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The Times
  • Gillibrand discusses Farm Bill at HCCC

  • U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand visited Herkimer County on Wednesday to listen to the concerns facing farmers in anticipation of the 2012 Farm Bill, but many of those who spoke said action needs to happen sooner. Gillibrand met with farmers at Herkimer County Community College as they took turns addressing the conce...
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  • U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand visited Herkimer County on Wednesday to listen to the concerns facing farmers in anticipation of the 2012 Farm Bill, but many of those who spoke said action needs to happen sooner.
    Gillibrand met with farmers at Herkimer County Community College as they took turns addressing the concerns they had with the unfair dairy pricing practices as one of the main issues.
    Dairy farmers said it costs them more to produce the product then for what they are being paid for due to competitiveness in the market.
    Gretchen Maine, of Waterville, said “the costs are going up, but the milk prices stay the same,” after listing the numerous expenses involved with operating her farm.
    “The pricing system from over the past 30 years is outrageous. It needs to be fixed,” said one retired dairy farmer. “... It can’t wait until the Farm Bill.”
    Gillibrand acknowledged in her introduction that dairy farmers have been on a “roller coaster ride” with the pricing system.
    The senator said she has been working to overhaul the dairy pricing system. In a news release, she said she is working with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack “to protect profit margins for dairy producers and to create an alternative data collection system for end-product pricing that currently leads to enormous volatility and uncertainty for dairy producers.”
    Gillibrand also said she understands the need to act sooner, rather than later.
    “I’m willing to take on some of these issues now,” she said.
    Gillibrand spoke of other farming issues she wants to work on, including farmers looking into expanding its market by selling cheese, yogurt and ice cream products to consumers. She also said she wants to work on immigration issues and renewable energy options that may also affect farmers.
    She also wants to focus on specialty crop farmers.
    The stop at HCCC, rescheduled from its January date after a winter storm buried the area, was one of several she is making as part of a listening tour to understand what priorities New Yorkers have for the 2012 Farm Bill. “We have a very significant opportunity to write, craft and shape the 2012 Farm Bill,” said Gillibrand, who is the first New Yorker to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years.
    Gillibrand encouraged those with farming concerns to contact her office which has an agricultural listening group.
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