(Albany, NY) — Hundreds of New York farmers are rallying in Albany this week to urge the legislature to make New York a farm friendly state.
“New York Farm Bureau is extremely concerned about last week’s news that the number of farms in New York decreased for the first time in recent years,” said Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau, the state’s largest agricultural advocacy organization.
“Our family farms not only produce local food for local consumers to enjoy, we contribute to New York’s economy by shipping farm products up and down the East Coast and even to overseas markets,” Norton said. “Just as important, our family farmers produce the raw materials that help keep thousands of New Yorkers employed in our food and dairy processing plants, trucking industries, agri-business supply stores, as well as contribute to local tourism economies with our consumer friendly farms and wineries.”
New York Farm Bureau strongly believes that the state must do more to keep farm families in business in New York State, through fundamentally changing the way the state thinks about farming and agriculture, and all of the associated economic benefits.
New York’s farm families have been struggling with the impact of the global economic meltdown and New York’s slow recovery, along with New York’s unfriendly business climate.
“The impact of helping New York farmers to grow their businesses will be felt up and down the food and employment chain,” continued Norton. “For example, the recent establishment of Chobani’s Greek Yogurt processing plant in Chenango County, bringing jobs in an economically challenged area, would never have happened without the available supply of milk from local dairy farmers. It is that synergy that we need to encourage, by reducing the cost of doing business in New York, while at the same time maintaining our agricultural program infrastructure.”
“The average New York farmer pays more in taxes than our competitors in most states, and certainly has a higher regulatory burden,” said Norton. “Our members are coming to town this week to ask the Governor and the Legislature to make New York farm friendly again, by adopting policies that encourage growth and a revitalization of the farm community and our agricultural infrastructure.”
New York Farm Bureau members will be making the case for the following priority issues:
· Supporting a property tax cap, coupled with mandate relief, to control seemingly endless increases in year to year property tax bills
· Restoring critical agricultural program infrastructure through the state budget process
· Supporting the Farmers’ Regulatory Relief Act, which will help roll back overzealous regulatory and paperwork burdens for family farmers
· Calling for a revitalization of the Hunts Point Terminal Marketplace, to update the largest distributor of produce to NYC and make it more accessible to New York farmers
· Advocating for extending and amending several ESDC programs to make them more farm friendly.
New York Farm Bureau’s annual Reception and Issues Forum will educate policy makers and members of the public on the importance of agriculture to New York, as well as providing an excellent opportunity for New York’s family farmers to showcase locally grown products. Over 300 farmers will be at the State Capitol to convey the message that farms are important, and more needs to be done to make New York truly “farm friendly”.
“While we generally support Governor Cuomo’s efforts to rein in the excessive spending, taxes and regulations that have contributed to the decline in farm numbers over the past year, our members will be expressing their concerns about the proposed 92% cut to agricultural funding in the Governor’s budget,” said Norton.
These core agricultural infrastructure programs have long helped the state’s farm sector compete with other states and exporting nations. Over the past four years, these same agricultural programs have seen budget allocations cut from a little over $15 million to a mere $1.2 million this year. Many of these programs help keep family farms able to sell their products, through concentrating on meeting the environmental, economic, research and marketing challenges faced by New York’s farmers in a high cost state.
“Eliminating these key agricultural investment programs will not make a substantial impact in New York’s otherwise massive fiscal challenges,” Norton said. “We’re a drop in a bucket in the larger scheme of things. But in the rural economy, and in the heart of Long Island’s Suffolk County, these programs have a big impact, and we’ll feel it when they’re gone.”
Norton said farmers are pleased that the Governor’s Executive Budget did provide level funding for animal health programs, and support several economic development initiatives such as the regional economic development offices, paperwork reduction on diesel gas credits and clean energy incentives.
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