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Vermont reaps benefits of new Farm Bill, Senate vote is Thursday

first_imgLeahy Ensures That VermontIs A Big Winner In New Farm Bill –Major Boosts For State’s Dairy,Organic,Anti-Hunger And Lake Champlain Priorities ORGANICSAs the father of the national organic standards andlabeling program and author of the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act, SenatorLeahy remains organic agriculture’s leading champion and has again madethe further development of organic agriculture a top priority in the FarmBill.  Vermont has taken a strong leadership role in transiting to organicagriculture and now leads in the nation on a per capita basis in organic farmconversions – now with more than 500 organic operations; more than 200are dairies.  In Vermont and elsewhere across the country, organic agriculturealso is beginning to create major new export opportunities for U.S. farmproducts.    Organic Certification Cost Share – The 2008 Farm Bill provides $22 million in guaranteed funding for a national organic certification cost share program to assist producers of agricultural products in obtaining certification under the National Organic Program established by Leahy under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.  Each producer will be eligible for a reimbursement of up to 75 percent of the costs of certification, not to exceed $750 annually.  Last year Vermont producers received $165,000 under this Leahy-led effort to assist organic certification. VermontHighlights2008 Farm BillMay 14, 2008Renewal & Expansion Of MILCProgram;More Funds For Lake Champlain Cleanup;Expanded Help For Vermont’s Anti-Hunger Efforts;Another Big Boost For Vermont’s Organic Sector DAIRY FarmlandProtection Program (FPP) — The highly successful and popularFarmland Protection Program was created by Senator Leahy in the 1996 Farm Billand grew out of Vermont’s “Farms for the Future” program. Preserving Vermont’s agricultural lands helps to combat urban sprawl andkeep Vermont farms viable.  Funding for FPP will be increased by more than$700 million over the life of the Farm Bill, allowing FPP to provide matchingfunds to help purchase development rights to keep productive Vermont farmsin agricultural uses.  Total FPP enrollment in Vermont since inception ofthe program is 50,000 acres. “First and foremost,” Leahy said, “this bill makes adramatic improvement in the MILC program that will better help Vermont’sdairy producers compete for a fair price.  By adding the feed costadjuster, the MILC program target price will help keep pace with skyrocketingproduction costs.  And increasing the payment rate and eligible productionwill be essential when the price of milk drops.  These improvements willhelp ensure that dairying remains a vital part of Vermont’s economy andVermont’s heritage.”  Leahy led the MILC negotiations on theAgriculture Committee, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Peter Welch(D-Vt.) worked outside the committee to build support for the plan. Organic Conversion Assistance — The 2008 Farm Bill will expand eligibility of the Environmental Qualities Incentives Program (EQIP – see above) to directly assist producers by defraying the substantial costs of implementing conservation practices when transiting to organic production.  During the required three-year conversion process, producers – especially smaller farms — often struggle to complete the conversion to organic production.  This new initiative will offer producers up to $20,000 per year for up to four years of financial assistance to help in the conversion to organic production.    Organic Data Collection — The Farm Bill will provide $5 million in mandatory funds to ensure that data on the production and marketing of organic agricultural products is included in USDA’s collection of data about agricultural production and marketing.  This mandate and these funds are vital in establishing adequate crop insurance coverage for organic crops in the future.Organic Research — The Farm Bill makes a major commitment for the first time to funding research in organic agriculture.  The bill provides $78 million in new mandatory funds for organic agriculture research and extension, to enhance the ability of organic producers and processors to grow and market organic food, feed and fiber.Organic Crop Insurance Reform – The bill will bar USDA from charging unnecessary and unwarranted premium surcharges on organic crop insurance policies. NUTRITIONThe nutrition title of the Farm Bill, like theSenate’s earlier version, contains crucial anti-hunger efforts such asstrengthening the Food Stamp Program and The Emergency Food AssistanceProgram.  Senator Leahy has long been a leader on these programs, whichoffer a vital safety net to millions of Americans and thousands ofVermonters.  In recent months the number of Vermonters receiving FoodStamps has risen to a 15-year high, with more than 53,000 individuals receivingFood Stamp help.  The new funding for the Food Stamp program in the FarmBill will mean that as many as 23,000 Vermonters will receive as much as $1.5million in new food assistance each year.  The bill includes initiativesto encourage better health and nutrition for children and seniors and tosupport self-sufficiency and food security in low-income communities.  Italso includes a new program authored by Leahy that will assist low-incomepeople by helping food banks acquire perishable food that would otherwise bewasted.  Strengthening Food Purchasing Power of Low-Income Vermonters — When calculating the Food Stamp help an individual or family receives, the rules of the program allow a standard deduction for the cost of such items as housing, utilities and transportation.  A decade ago, the standard deduction was frozen at $134, a move that has caused significant erosion in the purchasing power of Food Stamps, as costs for these items have risen and benefits have not kept pace.  The 2008 Farm Bill increases the standard deduction from $134 to $144 and indexes it to inflation, ending the erosion of benefits and increasing Food Stamp assistance for 20,000 Vermont families.Working Families with Childcare Expenses — Food Stamp rules allow households to deduct up to $175 per month for the cost of childcare, but this deduction has not been adjusted in more than a decade and now covers only about a quarter of the monthly cost of childcare in the United States.  To better support working families, the 2008 Farm Bill will eliminate the existing cap on the deductibility of childcare expenses.  As many as 1000 Vermont families are expected to benefit from this provision.Food Stamp Asset Reform — Despite broad agreement about the importance of family savings, the Food Stamp “asset test” has remained largely unchanged since implemented in 1977 and fails to exempt tax-preferred savings accounts from the current asset limit.  To encourage savings among low-income families, the 2008 Farm Bill will increase the current asset limit to keep pace with inflation and exempts tax-preferred education and retirement accounts from counting against the asset limit. Minimum Benefit – When calculating the monthly benefit for a Food Stamp recipient, if the amount they are eligible for is less than $10 they are guaranteed the minimum benefit.  Seniors and individuals with disabilities make up a significant portion of households that receive the minimum benefit, which for more than 30 years has remained at $10.  For the more than 3000 Vermonters who receive the minimum benefit, the 2008 Farm Bill will increase the level to $14 a month and index it to keep pace with increases in the cost of food.The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) — TEFAP provides commodity food products to food banks across the country, which then distribute those products to food pantries and other community food providers.  The Farm Bill will provide more than $1.2 billion in mandatory commodity purchases for distribution through food banks.  This will nearly double the commodity purchasing clout the Farm Bill will offer to the Vermont Foodbank, with an additional $1 million through the first five years of the bill — enough to provide 770,000 additional meals for low-income Vermonters through the food bank and local food shelves. Fruit and Vegetable Program — To promote child health and nutrition, the Farm Bill expands the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to include every state in the country, targeting those benefits to low-income children.  The proposed funding level would ensure that Vermont receives at least $2.25 million a year to assist in providing free fresh fruits and vegetables to children at school.Senior Farmers Markets and Community Food Projects — Funding for two programs fathered by Senator Leahy — the Senior Farmers Market Program (which provides vouchers for WIC recipients and low-income seniors to use at farmers markets), and Community Food Projects, (which promote self-sufficiency and food security in low-income communities) – are increased by $5 million annually in assured funding in the Farm Bill.  In Vermont, Community Food Project grants have supported the farm-to-school projects which increase access to fresh, healthy, local Vermont foods. Rural Food Bank Infrastructure Grant Program – After consultations with the Vermont Foodbank about the amount of food — especially perishable items — that could be donated to charity but instead are wasted, Senator Leahy proposed the creation of a new targeted grant initiative.  This new program in the Farm Bill will provide grants to assist emergency food organizations in acquiring some of the 96 billion pounds of food that are wasted each year.  For example, the Vermont Foodbank typically cannot afford to receive donated produce from west of the Mississippi due to the high cost of transportation.  This means that substantial amounts of fresh produce available from Western specialty crop states are lost to low-income Vermonters during the winter months when local sources are not available.  By tapping the new Leahy program, the Vermont Foodbank will be able to provide fresh produce and healthy food products at no cost to low-income households and individuals who otherwise could not afford these nutritious foods.   He said the bill’s anti-hunger efforts will make a difference inthousands of Vermonters’ lives.  “When the economy sputters,families suffer in many ways, including hunger and poor nutrition.  Thisbill is a chance to make a bad situation better.  More than 53,000Vermonters rely on federal nutrition programs each year, while thousands morewill receive assistance on an emergency basis to help them through difficulttimes.  The $10.4 billion in additional anti-hunger relief in this bill isvital, and it comes at a crucial time.” COMMODITY PROGRAM REFORM  Senator Leahy led abipartisan coalition in working for several months to secure renewal of andimprovements to the basic safety net for dairy farmers, the Milk Income LossContract (MILC) program.  In the end the MILC program received one of thelargest funding boosts of any commodity in the Farm Bill.  In addition tothe difficult achievement of extending the MILC Program for five years, Leahyand his allies succeeded in including provisions that will expand the MILCprogram in three important ways: 1.  Feed CostAdjuster – For the first time in nearly a decade the $16.94 perhundred weight MILC target price will increase when feed costs increase. The new Leahy-authored feed cost adjuster will increasethe MILC target price any time the composite monthly price of feed (corn,soybeans and alfalfa hay) rises above $7.30 per hundred weight.  For themonth of April, for example, the new MILC target price would be $19.13 perhundred weight.2.  Payment Rate – In 2002 when the MILC program wasestablished, whenever the federal minimum price for fluid milk in Boston fellbelow $16.94 per hundred weight, participating dairy farmers were eligible forpayments on 45 percent of the difference.  In the Fiscal Year 2006 OmnibusReconciliation Bill, the payment rate was reduced to 34 percent in order tomake it possible to extend the program until the Farm Bill could be rewrittenin 2008.  The 2008 Farm Bill will restore the original 45 percentpayment rate for the MILC program. 3.  EligibilityIncrease – Currently producers are eligible to receive MILC paymentson 2.4 million pounds of production per year (approximately 125 cows). The 2008 Farm Bill will increase the eligibility to 2.985 million pounds peryear (approximately 165 cows).  Of Vermont’s approximately 1100dairies that average about 120 cows per operation, more than 85 percent ofVermont’s farms now would be fully eligible for MILC payments under theFarm Bill.  Dairy Product Price Support – The 2008 Farm Bill establishes individual product prices for cheddar cheese, butter, and nonfat dry milk. Commodities — The bill extends the current farm safety net through the 2012 crop year, retaining current base acres and establishing base acres for newly eligible crops.  Target prices for crops are rebalanced and direct payments are maintained.Average Crop Revenue — A new Average Crop Revenue option is added for farmers, including fixed payment rates, recourse loans, and a state-level revenue program for covered commodities and peanuts. The new Farm Bill advances key Vermont agriculture, anti-hunger andenvironmental priorities championed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the mostsenior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee of either party, who was aprincipal architect and negotiator of the bill. Father of the national organic standards and labeling program, Leahynoted that organic farming has become the fastest-growing sector of Americanagriculture and is especially robust in Vermont.  “This bill makesthe organic option a realistic option for more farmers in Vermont,” hesaid.  “That’s good for smaller farms in particular, andit’s a solid investment in growing Vermont’s economy.” CONSERVATION/LAKECHAMPLAIN CLEANUP Agricultural conservation, responsible stewardship andenvironmental quality are important to Vermont’s farmers and communitiesand were high priorities for Senator Leahy in writing the 2008 Farm Bill. Several years ago as chairman the Agriculture Committee, Leahy crafted andenacted the first “Green Farm Bills” which forged partnershipsbetween farmers and environmental goals, and since then the Farm Bill hasbecome the most significant ongoing nationwide funding source for conservationand environmental quality efforts such as the cleanup of Lake Champlain. Several of Leahy’s conservation initiatives began as pilot programs inVermont, proved themselves, and since then have expanded nationwide.  Muchof the available funding in the 2008 Farm Bill for Vermont will be directed toaddressing the water quality challenges in the Lake Champlain Basin.  Thiscrucial cleanup funding will be added to the more than $100 million SenatorLeahy has already secured in Lake Champlain cleanup funds. EnvironmentalQuality Incentive Program (EQIP) — A program created bySenator Leahy in the 1996 Farm Bill, EQIP has quickly become a major factor inthe ongoing efforts to clean up Lake Champlain.  Phosphorus levels are oneof the foremost challenges in the Lake’s restoration, and EQIP helpsproducers implement new practices that reduce the phosphorus loading in theLake and its tributaries.  With an increase in funding of $3.4 billion over ten years, theprogram will continue to help producers comply with the State ofVermont’s water quality regulations and assist dairies in implementingenvironmentally beneficial changes in their operations.  The final version of the Farm Bill, filed in Congress only Tuesday,would not only renew but also expand the basic safety net for dairy farmers,the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program; it would bring to Vermont recordlevels of funding and wider access to farmland conservation programs that havebecome crucial engines in the cleanup of Lake Champlain; it would dramaticallyincrease support for food banks and the Food Stamp program; and it would offermore support to help farmers make the transition to the booming organic sector. The 2008 Farm Bill takes significant strides in reforming who iseligible to receive commodity program payments.  First the bill tightensthe adjusted gross income eligibility test by setting new standards for farmcommodity and disaster program benefit eligibility.  To receive farmprogram benefits, an individual’s non-farm income may not exceed$500,000.  If farm income exceeds $750,000, an individual will no longerbe eligible to receive direct payments.  In addition, this Farm Bill alsoincreases transparency and accountability through the creation of a new directattribution rule which will link farm program payments directly to individuals,rather than to corporations and partnerships.  Finally, the three-entityrule, which previously enabled a farmer effectively to receive twice theenacted payment limit, has been eliminated. Leahy said improvements in the Farm Bill’s conservation programswill help limit phosphorus runoff into Vermont’s streams, rivers, andLake Champlain.  “These conservation programs have helped farmersbecome partners in achieving some of Vermont’s most pressingenvironmental goals.  These investments on the farm are important buildingblocks for real on-the-ground action for cleaning up the Lake.” Rural Energy for America Program — Funded in the Farm Bill at $250 million, this program (previously called Sec Below are Vermont highlights of the final 2008 Farm Bill, releasedWednesday by Leahy’s office: $15 Million Small State Minimum – The Leahy “Regional Equity” provision he sponsored in the 2002 Farm Bill will be increased from $12 million to $15 million a year per state.  This Leahy effort helps bring more Farm Bill resources to Vermont and other Northeastern states.  This Leahy provision requires that Vermont and each state receive an allocation of at least $15 million a year in the following working-lands conservation programs: EQIP, FPP, Grassland Reserve Program, and the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program.  This small state minimum guarantees that states like Vermont will receive the necessary program funding to better help farmers in their stewardship of the land.Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) – A program especially important to Vermont, AMA provides $15 million a year in mandatory funding to agricultural producers to voluntarily address issues such as water management, water quality and erosion control, by incorporating conservation into their farming operations.Public Access – The bill will create a new $50 million grant program for states that run programs to encourage owners of private land to allow public access for wildlife-related recreation such as hunting, fishing and birding. ENERGY/RENEWABLEENERGY WASHINGTON (Wednesday, May 14) — Vermont’s clout in agriculturepolicy again is paying big dividends as Congress races to finish work on a newbipartisan five-year Farm Bill.  The House Wednesday passed the newlynegotiated Farm Bill by a veto-proof vote of 318 to 106, and the Senate has setits vote on the bill for Thursday.  The Senate is also expected to passthe bill with more than enough votes to override a threatened presidentialveto.last_img read more

Transcending time: Syracuse players recall witnessing captivating moments in Big East history

first_img Related Stories Wave of the future: Hopkins spends his career perfecting coaching model as he prepares to take helm at SyracuseThe Top 10: A rundown of the all-time highlights for Syracuse in its proud run in the Big EastBuilding mystique: The Carrier Dome proved to be a key factor in the Big East’s growth during the 1980sUp and coming: Syracuse hopes to take step further as program with group of elite freshmenNever the same: The Big East’s era as an elite basketball conference comes to an end with Syracuse’s departure Every so often there comes a moment in sport that transcends time. An instance of greatness so profound, a performance so breathtaking that the memory is indelible, etching itself deep in our minds as our eyes widen with disbelief and our mouths remain agape.These moments ensnare our senses, perhaps even heightening them, so that each miniscule detail of our surroundings is captured and stowed away, able to be recalled vividly in an instant.The beauty of these moments is that they are broad in scope. We can be dazzled as easily by an internationally historic display — the 1980 Miracle on Ice — as we can by a local stunner — Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in a tiny gymnasium in Hershey, Pa. We can be moved by the same event in different ways, and the memories produced are uniquely ours.One of those rare moments took place just more than three years ago in the limelight of New York City, inside the World’s Most Famous Arena, at the center of basketball’s mecca. A six-overtime classic between Syracuse and Connecticut was instantly recognized as one of the greatest games ever played.For many of the players on the current Syracuse roster, this was their moment, their inerasable flashback. Too young to remember most of the polarizing events of sport from the 20th century, this unforgettable game in the early part of the 21st century is their treasured keepsake.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Craziest game that I have ever seen,” senior guard Brandon Triche said.And as Syracuse enters its final season in the Big East, the memory is unlikely to be dethroned before the impending move to the Atlantic Coast Conference. In all likelihood, it will always remain their favorite flashback of a league with which their school became synonymous and for which their coach was an iconic figurehead.It is their moment that will transcend time.***They watched from various locations around the country. One was in Colorado on spring break and kept pushing back the time he said he would go to sleep. Another was at home in Virginia with his parents waiting to play “Call of Duty.” Still another was in Jamesville, N.Y., just outside Syracuse, on a three-way call with his friends, chattering frantically about each and every overtime.Wherever these soon-to-be Syracuse players were, they watched. And they couldn’t turn away.“I was in the living room with my mom and my dad,” sophomore guard Michael Gbinije said. “And we were just like, ‘When is this game going to end?’”It finally ended at 1:22 a.m. After an unthinkable six overtimes, after 244 total points, after Jonny Flynn played 67 minutes, after a walk-on played meaningful minutes and after Syracuse outlasted Connecticut by a score of 127-117 in a game that spanned the better part of four hours.Gbinije, who grew up in Virginia, was eating milk and cookies in the kitchen while he watched the game with his parents. He had no rooting interest on either side, no rooting interest in the Big East in general.He was on his way to Duke, where Gbinije began his collegiate career before transferring to Syracuse this past offseason. At the time, he was watching the game simply as a basketball fan. A fan that was eager to play video games once the Big East quarterfinal matchup ended.“I couldn’t leave the game,” Gbinije said. “The game was very important, so I was waiting for the game to end so I could play some ‘Call of Duty.’”Except it didn’t end.Out in Colorado, Baye Moussa Keita and his host family watched the game on a two-hour time difference. He was home on spring break from the national basketball power Oak Hill Academy in Virginia — the same high school Carmelo Anthony attended.With the start of each successive overtime session, Moussa Keita told himself that it was the last one he would watch before going to bed. But every time he changed his rule, extended his deadline and soaked in what he called “something I’ve never seen.”“I remember my friends texting me saying, ‘Are you ready to have eight or nine overtimes?’” Moussa Keita said. “I started laughing. That’s probably one of the greatest memories.”While Moussa Keita and his friends texted back and forth excitedly, Triche and two of his best friends were on a three-way call. Triche watched the game sitting on the floor of his living room in Jamesville, and every heart-pounding sequence — beginning with Eric Devendorf’s near-buzzer beater at the end of regulation — prompted a phone call to either Mickey Davis or Alshwan Hymes, two of his teammates at Jamesville-DeWitt High School.In a game full of moments that caused pulses to race, the phone rang incessantly with questions of whether or not each person had seen the last play. But of course each one had. No one dared turn off the television.“After the first overtime it was, ‘Oh! You seen that shot? You seen that shot?’” Triche said. “Then by the third overtime we kept getting phone calls, so we ended up just being on a three-way.”Triche went to school late the following morning.***When the news broke that Syracuse would join the ACC, Gerry McNamara’s mind raced to New York City. His initial thought was not the loss of rivalries with Georgetown or Connecticut, nor was it the potential for new rivalries with North Carolina and Duke.Instead, McNamara was hit first by the loss of the Big East tournament and Madison Square Garden — the event in which he starred and a venue he repeatedly electrified.“My immediate thought was, ‘Wow, no more Big East tournament,’” McNamara said. “That’s kind of the way to top off a great season is to go to Madison Square Garden and play on ESPN and be in the limelight.“It’s going to be sad to say goodbye to that.”And though no one on the current Syracuse roster has captivated a Garden party like McNamara did, they share his fondness for the tournament. Even Gbinije, who has never played a collegiate game at Madison Square Garden, called it “the best gym to play at.”Four of Syracuse’s five Big East tournament titles were won on that floor, in front of crowds speckled with more orange than any other color, as the arena transformed into a second home for New York’s College Team.But the 2012 season represents the final act. It offers one last opportunity to electrify a city, a school and the next wave of future players around the country. C.J. Fair said he wants to leave the fans with something to remember. Michael Carter-Williams said he plans to take the Big East championship home to Syracuse.The collective desire is to create one final piece of magic in an arena where Syracuse has played the role of sorcerer so many times. To have a moment — even just one — that enthralls millions like McNamara’s running three-pointer against Cincinnati in 2006 is what all players crave deep down.Because every young kid deserves that tantalizing memory he or she couldn’t possibly forget. That sense of amazement after witnessing the impossible. That moment that transcends time.“It was really mind blowing,” Moussa Keita said. “So I just kept watching.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on November 8, 2012 at 2:03 am Contact Michael: [email protected] | @Michael_Cohen13last_img read more