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Federal Farm Bill -- A Good Deal for NJ, Despite Cuts to Food Stamps?

Direct commodity subsidies were targeted by supporters of the bill, because they are considered inefficient and paid farmers regardless of their circumstances. While some New Jersey farmers did receive subsidies, the bulk did not because they were not farming grain or field crops. Don't we say in front that most NJ farmers are growing grains? The shift to an insurance-based model, Furey said, would focus resources and benefit New Jersey’s specialty-crop farmers, who had not been eligible for most direct subsidy payments.. In addition, he said, farmers in the state will have a greater ability to qualify for marketing assistance and other loans. Overall amount of federal assistance will not change dramatically, he said.

“The bill provides a lot more certainty to farmers for the upcoming crop season,” he said.

The expansion of the crop insurance program -- which will cover more farmers and will cover a larger portion of their yields -- is especially important for the so-called specialty market, which is particularly vulnerable to weather events like hail storms and droughts. The shorter seasons in New Jersey further complicate matters, he said.

“When you are in an area like this, it is difficult for farmers,” he said. “We see everything from freezes and hailstorms to tornadoes and hurricanes. We don’t see devastating catastrophes as often, but we see some of everything.”

That means, he said, that New Jersey farmers are facing almost constant threats and potential losses. Crops like blueberries or tree fruit have a narrow window when they are marketable, he said, so “you can imagine the season-long devastation you get from a 10-minute long hailstorm,” which damage plants and generally leave them unproductive for the rest of the season.

So, making sure insurance is available and covers a greater portion of a potential crop is important -- as is the money for research and marketing programs.

“The farm bill is much more than programs for farmers,” Hlubik said. “There is so much in it that impacts all New Jerseyans in a positive way,” including money for research, marketing, and conservation.

Furey agrees.

“Getting the farm bill done -- almost two years beyond its due date -- is a big thing and a good thing for New Jersey,” he said.

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