Promoting Local Agriculture and Rural Development
In New Hampshire, the agricultural industry contributes nearly one billion dollars to our local economy every year. With over 400,000 acres of land across the Granite State devoted to everything from timber operations and greenhouses to dairy farms and apple orchards, agriculture is an integral part of our landscape and history. I am excited to bring this unique perspective to Congress, and I am proud to be the first Representative from New Hampshire to serve on the House Agriculture Committee in decades. The Agriculture Committee has spent most of the 114th Congress conducting hearings for the next five-year Farm Bill, and I was proud to bring a Northeast perspective to the Agriculture committee. The programs authorized by this bill are essential to supporting our farmers and agricultural producers, providing nutrition assistance to families in need, and protecting our environment. As the Committee moves closer to drafting a Farm Bill, it is imperative that we support programs that help our local and organic farmers, expand farm-to-school initiatives, and strengthen the safety net for growers of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other specialty crops.
I believe that through the Farm Bill and other programs, the federal government can play an important role in supporting the resurgence of local agriculture that we are seeing in New Hampshire. I have been working with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to make improvements to the next Farm Bill so that it works for New Hampshire farmers—not just big agribusiness.
Supporting our farmers and foresters is an important part of supporting our rural communities and encouraging economic development in the North Country. I fought to include a provision in the 2014 Farm Bill that will develop a strategy for how we can better use USDA Rural Development programs to support rural community colleges. This amendment helped Lebanon College secure a $1.6 million loan awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and reopen its doors to hundreds of students in August 2015. I also support expanding Rural Development programs that help bring broadband access to our rural communities, promote the use of money-saving renewable energy technologies, and maintain critical infrastructure.
To strengthen our agricultural economy in New Hampshire, I am taking the following steps:
- Supporting New Hampshire Dairy Farmers: Over the past several years, New Hampshire’s dairy industry has faced significant challenges that threaten the future of our agricultural landscape for years to come. In 2016, New Hampshire lost 19 dairy farms as a result of low milk prices, market instability and a record drought that strained feed production and increased feed costs. As a Member of the Agriculture Committee, I have called on the USDA to implement a state-by-state average feed cost formula for farmers enrolled in the Dairy Margin Protection Program, which is intended to act as a safety net during hard times. In addition, I have called on USDA to lift a funding prohibition that prevents USDA from providing emergency support to dairy farmers who are close to shutting their doors. As the committee moves closer to the next Farm Bill, supporting Granite State dairy producers will be a top priority of mine
- Protecting Access to Nutrition Assistance: I have been a tireless advocate for increasing access to fresh, nutritious food for families in New Hampshire. During debate on the Farm Bill, I spoke in support of funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides assistance to help low-income families purchase food. I also spoke out against a reckless bill that would have devastated this program. In addition, I am a strong supporter of programs that allow nutrition assistance to be used at farmers markets, which helps low-income families and also supports the farmers in our communities.
- Supporting Responsible Forestry: New Hampshire has a unique understanding of the need to conserve our environment while also responsibly harvesting our timber resources to support the economic vitality of the North Country. As a member of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry, I support legislation that will increase opportunities for the sale and use of forest products. I am a cosponsor of the Forest Products Fairness Act (H.R. 979), which would include forest products in the USDA’s preferential purchasing program for bio-based goods. In addition, I am a cosponsor of legislation that would fix the “fire borrow” problem within the U.S. Forest Service, which occurs when the Forest Service exhausts all firefighting funding and must “borrow” from non-fire accounts to pay for suppression activities.
To better advocate for New Hampshire agricultural producers and rural communities, I have joined the Congressional Dairy Farmers Caucus, the Specialty Crops Caucus, the Organic Caucus, the Healthy Forests Caucus, and the Rural Caucus.
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Congresswoman Kuster signing House Farm Bill Conference Committee Report
A high resolution version of the photo is available here.
Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), a member of the House Agriculture Committee and a Conferee on the Farm Bill Conference Committee, along with Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, announced a $35,000 USDA Rural Development grant to the Pemi Youth Center to support the renovation of a building for the afternoon teen center in Franklin.
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