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Archive Photo of the Day: Shelly Pike, Canton NY.
Archive Photo of the Day: Shelly Pike, Canton NY.

Final Senate vote expected on Farm Bill

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The 2013 Farm Bill is expected to get a final vote in the US Senate Monday evening. It's a thousand-page document detailing a host of policies, from conservation to business development. According to the National Farmers Union, more than 75 percent of the bill will support food stamps, and food assistance abroad.

The bill includes an amendment introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer he says will help the state's dairy farmers supply a fast-growing yogurt industry.

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The amendment would create a $5 million pilot program aimed at helping small dairy farms access technical help with things like animal nutrition and business planning.

It's called the Dairy Block Grant Program, and Senator Schumer says it would let dairy farmers apply for grants to help increase their milk production: "There's demand for our farm products, for our dairy products, but they have a tough time expanding for a whole lot of reasons. Either they can't get the loans, there are laws that are stacked against them. So what we try to do in this block grant is provide them the wherewithal so they can get going."

Steve Ammerman, spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau, says this could do a lot for small farms.

He says the rising property taxes, along with labor and production costs, mean many farmers don't have the money to bring in specialists to help with feeding, housing or breeding. "When you have a happy cow, happy cows tend to produce more milk and something like the Block Grant could go a decent way to helping some of those farmers simply be more efficient."

Ammerman says it's crucial for dairy farmers to be able to increase their capacity and productivity to meet the growing demand from the Greek yogurt industry in upstate New York.

He says passing the farm bill and immigration reform this year would go a long way toward easing the path of upstate dairy farmers.

The House takes up the 2013 Farm Bill once it passes the Senate. The bill stalled there last year. A repeat of a partisan battle over the food stamp program is expected.

Reporting by the Innovation Trail is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Visit innovationtrail.org.

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