Rep. Marc Molinaro, a Republican representing Greater Binghamton in the U.S. House of Representatives, and other lawmakers are urging Congress to expand farmers’ insurance in an upcoming agricultural spending package.

The federal farm bill, traditionally passed by Congress around every five years, funds agricultural and food-related programs that manage crop production, land conservation and food assistance. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 was the most recent farm bill passed, with the bulk of funding spent on the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program to assist low-income families and other individuals purchase food.

The bill also addressed crop insurance, loan opportunities for farmers and conservation programs promoting land stewardship and ecological restoration. Molinaro urged Congress to pass a bill with expanded farmers’ insurance for specialty crops, including tree nuts, dried fruits, herbs and spices. Key programs in the 2018 legislation were extended in November 2023 and will expire at the end of September.

”Crop insurance, more broadly, more specifically, is meant to provide that safety net for farmers,” Molinaro said. “In particular for [upstate New York], specialty crops, fruits and vegetables — that’s what we specialize in, dairy [as well] in upstate New York, all of which need to have that safety net so that they can thrive, they can survive and ultimately they can grow.”

Last year, Molinaro led a listening session at the Broome County Regional Farmers Market — located on Binghamton’s Upper Front Street — with local farmers, producers and agribusiness owners, which was attended by Rep. Glenn Thompson — the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee — Wisconsin Rep. Derrick Van Orden and New York Reps. Claudia Tenney and Nick Langworthy. Panelists heard concerns from stakeholders, who described various issues they wanted the legislation to address.

Following the listening session, Molinaro and Thompson met with researchers at Cornell University’s Agricultural Experiment Station, a program that receives federal funding.

“I’ve prioritized creating forums and opportunities for upstate New Yorkers to share their feedback on issues and legislation that matter to them,” Molinaro said at the time. “Today’s Farm Bill listening session was a continuation of that effort […] By convening this forum and bringing the chair of the House Agriculture Committee to our community, I’m ensuring upstate New York’s priorities are heard and represented in this bill.”

New York’s dairy industry has also advocated for the bill’s renewal. Related safety net programs involve the distribution of federal money through commodity, crop insurance and disaster assistance programs, which cover commodities including wheat, oats, barley, corn, grain sorghum, rice and soybeans.

The 2018 bill also created the Dairy Margin Coverage Program to uplift coverage levels and reduce premiums. The program is voluntary and provides dairy operations with risk management coverage that will pay producers when the difference between the national price of milk and the average cost of feed falls below a certain level selected by program participants.

Molinaro is also advocating for the passage of the Dairy Farm Resiliency Act, which would ensure that production requirements are updated every five years, an improvement considering the level of production farmers can currently insure is based on data from more than 10 years ago.

Conservation programs enable farmers and ranchers to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and enhance wildlife habitat. The Farm Bill gradually increases the acreage cap for the Conservation Reserve Program to 27 million by 2023 and authorizes two new pilot programs that prioritize practices that help benefit water resources. Disaster programs provide much-needed support for agricultural producers to rehabilitate farmland and ranchland damaged by natural disasters.

“The Farm Bill is about ensuring that farming and agriculture remain vibrant and strong throughout the country,” Molinaro said. “Those who struggle with access to nutrition and good food choices have the opportunity and the support they need to get access.”