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Owens, League of Women Voters hold Farm Bill forum

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POTSDAM — There were plenty of comments and concerns shared at Saturday’s hourlong Farm Bill Listening Forum held by Rep. William L. Owens and the League of Women Voters at Clarkson University.

The forum provided an opportunity for agriculture groups, family farmers and others to offer input on the next Farm Bill, which Congress is scheduled to take up later this year.

“There was a wide spectrum and a variety of concerns that people had. Many of them were particular to specific industries, if you will. Our region is home to a diverse agricultural community and it is critical that the next farm bill include support for those industries,” said Mr. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, following the late morning forum that drew 40 to 50 people.

Some of the comments concerned dairy farming “and the need to try and preserve small farms,” he said.

“We heard from a couple of large dairy farmers as well, specialty crop folks and people supporting small farms,” Mr. Owens said. “It’s the entire spectrum of the Farm Bill. It was a good discussion.”

Among the topics, he said, was discussion about Yankee Credit, part of the national Farm Credit System, which provides assistance to farmers during rough stretches.

“Clearly many of the people in the room were dairy farmers. That was probably the single most focused series of comments and concerns,” he said.

Saturday’s forum hasn’t been the only opportunity for farmers to share their concerns with Mr. Owens. He has visited farms in the area to get firsthand accounts of the problems people in agriculture are facing.

He recently visited the Timothy A. Joanette dairy farm in Helena, where, standing among 190 cows, he heard concerns about milk prices, fuel and feed costs and the lack of avenues to purchase fertilizer and parts.

The congressman toured a larger farm with 1,900 cows Friday.

“Now we’ll try to get to a medium-sized so we can get their input,” he said. “As the bill goes on, we’ll try to do more of the kind of activities that we did today. We may even have specific forums for specialty crops and for dairy. We’re hearing from people again what is actually happening to them.”

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