Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney hosted a farm tour, stopping first at R&G Produce and ending with a panel of local farmers and industry experts at Wagon Wheel Farm in Goshen. They discussed the unique economic challenges facing the agricultural sector in the wake of COVID-19 and how the federal government can support them in their recovery. Rep. Maloney also introduced his latest piece of legislation on behalf of local farmers, The Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act, which is led in the Senate by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY).
“Our farms have always been the heart and soul of our local economy and they’re going to be key to our economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19. Today, I heard directly from local farmers about what they need to get back on their feet. Our family farms have struggled to navigate a year of depressed prices and limited markets, causing them serious financial strain. They need more help from the federal government to keep their doors open,” said Rep. Maloney. “I am proud to be introducing the Relief for Small Farmers Act to do just that. This bill is designed to help farmers get back in business by offering a one-time debt forgiveness of up to $250,000. Farming is the lifeblood of our local economy, and we need to make sure it’s a big part of our recovery.”
Rep. Maloney and Sen. Gillibrand’s Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act would provide direct relief to small farmers to help alleviate crippling debt. This act would provide a one-time debt forgiveness of up to $250,000 across three types of USDA FSA loans: Direct Farm Operating Loans, Direct Farm Ownership Loans, and Emergency Loans. This bill will work to protect our most vulnerable farmers with an average adjusted gross income of $300,000 or less over the previous five years will be eligible for this debt relief. It will also allow for farmers who have had to sit out farm seasons for the previous five years to be eligible.
“Small farmers in New York State have been under financial strain for many years and the economic toll of the pandemic has added even greater hardship,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act would bring desperately needed debt forgiveness and direct relief to our most vulnerable farmers as they work to recover from the pandemic. This relief will not only provide a lifeline to our farmers, but will also strengthen our food supply chain, economy, and our communities.”
“Farmers of the Hudson Valley greatly appreciate Rep. Maloney’s continued hard work on behalf of agriculture for local farmers and for the ag industry. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with Rep. Maloney and his dedicated staff and I can’t emphasize what a difference it makes having a Representative on the House Agriculture Committee. It gives us a voice so our concerns are addressed and met. And over the years Sean has worked tirelessly to ensure appropriate federal aid and relief, like NY Rising Program, PPP, or CFAP programs, are distributed to local qualifying farmers. Rep. Maloney sees the big picture and small farmers that have often been ignored or short-changed in various federal programs would finally see such help with the “Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act." Crushing debt makes it extremely difficult for America’s small family farmers to continue to operate and maintaining our small family farms is the backbone of our food system and an important element to maintain diversity and fair prices for consumers. It’s win-win policy,” said Chris Pawelski of Pawelski farms. “This event today is just another example of how Rep. Maloney views agriculture and not only does it enable us to learn about his work on the Committee in DC but he is able to see and hear first-hand the concerns and issues facing farmers in his District. That is the definition of what an effective representative is supposed to do.”
“Small Hudson Valley farms were hit hard by COVID-19 and accessing federal help wasn’t always easy. Congressman Maloney was there from day one, helping farms like mine keep their doors open and stay in business. His latest bill, providing debt relief to small farmers, would make a real difference for businesses like ours throughout the Hudson Valley. Agriculture is a key part of our economy – and, as we heard time and again in our roundtable today – it makes a big difference when we have leaders like the congressman fighting for us in Washington,” said Jason Touw of Wagon Wheel Farm.