I write to echo the views expressed by Dr. Tony Collins, the president of Clarkson University, as described in the Feb. 10 editorial in the Watertown Daily Times titled Home Grown. Small farms and agribusinesses represent an important economic strength and opportunity in the north country, and it makes a great deal of sense for local and regional economic development plans to integrate robust supports for agribusiness because of its potential to drive future economic growth.
While New York City and other large metropolitan areas should be considered top destinations for north country agricultural products, so too should cities across the Canadian border, in Quebec and Ontario. To this end, I will continue to fight for increased market access in Canada for New York dairy products and other agricultural commodities.
In the near-term, several programs reauthorized in the new farm bill offer important mechanisms that local agribusiness ventures may use for business development. These include the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which provides $100 million for new farmer training programs, including a new focus on veterans; and a new program that would allow USDA to work with third-party intermediary lenders to provide microloans and financial training to beginning farmers.
The law also includes increased funding for the Farmers Market Promotion Program to $30 million from $10 million annually, and an increase to $72.5 million from $55 million annually for specialty crop block grants to states. The farm bill also includes a provision I authored to expand the types of business structures eligible for Farm Service Agency loan programs. Each of these programs should be used to further locally tailored economic development plans.
These and other efficiently administered, commonsense programs are valuable in creating a favorable business environment in the north country, in which economic developers and entrepreneurs at the regional and local levels can lead and thrive.
U.S. Rep. William L. Owens
The writer is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Yorks 21st Congressional District.