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February 5, 2014

North Country celebrates Farm Bill

Plan to cost nearly $100 billion a year

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate approval of the Farm Bill on Tuesday brought smiles to many in the North Country.

“It’s very exciting and changes our modus operandi,” said Peter Forrence of Forrence Orchards in Peru.

Part of the bill includes the elimination of apple inspections for loads of fruit sent to Canada from the United States.

The inspection law has been on the books since 1933 but has really served no purpose, Forrence said.

The apple industry has been trying to have the law repealed for years.

“If I send a load of apples to Canada and the guy there doesn’t like them, he sends them back,” Forrence explained.

“There really is no need operationally to have them inspected.”

Apple inspections cost between $250 and $300 per load. Forrence said they could ship as many as 400 loads per year to Canada.

“It (the law) should have been changed a long time ago, but I am glad that it’s going to happen now,” he said.

“This will allow us to get a little more for our product.”

FOOD STAMPS

The House approved the Farm Bill last week, and the Senate did so Tuesday by a vote of 68-32, ending years of political battling.

The measure will now be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The bill provides a financial cushion for farmers who face unpredictable weather and market conditions. But the bulk of its nearly $100 billion-a-year cost is for the food-stamp program, now known as SNAP, which aids 1 in 7 Americans.

House Republicans had hoped to trim the bill’s costs, pointing to a booming agriculture sector in recent years and saying the food-stamp program, which now costs $80 billion a year, has spiraled out of control.

Partisan disagreements stalled the bill for more than two years, but conservatives were eventually outnumbered as the Democratic Senate, White House and a still-powerful bipartisan coalition of farm-state lawmakers pushed to get the bill done.

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