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Senator Gillibrand optimistic about passage of compromise farm bill

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LOWVILLE — U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand said Friday she believes a compromise farm bill will be passed this year.

“I’m optimistic it will work out,” Sen. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said during a stop at Tug Hill Vineyards, Yancey Road. “People believe in our farmers.”

However, she added that the final legislation will have to address the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or food stamps, despite the House of Representatives removing the program from its version of the bill and considering funding cuts to it.

“For the Senate to pass the bill, it will have to include nutrition,” Mrs. Gillibrand said.

However, what has passed thus far should be enough to hold a conference between members of the House and Senate that could reconcile differences and come up with a compromise bill palatable to the majority in both chambers, she said.

Mrs. Gillibrand said it will be important to come up with a “comprehensive bill” that will not only aid farmers but also continue to assist needy families, including veterans.

“We need to make sure they have enough to feed their kids,” she said.

It behooves federal leaders to come up with a bipartisan farm bill, given that agriculture is a “big business” and a vital part of the country’s economy, Mrs. Gillibrand said.

“I’m committed to being a voice for our farmers and producers throughout the state,” she said.

An extension of the farm bill approved in 2008 expires at the end of September.

While the farm bill focuses largely on commodity costs, Mrs. Gillibrand said, she is also pushing for it to include programs beneficial to specialty crop farmers, such as increased credit access, improved crop insurance and elimination of some duplicate fees. She also touted efforts to boost the sales of locally grown food and increase farmers market participation in the food stamp program.

“These programs will help American farmers sell their products,” the senator said.

As a member of the President’s Export Council, Mrs. Gillibrand also vowed to work with Canadian officials to eliminate or reduce nearly 35 percent tariffs on wine exports to that country. Without those, north country wineries likely could boost sales to their cross-border neighbors, leading to increased production, she said.

“It’s unfair,” Mrs. Gillibrand said.

Michele E. Ledoux, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Lewis County, formally thanked the senator for her visit and support of agriculture, while her son, Jake T., the state FFA vice president, spoke briefly on the economic impact of consuming locally grown food.

State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, also thanked Mrs. Gillibrand for her advocacy in Washington.

“We all know the significance and importance of agriculture,” he said.

Following her stop in Lowville, Mrs. Gillibrand was scheduled to visit Plattsburgh, Tupper Lake and Long Lake, all on Friday afternoon.

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