Owens speaks at Farm and Fork symposium

PAUL SMITHS – U.S. Rep. Bill Owens discussed options for grant and loan support available through the 2014 Farm Bill at the Forest, Farm and Fork: An Opportunity Symposium.

The symposium was held Monday at the Paul Smith’s College VIC and was hosted by the Adirondack Center for Working Landscapes, a joint project of Paul Smith’s and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Its focus was to educate attendees on opportunities for grants and loans available to North Country businesses through the Farm Bill and New York state sources.

The Plattsburgh Democrat opened the day-long event and told attendees there were three provisions in the Farm Bill that were “very dear to him.”

The first, the Apple Export Act, was written by Owens. It exempts bulk shipments of apples from the the U.S. to Canada from inspections. According to the New York Apple Association, the elimination of the required inspection will offer a savings to growers of approximately $300 per truckload.

The other provision was drafted by Owens and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. It promotes activities related to maple production, including maple syrup operations, natural resource sustainability for the maple syrup industry, promotion of maple products and increased access to land for maple-sugaring activities.

The third provision expands the type of businesses that can qualify for loans and loan guarantees through the Farm Service Agency. The new provision will include family trusts, and Owens said the loans could be used to help new farms and small farms.

Owens said all three provisions are particularly important for growing the North Country economy.

“There are lots of opportunities here, and we need to stay focused on that,” Owens said. “There are lots of opportunities to grow our farms and our economy through that process.”

Owens said opportunities for growing crops in northern New York are expanding for reasons other than the Farm Bill. He said farmers he’s spoken to in Franklin, Clinton, St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties are all seeding crops they didn’t think they could grow 20 years ago.

“When I ask the farmers why this is happening, the answer I get back every time is, the growing season is warmer,” Owens said. “I think that is something that is very hopeful to us, but it’s also something that’s going to bring us challenges. We need to be aware of what those challenges are going to be.”

In the future, Owens said it would be important to increase trade with Canada by reducing restrictions on U.S. agricultural exports heading to that country.

“A lot of grain comes down, but we want to export,” Owens said. “The focus is on dairy products, and on redevelopment and expansion of the diary and maple syrup industries.”