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May 8, 2013

Gillibrand outlines Farm Bill priorities

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — With the Senate Agricultural Committee scheduled to debate the Farm Bill next week, committee member Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y, outlined her priorities Tuesday for the legislation that sets national farm policy. Two area dairy farmers largely supported her efforts.

The Senate passed such a bill last year, she said in a telephone press conference. It would have renewed legislation to replace the 2008 Farm Bill, which expired last year. It was extended for nine months on Jan. 1.

But because the House failed to do so, the issue has to be debated again, Gillibrand said.

“I want New York to lead the nation in agricultural production,” she said. “We have to do our part in Congress.”

For dairy farmers, this includes building on language from the recent Farm Bill that requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study alternative methods of determining milk pricing, Gillibrand said. This could include reducing the number of classifications from four to two.

She said she’s working with Maine Sen. Susan Collins on the Dairy Pricing Reform Act to reform the way the USDA sets prices. She also supports continuing the current dairy price support program, the Milk Income Loss Contract, for nine months, tied to inflation, while the USDA works on the issue.

She’s also working on the Dairy Income Fairness Act, which would give farmers with 200 cows or less a guaranteed margin of $6.50 over the cost of production. The current system is used during periods when the price farmers receive is less than what they pay to produce the milk.  She also talked about actions that could strengthen specialty-crops producers and farms and the rural community in general.

South Kortright dairy farmer Duane Martin said Gillibrand is “working hard for state farmers.” He is also president of the Delaware County Farm Bureau. He praised her efforts in making pricing more transparent. More needs to be done to make the margin program easier to understand, he said, and he would like to see MILC extended.

“It’s a Band Aid,” Martin said, “but it’s better than nothing.”

Barbara Hanselman, who also has a dairy farm in South Kortright, said: “I have a lot of respect for her.”

She praised Gillibrand’s efforts as “an ag supporter who has been eager to learn the issues.” Hanselman said she supports Gillibrand’s efforts to change the way milk is priced, but has mixed feelings on a couple of issues, such as a split between large and small producers and setting a margin.

It’s still important that farmers be “good managers,” Hanselman aid.