Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that the just-signed Farm Bill includes several of her provisions that protect New York’s farmers and producers and that strengthen rural economies. This includes her bill to put money back into the pockets of New York dairy farmers and new grant programs to invest in New York’s rural economies. Gillibrand worked in the Senate Agriculture Committee to include these provisions in the Farm Bill and fought to ensure that they were passed as a part of the final bill, which was signed into law by the President today.
“New York has one of the longest and most distinguished agriculture traditions in the country. This year’s Farm Bill provided the best opportunity to strengthen rural economies and provide new opportunities for our farmers and producers,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “I’m pleased that the final Farm Bill includes my provisions to provide some relief for our dairy farmers, who have been struggling from historically low milk prices for years, to expand rural broadband, and to invest in our rural communities. I worked from the very beginning to make sure that this year’s Farm Bill had New York’s best interests at its core, and I applaud my colleagues for passing this bipartisan bill.”
Below are the provisions that Senator Gillibrand fought for and successfully included in the just-signed Farm Bill:
Refunds for Dairy Farmers
Gillibrand’s secured a provision in the final Farm Bill to refund nearly $60 million in insurance premiums to farmers who paid millions of dollars into an insurance program, the Dairy Margin Protection Program, which did not help them when milk prices dropped. This provision in the Farm Bill was modeled after Senator Gillibrand’s Dairy Premium Refund Act, which she introduced in February.
Another provision also directs the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to present dairy farm data in order to better describe the health of the dairy industry and help ensure that policy makers understand which types of dairy producers are most at risk of farm failure.
The final Farm Bill includes a provision to make grant funding available for rural broadband projects in high-need areas. This provision, based on Senator Gillibrand’s bipartisan Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act (B-CROP Act) would help encourage more high-speed broadband deployment to high-need areas by awarding grants in combination with the current loan funding available through the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service. Federal funds would target the highest-need rural and tribal areas, allowing for grants of up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, and up to 75 percent for remote, high-need areas, to be awarded in combination with the current loan funding available through USDA. The Farm Bill also increases the annual funding level of the USDA broadband program to $350 million.
Rural Jobs and Investment
The final Farm Bill includes a bipartisan provision led by Senator Gillibrand to expand access to much-needed resources and investment for rural entrepreneurs in Upstate New York to start and expand local businesses. This provision is based on Gillibrand’s Rural Jobs and Investment Act and would create a new grant program to invest in local efforts to launch new companies and create new jobs in New York’s rural communities. It would also expand the use of the USDA Community Facilities Program to invest in business incubators, makerspaces, and job training centers to provide additional resources for communities to support their entrepreneurs.
In addition, Gillibrand’s provision would also expand access to capital for rural entrepreneurs by encouraging investment in rural areas. Currently, the USDA’s Rural Business Investment Program helps address these capital challenges, but this program is limited in the types of industries that it can invest in, as well as the amount of capital it can attract. Gillibrand’s provision would improve the program to allow investments across all industries, encouraging more capital to be invested in rural entrepreneurs.
Northern Border Regional Commission
The final Farm Bill reauthorizes and expands the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) to include more counties in New York. The NBRC is a federal-state partnership that invests in economic and community development projects throughout Upstate New York, as well as in rural communities in other states in the Northeast. This provision reauthorizes the NBRC for an additional five years and increases funding to $33 million per year to continue to bring critical federal investment to economic development projects in these regions. It would also add several New York State counties to the list of current counties eligible for NBRC assistance. The newly added counties include Genesee, Greene, Livingston, Montgomery, Niagara, Orleans, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Sullivan, Washington, Warren, Wayne, and Yates Counties. Additionally, the provision would establish a state capacity-building grant program to help develop projects that support business retention and expansion, increase access to high-speed internet, invest in critical infrastructure development, and promote job creation.
From 2010 to 2017, the NBRC has invested over $57.6 million throughout New York. The NBRC region in New York State currently includes St. Lawrence, Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Cayuga, Oneida, Oswego, and Seneca counties. Gillibrand was an original cosponsor of the Northern Border Regional Commission Reauthorization Act, which was introduced by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Angus King (I-ME), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH). Senator Gillibrand worked with Senator Leahy on an amendment to include the NBRC in the Farm Bill.
The final Farm Bill reauthorizes the Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zone designation for Sullivan County and the Town of Wawarsing in Ulster County. The REAP Zone program provides specialized technical assistance from USDA to assist in community development efforts, including rehabilitating rural housing, developing local and regional food systems, supporting rural entrepreneurs, small businesses, and infrastructure improvements to community facilities, water, and wastewater systems, and other similar projects that are critical to an area’s economic development. Senator Gillibrand worked with Senator Leahy (D-VT) and the Agriculture Committee to include this provision in this year’s Farm Bill.
Gillibrand also included a provision to protect Long Island shellfish producers by expanding their insurance coverage options. Shellfish producers are at high risk of losing their crops and equipment because of weather, diseases, and changes in the marine environment. Gillibrand’s provision would treat the different growth stages of shellfish and other aquaculture species as separate crops, which would allow the Whole Farm Revenue Insurance Program policies to be more comprehensive and fair for shellfish producers.
Shellfish production is a growing industry in New York. In 2017, the New York shellfish industry was valued at $16.2 million.
The bill directs the National Agricultural Statistics Service of USDA to document barley production in New York State. This would ensure that producers have the information they need to decide on future plantings. The information would also be valuable for growers because it would provide sufficient data for crop insurance companies to expand insurance offerings and eventually offer a malting barley endorsement.