New York Democratic Senator Kristen Gillibrand was in Plattsburgh this week. The Democrat says lawmakers need to use the Farm Bill to increase jobs by promoting manufacturing in rural areas.
Senator Gillibrand’s Rural Jobs and Investment Act was is included in the Senate version of the Farm Bill. A 56-member Farm Bill conference committee met for the first time last week to begin hammering out a compromise measure. Gillibrand says her provision must be retained in the final version. She cites U.S. Census Bureau data showing 54 percent of North Country communities saw more businesses close than open between 2012 and 2016.
The Democrat visited Norsk Titanium in Plattsburgh to highlight how the measure would expand access to resources and investment to rural entrepreneurs. “If we want our economy to thrive we can’t leave out rural areas. The Rural Jobs and Investment Act would make it easier for entrepreneurs in rural areas to get capital they need to start. This is an existing program that’s already working but manufacturers weren’t previously eligible. Now they will be eligible. Because it’s bipartisan I think it has a great chance of succeeding and staying in the bill and being signed into law. And I think it’s one of the most important things we can do to keep jobs and to help create new ones in the future.”
The Senator explains why she attached the proposal to the Farm Bill. “There’s a lot of funding for rural America in the Farm Bill. Under the USDA Grant Program we’ve been able to put a lot of funds in to help value-added businesses, to help farms grow sell their products worldwide. And what we realized is that in rural communities we also tend to have a tradition of manufacturing. And there’s not a real funding stream for that. So if we can open up an existing program that works, put more money in, you could fund both farms and ag jobs but also manufacturing jobs.”
North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas says too often federal and grant programs end up skewed toward metropolitan areas, placing the North Country and other rural areas at a competitive disadvantage. “Generating jobs 2,3,5 at a time is actually a significant scale if you’re talking about a place like Indian Lake or Tupper Lake or Schroon Lake or North Country communities like that and not always having government grant programs go after just the big things. We want to make sure that we take care of the small enterprise because on a scalability basis that is probably the best opportunity for places like Malone and Tupper Lake and Schroon Lake. And over time that has a big economic benefit. There are direct jobs that are sustained and added and then there’s added strength to our tourism economy as well.”
The Farm Bill expires on September 30th. If a final bill is not passed by then, a re-authorization of the 2014 Farm Bill extending its provisions until December 31st would have to be approved by Congress.