A deputy secretary of agriculture is on the road in Upstate New York, asking farmers how they're doing. YNN's Bill Carey says it's a mixed report that includes concerns over political stalemate in Washington.
CAYUGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- It was the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture coming to call on farmers in Cayuga County. Kathleen Merrigan says she's trying to find out what issues are of top concern in the agriculture community. A community that she says is bouncing back more quickly from the recession than urban America.
“Overall, the farm economy is doing well and, yet, because it's so important to all of us, we don't want to rest on our laurels. We've got to keep on working and figuring out new policies to keep it that way,” Merrigan said.
But while farmers nationwide are doing well, there are problem areas. Fruit growers who are dealing with damage from cold weather spells. Dairy farmers who are now paying more to produce their milk than they can charge to sell it. They'll get some help from price support programs, but those last only a limited time.
“So at that point, we're just borrowing money from our bank to pay our employees, pay our feed bills and stay in business,” said Kelly O’Hara of Oakwood Dairy Farm.
The farming industry is no stranger to challenges. Everything from economic downturns to bad weather. But the latest storms affecting the farm industry are political.
The atmosphere of stalemate on Capitol Hill has threatened to block a new farm bill, a bill that contains many programs farmers say they need to survive.
O'Hara said, “The political process does seem to deter any action for common sense support and programs being enacted for agriculture.”
“It includes nutrition assistance. It includes energy programs. It includes rural development for communities. It's a big bill. And so there's a lot of reasons to want to see it sail through,” Merrigan said.
Merrigan had to tell her audience, though, that she can no longer guarantee there will be a farm bill for 2012.
The deputy agriculture secretary also spent time visiting with apple orchard owners south of Syracuse. They reported losing up to 80 percent of their crop in cold spells this spring. She says she'll study possible ways to help, but says no general bailout is on the way.