Press-Republican

March 27, 2013

Owens pushes legislation

JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — North Country Congressman Bill Owens is pushing forward three bills that he hopes will help farmers.

Owens (D-Plattsburgh) is calling for legislation to help apple growers ship apples to Canada cheaper, allow farms to get loans easier and boost maple-syrup production and marketing in New York state.

The three bills ideally will be part of the 2013 Farm Bill, which Owens hopes gets approval.

“We need to get this in early and start explaining to the Agriculture Committee staffers why this is important and, hopefully, it will be included in any Farm Bill that comes forward,” Owens said in a recent telephone news conference.

“I think the chances (of approval) are very high if we can get the Farm Bill to the floor.”

Congress failed to approve a new Farm Bill in 2012, but Owens said he is cautiously optimistic that legislation will pass this year.

INSPECTIONS

The three bills he spoke about are designed to help New York farmers.

H.R. 1298 would streamline U.S. apple exports to Canada by exempting bulk shipments from inspection under the Apple Export Act, which cost about $400 per shipment.

“It is an annoyance and an expense, and, most importantly, it is a delay,” he said.

“Just about every orchard has raised this issue.”

Apple shipments are required to be inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture before going into Canada. They are then inspected again in Canada, duplicating the service.

“We’re definitely in favor of the bill,” New York Apple Association President Jim Allen told the Press-Republican. “There have been a lot of efforts, and we have been working hard to reduce shipping and inspection costs.”

He said the Apple Association has been working closely with Owens on the legislation.

“It’s about passing the burden on the receiver rather than on the shipper,” he said. “It will lower the cost of doing (apple) business.”

FAMILY FARMS

H.R. 1297 would expand the range of business structures that qualify for loans through the Farm Service Agency, giving farmers a better chance of receiving credit when times are tough.

Limited liability corporations and trusts would be eligible for loans from the agency if this legislation is approved, Owens said.

“The world has changed, and many family farms are being transferred to the next generation or even the third generation ... and they need to secure loans, and this legislation will help accomplish that,” he said.

MAPLE PRODUCTION

H.R. 1272 would provide grants through the USDA to promote research and education related to maple-syrup production, natural-resource sustainability in the industry, market promotion of maple products and greater access to lands containing maple trees for sugaring activities, Owens’s news release said.

He introduced the legislation with Vermont Congressman Peter Welch.

Owens said the cost of implementing these three bills would be minimal.

“There would be no negative impact,” he said.

‘COULD BUY TIME’

Owens also said he hopes the continuing resolution that Congress approved last Thursday to fund the government through the rest of fiscal 2013, which ends Oct. 1, helps bring some order to the nation’s finances.

“We can do a lot of things that help manage the government better,” he said.

The continuing resolution is expected to delay furloughs for civilian employees for two weeks and could help eliminate the days off without pay, according to published reports.

The furloughs are the result of a sequestration law that took effect March 1, which required $85 billion in automatic spending cuts in military and domestic programs.

Owens said the continuing resolution could buy some time for agencies to reallocate their funding to deal with the cuts with limited impact.

“I hear a desire to get back to regular order ... to line up what departments and agencies need.”

— Contributing Writer Darina Naidu assisted with this report.