Shaheen Applauds Passage of Bipartisan Senate Farm Bill That Will Support New Hampshire Farmers and Rural Communities

June 28, 2018

**Includes Shaheen Legislation Reauthorizing the NBRC for 5 years & Permanently Reauthorizing NORA** 

(Washington, DC) – Today Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) voted in support of a bipartisan Farm Bill that passed the Senate in a vote of 86-11. The five-year Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 includes multiple New Hampshire priorities and will protect small farmers, fight hunger and strengthen the future of small towns and rural communities.

The Farm Bill includes significant New Hampshire priorities secured by Senator Shaheen, including bipartisan legislation that would extend authorization of the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) for five years and make additional reforms to encourage business retention and expansion in Northern New Hampshire and other distressed communities of the Northern Forest region. Shaheen also included a bipartisan provision to permanently reauthorize the widely supported National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA), a vital program that funds the development of improved and efficient oilheat technology to increase safety and reduce consumer costs. The bill further invests an additional $100 million for Dairy Risk Coverage, which will improve the safety net for New Hampshire’s dairy farmers. Critically, the bill maintains current funding for the Sustainable Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), protecting working families from experiencing food insecurity.

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed a partisan version of the Farm Bill that slashes funding for critical nutrition and conservation programs. The Senate and House of Representatives will need to resolve differences between the two bills before the legislation can be signed into law.

“I’m glad the Senate farm bill includes important New Hampshire priorities and that it passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support,” said Shaheen. “Reauthorizing the NBRC and including additional New Hampshire counties to its reach will create jobs and fund development projects that improve quality of life for families in Northern New Hampshire and the Northern Forest region. Moreover, permanently reauthorizing NORA will save hundreds of dollars per family per year for New Hampshire residents who rely on oilheat, while creating jobs and protecting our environment.”

“Importantly, the Senate’s bill maintains funding for SNAP, which keeps more than 90,000 Granite Staters from going hungry. I voted against an amendment that would have placed unfair restrictions on the ability of New Hampshire families to access these vital benefits. The bill also will improve the safety net for our dairy farms, which are facing difficult times with low milk prices and high costs,” Shaheen continued. “The legislation includes important gains for New Hampshire that will make a significant difference for our communities, and I will continue to work across the aisle to ensure these critical measures are included in the final legislation signed into law by the President.”

Summary of New Hampshire Priorities Included in the Bipartisan Senate Farm Bill

NBRC Reauthorization

Shaheen’s NBRC reauthorization will be expanded to provide economic development to additional counties in New Hampshire, and will allow the NBRC to attract businesses from outside the United States as well as devote additional resources to encourage renewable energy development in the region. Additionally, Shaheen’s legislation will improve the region’s capacity for high-impact community economic development projects. The reauthorization bill will establish a state capacity building grant program that will help develop projects that support business retention and expansion, access to high-speed broadband, critical infrastructure development, and job creation throughout the region.

The NBRC provides critical support throughout Northern New Hampshire and has funded grants that spur economic and community development in North Country. In 2016, the NBRC funded twelve grants totaling $1,550,000 in New Hampshire. Representative Annie Kuster (NH-02) introduced the Northern Regional Commission Reauthorization Act of 2017 in the House of Representatives. Senator Shaheen has long advocated for the NBRC, and introduced her bipartisan reauthorization legislation in March. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Shaheen secured additional economic development funding for NBRC in 2018, including language ensuring that NBRC funds be directed to communities impacted by forest product plant closures.

Permanent Reauthorization of the Oilheat Program

Shaheen’s permanent NORA reauthorization will extend industry support for the research, development and deployment of new, efficient oilheat technologies. Additionally, it will remove uncertainty associated with repeated short-term reauthorizations and spur investments from NORA partners to create longer-term innovative programs that deliver greater benefits to consumers. Since NORA’s establishment, oilheat consumption has been reduced by 30 percent, saving customers nearly $600 per year. Shaheen has been a steadfast advocate for NORA and included bipartisan legislation in the 2014 Farm Bill that renewed the program and reformed its mission to better benefit consumers, increase safety through technician training and strengthen the industry commitment to NORA without raising consumer costs.

Support for Dairies

The bill improves coverage options for dairy farmers and refunds nearly $80 million in payments farmers made to USDA from 2015-2017. The bill allows more flexibility within the program and includes a steep discount for small dairy farms.

Protecting the Sustainable Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Senate bill fully protects federal nutrition programs. The bill makes no cuts to funding for the Sustainable Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and maintains the current work requirements in the program.  Senator Shaheen opposed an amendment that would have placed severe restrictions on SNAP recipients, and the amendment was not included in the final version of the legislation.

In New Hampshire, 92,000 residents received SNAP benefits in FY17 – seven percent of the state’s population.  More than 44 percent of recipients were in working families and approximately 70 percent of recipients were in families with children.