Maloney warns of local impact of farm-bill impasse

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, held a press conference at Soons Orchard in New Hampton on Thursday to warn that the recent expiration of the federal farm bill due to a political impasse endangers funding for non-controversial programs that help Hudson Valley farmers.

Among the 39 “orphaned” programs whose authorization expired on Sept. 30 was the Beginning Farm and Rancher Development Program, which awards grants to organizations that train, mentor and provide technical assistance to new growers. Recipients include Glynwood, a Cold Spring nonprofit that serves farms and food businesses in the Hudson Valley and got a $400,000 federal grant last year to work with young farmers.

Maloney, flanked by representatives from Glynwood and the Hudson, N.Y.-based National Young Farmers Coalition in the orchard’s tasting room, said that approved grants such as Glynwood’s are safe, but that new funding for farm-bill programs will not be issued and grant applications will not be solicited until Congress ends its standoff on a five-year renewal of the bill. He blamed the impasse on a Republican House committee chairman who is one of four leaders negotiating a final version of renewal bills that the House and Senate passed.

Jessica Manley, a spokeswoman for the National Young Farmers Coalition, explained that the program for new farmers helps them overcome formidable obstacles such as being unable to afford land, having no access to credit and having to contend with crushing student load debt. “They’re entrepreneurial and tough, but they can’t do it alone,” she said.

A main sticking point in farm-bill negotiations is the House Republicans’ effort to expand and strengthen work requirements for Americans getting monthly grocery subsidies through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook, has been a vocal supporter of those  provisions, arguing they will help move food stamp recipients into self-sufficiency. The Senate bill did not include new food stamp requirements.

Maloney criticized the push for tighter worker requirements, calling it “purely and exclusively a fevered dream of some extremists in the Republican Party who who understand there’s some political value in beating up on people who need assistance.” He pointed out that SNAP spending has dropped $100 billion below projections and called it “one of the most efficient program in the federal government.”

Congress could extend the current farm bill if the two chambers can’t agree on terms for a renewal.

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