MOIRA — A federal Farm Bill is not expected to pass this year because of the November election and typical pace of government in Washington, D.C., Congressman Bill Owens told farmers.
He was questioned on a number of agriculture issues during the recent Franklin County Farm Bureau PX Day, held at Scotty's Diner in Moira.
About 45 people, including Farm Bureau members and officers, farmers, Franklin County legislators and others, heard updates on bills pending before Congress that impact them.
Owens said both House Ag Committee Chair Frank Lucas and Senate Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson have worked hard to bring the Farm Bill in as a logical spending plan, but it likely won't go anywhere this year.
He praised the North Country for its participation in the Northeast regional hearings held in Saranac Lake in March.
Committee members were impressed with the turnout, the thoroughly researched presentations and helpful comments made, "and that goes a long way in Washington," Owens said.
He said a flurry of bills have come before Congress in the past few days with little time for them to review and digest the information before a vote is expected.
Owens was especially troubled by a 90-day extension to the U.S. Transportation Bill — he said he voted against it because a fully prepared Senate bill is awaiting approval, "but the House won't move an inch."
Owens told farmers he's in favor of changes to the definition of navigable lands under the Environmental Protection Agency, which characterizes some farmland as wetlands, and therefore navigable, when it clearly cannot be used for passage.
He said he is closely watching developments within the EPA regulations on manure spreading on fields and its impact on farmers.
And farm-labor issues are important but being clouded by those who believe it is a pathway to easy citizenship, with little or no criminal-history checks on those coming to the United States to work, he said.
"Virtually every farm has illegal labor on it, so this is a serious problem we're not addressing," he said.
"If enforcement were to begin, we'd have a crisis in food production and milk production."
Owens said the issue will come down to either importing labor or importing food.
He is also concerned about child-labor laws under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Labor because of the direct impact on farmers and their children who work with them. Changes could restrict where the young people can work on the farm and what type of jobs they can perform.
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