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Rep. Bill Owens
Rep. Bill Owens

Owens gives students a farming peptalk

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The new federal Farm Bill reaches the Senate floor this week. The farm bill includes a myriad of policies that will affect farms and food over the next five years. It's been the subject of public hearings and committee reviews in the House and Senate.

The conversation about the future of agriculture never stops in farming areas like the North Country. Yesterday afternoon, Congressman Bill Owens came to Canton Central School to speak with students of FFA.

Tasha Haverty reports.

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Natasha Haverty
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About 30 high school seniors piled into a classroom to listen to Owens. After going around the room to shake hands with each student, the congressman spoke to the group and said, “I would urge you to continue with this important area that you’re studying and hopefully that you’re going to get into because it’s very important to the United States, and it’s very important to our national security that we are able to produce our own food." 

Some of the FFA members are the children of farmers and continue in their family’s footsteps as members of the FFA. Lee Dunkleberg said he was inspired by Owens’ appearance, and the chance to meet a congressperson.

“Well first of all I’ve never met a congressman before, but also he’s a big part of the agricultural community up here,” said Dunkleberg, who was the only student to ask Owens about the farm bill. He and his family are farmers, and they’re for bill.

Holly Coway isn’t from a farm family but joining the FFA was enough to spark her commitment. She said, “I’m here because I’m scared that the kids below me aren’t going to have the experiences that I had. Because I’ve been to so many different places because of FFA and it’s always expanded my horizon. I look at things the way a farmer looks at it even though I didn’t necessarily grow up on a farm.”

When the talk wrapped up, the students led Owens out to show him the garden they’ve been cultivating all year, and talked about their work bringing more locally grown food into the cafeteria. Owens says he hopes to reenforce these interests with appearances like yesterday’s.

“We’re in a situation where the world is going to need more food. We have the opportunity to produce that food. So we have the opportunity to do something good for the world but also something beneficial for our economy. And the students here in this classroom looks to me like they’re trying to take advantage of those opportunities. And we want to encourage that to the maximum extent we can,” said Owens.

As more school programs are on the chopping block, students like McKenzie Barney understand the signal of support that Owens’s visit is sending. Barney said, “It’s a big deal because through this whole budget cut, agriculture, FFA, the courses our teacher teaches, haven’t been mentioned. No one realizes what agriculture means in this world anymore.”

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