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Congressman Bill Owens and Richard Eakins talk about corn storage. Photo: Sarah Harris.
Congressman Bill Owens and Richard Eakins talk about corn storage. Photo: Sarah Harris.

Owens: farm bill may happen in 2013

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There's still no Farm Bill this year.

The Farm Bill sets policy for agriculture nationwide. But most of the bill--money-wise--goes to food stamps. And disagreement over cuts to food stamps has held the overall bill up for over a year.

This week, members of the House and Senate will start hashing out a new compromise version of the bill. At a visit to a North Country soybean farm, Congressman Bill Owens said that may mean progress.

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Reported by

Sarah Harris
Reporter and Producer

Richard Eakins of Norco Farms. He has 300 acres of soybeans. Photo: Sarah Harris.
Richard Eakins of Norco Farms. He has 300 acres of soybeans. Photo: Sarah Harris.
It’s a bitter, windy day in Malone. Farmer Dick Eakins shows Congressman Bill Owens his 300 acres of soybeans. Owens is full of questions. 

"Why did you decide to grow soybeans up here when they apparently hadn’t been grown before?" Owens asks. 

"There’s an opportunity to spread my risks, not have it all based in one crop," Eakins explains. "It gives me two crops and lower risk. Soybean works very good as a rotating crop with corn."

Eakins grows soybean for export, and corn for local sale. He’s been growing soybeans for 6 years. Before that, he was a dairy farmer.

And he says the politics surrounding the farm bill in Washington feel very far away.

"I’m not sure if we had a farm bill, if it would make the beans worth more or less, that I do not know."

Eakins waves a hand toward his field of yellow soybeans. 

"I can control what I can control, and the farm bill I can’t control," he says. 

But most North Country dairy farmers have a much bigger stake in the farm bill.  The 1000 page piece of legislation controls milk prices through the Dairy Security Act.

"Different people are going to have different needs," Congressman Owens said. "The smaller farmers I think need the dairy security act – we have lots of small farms in our region and we want to make sure we keep them in business."

The congressman catches a ride on the combine. Photo: Sarah Harris.
The congressman catches a ride on the combine. Photo: Sarah Harris.
Ultimately, Owens hopes the farm bill will serve all North Country farmers.  

"So I think what the farm bill has to do is create an environment a) where you get stability in terms of pricing for milk in particular. We also need to in their particular case make sure they’re eligible for crop insurance, because as they go to more crops they need to rely on crop insurance – those are the kind of things the farm bill will do for folks up here.

The farm bill has been held up by disagreements in the House, where Republicans want to cut $40 billion from SNAP, the food stamps program.

Congressman Owens doesn’t support that big of a cut.

"We can’t have a $40 billion cut. It’s just not reasonable and would hurt too many people in our communities."

Owens says that in order for the farm bill to get through the House and the Senate, the cuts to SNAP will likely be between $4 and $10 billion.

And he says this week’s meeting is good news.

"This means, I think, that we at least have a shot at getting a farm bill by the end of this year. It’s possible that if we’re working towards a deal to solve the debt ceiling issues that maybe they’ll wait and incorporate the savings they take from the farm bill into a larger bill."

Representatives from the House and Senate are scheduled to meet about the farm bill on Wednesday.

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