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Agriculture bill stalls; small farm help in doubt

U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, in the end did not support the nearly trillion-dollar farm bill he helped author.

Maloney cited “draconian Tea Party amendments” for his nay vote June 20.

Maloney and fellow upstate representative and Agriculture Committee member Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, authored a small-crop insurance provision, called CROP, which survived House of Representatives agriculture committee 36-10 and is part of the larger House version of Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) act of 2013.

Federal nutrition programs are the sticking point; the entire bill is on hold.

The Senate passed its version of the farm bill June 10. It would trim food stamps by $4 billion across 10 years. House Republicans want $20 billion in food stamp savings. Opponents say about 2 million people, 4 percent of enrollment, would lose their food stamp benefits with the House version.

The House defeated the measure 234-195, with a number of Democrats joining Republicans in opposition, though for different reasons, including crop subsidies and not enough food stamp money, plus dislike of a GOP work-for-benefits provision.

A reconciled bill may never find the floors of the two Congressional chambers for a vote, much less the president’s desk. Both houses adjourn for five days in July and again for most of August and through Labor Day.

There is no guarantee a finalized bill will appear in the fall, either.

Absent passage of a new bill, the previous five-year farm bill sees its provisions extended another five years, commensurate with Congressional rules and bookkeeping. (For that reason, the 2013 FARRM Act is cited as a $970 billion, 10-year legislation, despite the option to rewrite it after five years.)

Maloney and Gibson hoped to see better small-crop insurance, since New York state is low on production of the nation’s five so-called program crops: corn, wheat, rice, cotton and oil seeds.

When the CROP provision survived committee in May, Gibson said, “This bill represents a significant victory for our local farmers, overhauling the safety net program for dairy farmers, encouraging the growth and sustainability of local and regional agriculture and organic farming, protecting conservation programs, and helping beginning farmers access the capital they need to enter the field.”

Gibson supported the failed measure.

“I’m disappointed but I don’t think we’re far off,” Gibson told the Columbia County-based daily The Register-Star. He said he expects the legislation will be taken up again and told the paper, “It’s a good bill for rural America. We need a farm bill.”

“Tea Party Republicans are playing partisan games with a Farm Bill that so many Hudson Valley families, small businesses and farmers desperately need,” said Maloney in a statement. “I have proudly worked with moderate Republican colleagues to pass a bipartisan farm bill, but the inclusion of 11th-hour provisions solely intended to hurt our most vulnerable neighbors poisons this good-faith effort.” Maloney sits on the Agriculture Committee. He had supported the bill in its 36-10 committee passage.

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About The Author

Bill Fallon
Fairfield Editor

Bill Fallon is editor of the Fairfield County Business Journal. He has worked at Westfair Communications for more than five years, previously editing an upstate New York daily and a national motorcycle magazine in Nevada. He attended Iona Prep in New Rochelle, N.Y., and the University of Virginia.

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