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Schumer talks agriculture in Sherburne

By Mark Boshnack, The Daily Star, Oneonta, N.Y.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

March 18--Speaking at a dairy farm in Sherburne on Monday, New York Sen. Charles Schumer urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to follow through on some educational provisions of the recently passed farm bill.

The legislation that sets national agriculture policy included $6 million for technical assistance and outreach for dairy and crop insurance programs.

Standing outside a barn on the 200-cow Van Althuis farm on state Route 12, Schumer said, "I am in the town of Sherburne urging the USDA to prioritize these funds" and to start the education process.

The farm bill includes a new margin insurance program. At a premium, it guarantees participating farmers a certain profit when inputs, such as feed and fuel, are subtracted from the price they are paid for their product. It replaces the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC), that paid farmers a certain percentage when the price of milk fell below a set ceiling, without a premium.

But unlike the MILC program, farmers must choose several components that best fit their farm, before the new plan starts in September. This includes the amount of milk covered and the size of the margin. It is also based on historical output and business model.

"In order to benefit farmers as intended, they have to know all their options," Schumer said.

But because the nature of their work means the time is limited, federal resources have been provided to help explain the insurance options. This includes $3 million for the USDA to partner with such organizations as Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Farm Service Agency. It also provides another $3 million for web-based tools.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chenango County Executive Director Kenneth Smith recognized Schumer for the work he has done on the farm bill, and other efforts that have helped protect farmers from the cycles of the world economy.

He also thanked Schumer for his "vision and leadership" on dairy issues. This included his efforts in getting Greek yogurt, such as the product made at Chobani with nearby facilities, into public schools through a USDA program.

In thanking Schumer, Chenango County Farm Bureau President Bradd Vickers said without the safety net the farm bill provides, a lot of the cost for the nutritional programs that it also provides would fall back to the local taxpayers. It would also mean the loss of farms.

"I appreciate the work you've done, and I appreciate you coming to Chenango County," said Vickers

Keith Van Althuis, a co-owner of the farm where Schumer spoke, said he has read about the farm bill provisions, but is still learning about the details.

From what he has seen, it looks like Schumer is "doing good work" for farmers.

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(c)2014 The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.)

Visit The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.) at www.thedailystar.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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