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Sen. Pamela Helming, R-Geneva, debates legislation in the Senate Chamber at the state Capitol Jan. 29.

State Sen. Pam Helming wants to ensure there is help available for small farms affected by natural disasters. 

A bill sponsored by Helming, R-Canandaigua, would create a small farm disaster recovery program. The grant program would be administered by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets and Empire State Development. 

Farms affected by natural disasters would be eligible to receive grants of up to $10,000. The aid must be used to purchase and replant crops destroyed by a natural disaster, such as a severe storm or flood. 

The bill defines a small farm as a farm that sells produce and has annual sales of no more than $100,000. 

Helming's decision to author the bill is in response to flooding that caused damage in southern Seneca County last year. President Donald Trump approved a federal disaster declaration for Seneca and other counties affected by the floods. 

Farmers, Helming noted, were among those impacted by the flooding. 

"All farmers are vulnerable to the forces of nature, but for our small farmers, one natural disaster could wipe out their crops and their entire livelihood," Helming said in a statement. 

The bill is advancing in the state Legislature. The Senate Agriculture Committee approved the measure Monday. It now heads to the Senate floor for consideration. 

A similar bill has been introduced in the state Assembly. The sponsor is Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara. 

The legislation is supported by the Seneca County Farm Bureau. Ann Marie Heizmann, president of the county farm bureau, lauded Helming for advancing the bill. 

"Unlike large farms, many small farms do not have corp insurance," Heizmann said. "A natural disaster could damage their crop, livestock, equipment and infrastructure. This program will help small farmers survive these events." 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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