Shaheen Statement on Final Version of Farm Bill That Includes Critical NH Priorities for Granite State Farmers and Rural Communities
**Bill Includes Shaheen’s Bipartisan Legislation to Revitalize America’s Forest Economy & Support the Development and Delivery of Oilheat Technology**
**Shaheen Successfully Adds Provision to Reauthorize the NBRC for 5 years and Expand its Reach to Additional New Hampshire Counties, including Cheshire and communities in Belknap**
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued the following statement on the final bill text for the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 – the Farm Bill – which includes critical measures to protect small farmers, fight hunger and strengthen the future of small towns and rural communities. The final bill text was released last night after conferees from both chambers of Congress reached an agreement. The bill is expected to receive bipartisan support in both the House of Representatives and Senate before it heads to the President’s desk.
The Farm Bill includes significant New Hampshire priorities secured by Senator Shaheen, including bipartisan legislation that would extend the 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. Additionally, Shaheen’s bipartisan bill with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) – the Community Wood Energy Innovation Act of 2018 – was also included as a provision in the Farm Bill. Their legislation incentivizes investments in energy-efficient wood energy systems and supports facilities that repurpose low-grade, low-value wood that would otherwise be sent to landfills. Shaheen and Collins also included a bipartisan measure to reauthorize the widely supported National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) for 10 years. NORA is a vital program that funds the development of improved and efficient oilheat technology to increase safety and reduce consumer costs. The Farm Bill further invests an additional $100 million for Dairy Risk Coverage, which will improve the safety net for New Hampshire’s dairy farmers. Perhaps most critically, the bill maintains current funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), protecting working families in New Hampshire and across the nation from experiencing food insecurity.
“While I’m frustrated at the lack of reform to wasteful subsidy programs, I’m pleased with the overall final version of the Farm bill, which prioritizes critical programs for our state and region, from reauthorizing and expanding the Northern Border Regional Commission to include additional communities in New Hampshire to preserving crucial food assistance programs that Granite State families rely on,” said Shaheen. “This legislation makes other additional investments that are important for Granite State small businesses, lumber mills and local farmers. By reauthorizing the National Oilheat Research Alliance for ten years, New Hampshire small businesses and consumers who utilize home heating oil technologies will finally have the certainty they need. Additionally, I’m glad that my bipartisan provision with Senator Collins to support the adoption of energy-efficient wood energy systems was also included – this will invest in rural energy needs and help create jobs in our state’s forest-dependent communities in the North Country.”
In closing Shaheen said, “I’m particularly encouraged that these bipartisan, bicameral negotiations resulted in necessary protections for our dairy farmers, who continue to face significant obstacles due to fluctuations in the market. I’m also relieved that Senate and House negotiators blocked misguided attempts by House Republicans to restrict SNAP benefits, which help New Hampshire families and many more throughout the country. I urge Congress to move expeditiously and in a bipartisan manner on this legislation to ensure it is swiftly sent to the President’s desk.”
Summary of New Hampshire Priorities Included in the Bipartisan Senate Farm Bill:
Because of Shaheen’s bipartisan legislation, and with support from Representative Annie Kuster (NH-02), the NBRC 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. Through Shaheen’s NBRC provision, up to $38 million could be devoted to improving economic development in the region, an $8 million increase from the previous funding authorization. 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 July, the New Hampshire delegation announced that the NBRC will fund fifteen infrastructure and community development projects in New Hampshire, totaling nearly $3 million of federal investments to the state in Fiscal Year 2018. Representative Kuster introduced the Northern Border 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 helped secure $20 million for NBRC in the fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding bill, which is the largest allocation given to the program since its creation in 2008. The funding bill also included Shaheen’s language ensuring that NBRC funds be directed to communities impacted by forest product plant closures.
Revitalizing America’s Forest Economy
Senator Shaheen’s bipartisan legislation with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the Community Wood Energy Innovation Act of 2018, would reauthorize and reform the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Wood Energy Program (CWEP) to better support rural economies and help keep private forests intact at a time when landowners are under constant pressure to develop their forestlands. The Shaheen-Collins bill would expand eligibility for CWEP to include private entities and create markets for low-grade wood by providing $25 million in annual funding to support capital investment, through matching grants, in facilities and systems that use these materials. The legislation will prioritize projects in areas with the greatest impact on local forests and those with limited access to natural gas, where this low-grade wood can be used for advanced wood heating. The Community Wood Energy Program expires at the end of 2018.
10-Year Reauthorization of the Oilheat Program
Shaheen’s 10-year 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. Oilheat is used in 6.3 million homes and serves more than 16 million Americans across the country. Since NORA’s establishment in 2001, oilheat consumers have saved nearly $600 per year by using more efficient technologies and practices developed by the program. 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 final version of the bill improves coverage options for dairy farmers and refunds millions in payments farmers made to USDA from 2015-2017. The bill also includes discounted premiums that benefit small dairy farms. Senator Shaheen has been a champion for New Hampshire dairy farmers, and worked to secure changes to the federal dairy support program in response to the alarming closures of many New Hampshire dairy farms. The Dairy Margin Coverage program is a federal program intended to be a safety net for farmers facing falling milk prices and rising production costs. During a September visit to Stuart Farm, Shaheen met with farmers and local stakeholders to discuss the federal dairy program, as well as other priorities for the dairy farming community in the Farm Bill.
Protecting the Sustainable Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The final bill fully protects federal nutrition programs. The bipartisan bill rebuffs the attempts of House Republicans to cut 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 46 percent of recipients were in working families and approximately 70 percent of recipients were in families with children.