States Farm Bill is the short name for a complex federal document covering wildlife conservation, food stamps, and yes, farming.
The bill is traditionally passed every five years, granting U.S. farmers federal insurance against natural disasters, but with the current Farm Bill set to expire September 30th, there's no new Farm Bill in sight.
"Right now, we're facing the specter of possibly having 100 programs expire at the end of September if we don't come up with a program in the next week or so," said Rep. Kathy Hochul, (D).
Hochul, who represents New York's agriculture-heavy 27th Congressional District, is calling the lack of a new Farm Bill a political power-play.
"It is, it absolutely is. There are forces that are fighting over programs and trying to score political points."
There are two main issues holding up the bill. One is food stamps, which Congressional Republicans want to steeply cut. So far, Democrats have held firm to maintain current funding.
The other issue is a Democrat-proposed change to dairy farmer insurance, making it a margin-based program. That means if dairy profits slip $4 below the cost of production, then federal funding would kick-in. It's an idea Republicans don't like.
"What I would call on Congress to do today is extend what we have," said Chris Collins.
Collins, Hochul's Republican challenger, says the only option now is to extend the current Farm Bill for six months. He says it won't hurt most dairy farms.
"As I'm talking to my – the dairy farmers in our area, most of the dairy farms, they don't have any subsidies or support as it stands. I've talked to the small farms, not the larger farms," Collins said.
Collins admits though that a six-month extension only kicks the can down the road. On that point, Kathy Hochul fervently agrees.
"Something is always better than nothing, but I am so tired of this kicking the can down the road, something that Washington is famous for. Why can't we let them know for the next five years, what the lay of the land is going to be for them?"
We also reached out to State Farm Bureau President Dean Norton, who said: "If the current bill is extended, the money spent in that extension would be lost in the next Farm Bill – money that farmers will need. So we do not want to see an extension."
The Farm Bill is not scheduled to come before Congress during the current legislative session.