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Owens plays role in bill to aid local farmers

Essex County Farm Bureau President Erik Leerkes takes time to discuss the pros and cons of the latest Farm Bill at his farm in Ticonderoga.

Essex County Farm Bureau President Erik Leerkes takes time to discuss the pros and cons of the latest Farm Bill at his farm in Ticonderoga. Photo by Seth Lang.

— Things could get a little easier for New York State farmers after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act Wednesday, Jan. 29.

It’s been two years since the expiration of the last farm bill, and far too long according to Congressmen Bill Owens.

“Passage of the Farm Bill provides farmers the long-overdue certainty they deserve and contributes significantly to deficit reduction,” said Owens. “I am confident this bipartisan agreement will help New York agriculture thrive.”

Essex County Farm Bureau President Erik Leerkes said the new farm bill would affect his family operated farm in Ticonderoga with more than 180 dairy cows.

“Overall, the bill is a good compromise. It’s not as beneficial as the proposed program, but better than what we had. At this point but we’re happy to get anything,”said Leerkes.

“Farmers aren’t looking for a hand out, they work hard every day, more than 70 hours per week,” he said. “It’s important for us as a country to support its own agriculture.”

Three provisions added by Owens that were designed to have local impact consist of apple exports, farm credit and maple promotion.

The Owens provision aimed at apple exports is designed to streamline U.S. apple exports to Canada by exempting bulk shipments of apples from inspection under the Apple Export Act. According to the New York Apple Association, the elimination of the required inspection will immediately offer a savings to growers of approximately $300 per truck load. Additionally, removing this regulation will allow apple growers to distribute their products on their own schedule without working around costly after-hours inspections procedures, providing them the opportunity to save money and streamline operations.

The second Owens provision will expand the range of business structures that qualify for loans and loan guarantees through the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Increasingly common structures that do not currently qualify for loans through the FSA include family trusts when family farms divide into a farm ownership LLC or farm operating LLC to facilitate ownership by multiple family members, as well as farms operating with an “embedded entity structure.” An embedded entity occurs when one entity is owned wholly or partly by another entity.

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