"New York is home to the hardest working farm families and the finest locally-grown produce in the world, but high feed costs, a shortage of skilled labor, and uncertain export markets have strained our farmers and farming communities across the state. If we’re going to rebuild this economy, we need to keep families on their farms and support rural communities so they can thrive.” - Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Senator
Since the founding of our Nation, America’s farmers have provided the food, fiber, and fuel that have made all of our great achievements possible. By producing the most abundant, affordable, nutritious, and safe food in history, farmers have contributed to the health and welfare of every citizen and countless people around the world.
But like most other Americans, farmers have had to work harder just to keep up.
An increasingly global marketplace, uncertain trade policies, the erosion of federal supports, and a relentless drive for efficiency has forced farmers to shoulder more debt and risk than ever before. Farming may be less physical than it once was but it’s far more demanding than it’s ever been. Balancing inputs, labor, capital, markets, transportation, facilities, machinery, while continuing to ensure the health of livestock, soil, and the environment requires skill and dedication.
America’s farmers are up to the task but we must support them.
No other industry has done more through technology, research, and innovation than agriculture to keep pace with increasing demands from a growing population. As the first New Yorker to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years, Senator Gillibrand is committed to supporting dairies and diversified farms of all sizes including access to financing, new market opportunities, improve risk management products for dairy and specialty crops, and investments in renewable energy.
Supporting New York's Dairy Farmers
Family dairy farms have been the bedrock of New York’s rural economy for centuries and our dairy producers are some of the best in the world. Yet dairy farms struggle against headwinds caused by an overly complicated price structure, higher feed costs, uncertain export markets, cooperative consolidation, and a lack of transparency.
Senator Gillibrand has lead the effort to reduce milk price volatility, improve market transparency, and preserve export opportunities that support New York milk markets and farm income.
When markets are disrupted or supply exceeds demand, it is vital that producers have a risk management tool that protects them until prices recover. The current Dairy Margin Protection Plan (MPP) has failed to provide an adequate safety net and Senator Gillibrand has urged USDA to return premiums paid by dairy farmers into a program that did not deliver. She continues to work to create a workable solution that is fair to farmers and provides real, affordable risk management.
Fairness for Specialty Crop Producers
For years, crop insurance has met the needs of commodity producers but has not provided equal protection for fruit, vegetable, small grain, and shellfish farmers. Senator Gillibrand has worked to broaden the scope of crop insurance and make the programs work better for specialty crop farmers so they can continue to provide fresh, wholesome food to families.
She has also fought for research and extension programs that provide tools for specialty crop growers so they can be more productive and grant programs that help them process their harvest, add value to their products, and have more profitable and sustainable operations.
Connecting Fresh Produce With New Markets
Fresh fruits and vegetables are essential for good health and nutrition and should be accessible to all Americans in their own community. Senator Gillibrand helped to create the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which brings grocery stores, farmers markets, and healthier corner stores to underserved communities. She has also worked to expand food hubs that provide farmers new opportunities to sell into these outlets, bringing thousands of good jobs and promoting better health and nutritional outcomes in low-income communities
New York farmers work hard every day but they cannot do it alone so many farms depend on labor to help tend to crops, harvest fruits and vegetables and milk cows. Without a reliable agricultural workforce, farms would have difficulty producing the nation’s food supply, some would fail, and every American would face higher food prices. While many farmers use the H-2A visa program to obtain temporary work authorization for laborers, this program can be cumbersome, has often prevented famers from getting the help they need on time, and does nothing to help those farmers that need year-round labor such as dairies. Senator Gillibrand has supported comprehensive immigration reform and agricultural guest worker programs to meet the needs of American farmers to plant, pick, and process their commodities.
Making Sure Our Food Is Safe
Safe, affordable, abundant food, available in every community, is the foundation of good health and a strong nation. Yet every year, nearly 1 in 6 Americans get sick from the food they eat, leading to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Senator Gillibrand has advanced legislation that dramatically improves the federal food safety inspection system, adds rigorous pathogen reduction standards, and extends food safety recall authority to protect public health and reduce healthcare costs.
She continues to advocate to give farmers new tools they need to continue to provide safe meat, eggs, milk, and produce, reduce the reliance on routine antibiotic use in production agriculture, and ensure access to export markets around the world.
No American Should Ever Know Hunger
For many Americans who struggle to make ends meet, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may help them purchase the food they need to provide for their families or the Emergency Food Assistant Program (TEFAP) may fill in at the end of the month when money runs short and food is scarce. Senator Gillibrand has pushed to increase funding for these programs and to ensure that benefits are adequate to support a healthy diet and are available to those in need in every community.
She has also lead efforts to expand the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the nation’s premiere public health nutrition program serving low income mothers and young children at nutritional risk. WIC improves birth outcome, supports breastfeeding, and provides nutritious foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, for mothers and their children up to five years of age.
School Meals Can Be The Best Meals
Kids can’t learn on an empty stomach and for some students a good school meal or school breakfast may be their best meal of the day. Senator Gillibrand has worked to improve school meal nutrition standards and provide school food service professionals with the kitchen equipment, training, and resources they need to meet those standards and prepare food children love to eat. Expanding community eligibility provisions so that schools have less paperwork and no child encounters stigma in the cafeteria will make these programs even better. But when school is out, some children lose access to an important meal, which is why the Senator’s Summer Meals Act would make it easier for schools and other organizations to provide meals throughout the summer months so that every child can live up to their potential.