Rep. Richard Hanna and central New York farmers celebrated the passage of the Farm Bill, with a tour of a Madison County Dairy producer Thursday.
At the Hood Dairy in Oneida, Hanna ticked off the things in the Farm Bill that will help upstate New York farmers: the five-year bill provides stability for farmers; it transitions farmers to a more modern dairy support program; it expands crop insurance, offers more support for organic farming, and help to young farmers who want to get in the business.
Hanna says the importance of getting this Farm Bill right can’t be underestimated.
"It’s the one thing they can’t take away from us -- our land. People are leaving New York for a whole host of reasons. But there’s a lot of reasons to stay. And one of the highest among them is the opportunity to farm on good land, with plenty of water, with a growing demand for a product,” said Hanna.
Hanna also noted that one aspect of the bill that helps young farmers get in the business was sorely needed.
“To reach economies of scale to pass a farm to the next generation is becoming increasingly difficult. The capital costs of farming, the raw hard work of these men and women, who have to literally work every day. You can’t be a farmer without showing up in the morning, or your cows go dry. It is hard work. But it’s a lifestyle that people love,” said the Republican congressman.
While the farm bill cures helps farmers in many areas, it can’t deal with one of the biggest issues facing upstate agriculture today, the lack of an immigration policy that allows farmers to hire immigrant for an extended period of time.
“It is important that we have for agriculture, in particular, that we have access to a simpler program to get people in to help for dairy and just about everything in agriculture. We should be talking about that, but unfortunately, we’re not."
He says the situation is especially dire for dairy farmers when it comes to a program that allows foreign workers to enter the U.S. for seasonal agriculture work.
"Dairy farmers do not have access to the H-2A program. They have no program. So what’s happened with Dairy, if they want help, long term help, they can’t get it," said Hanna. "We have a bill that allows them to bring people in legally for three years, to renew that. entire families.”
Hanna says the legislation sets the agenda for farmers for the next five years. He says that’s better than the two years of uncertainty farmers faced as lawmakers couldn’t come to terms with a bill.
Hanna represents a congressional district that stretches from Utica to Binghamton. He is running for reelection in 2014.