Wednesday, March 19, 2014
 

 

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Senator fights to keep New York’s USDA offices open

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, (D, NY) a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, called for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) not to close 250 critical offices across the country, including up to 10 offices in New York State. These offices are needed to successfully implement the new farm bill, helping farmers navigate the system and sign up for existing and new programs.

“Requiring our farmers to drive four hours round trip to their local USDA office is absurd,” said Senator Gillibrand. “These offices serve farmers when they need it most – after natural disasters, to access credit through FSA loans, and to participate in insurance programs. Without accessible USDA field offices, our farmers won’t have the information they need to make critical choices that will impact the sustainability of their farms. We cannot abandon these communities – keeping these offices open must be a priority.”

The Farm Bill was signed into law just last month and includes many new programs which require in-depth explanation. FSA offices are often the only point of contact between farmers and USDA’s multitude of programs. After natural disasters, these field offices provide in-person technical and financial support. When a farmer plans to expand their operation or acquire new land, they must visit their FSA loan officer in person to apply for financial assistance. FSA offices are instrumental in collecting data for crop insurance policies, as well as reporting losses after a natural disaster.

In addition, the farm bill includes a brand new dairy program which provides an essential safety net for dairy farmers when the price of milk drops. This new and complex program requires lengthy consultation and education to be effective since dairy farmers will be required to purchase margin insurance for the first time. Dairy farmers will face difficult choices as to how much margin insurance to buy given the specifics of their farm and the given year. They will require much consulting and education from their local FSA offices in order for this program to be effective.