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Federal Farm Bill And State Agricultural Priorities Discussed By Farm Advocates

WAMC/Pat Bradley


The New York Farm Bureau outlined its state priorities and discussed the just-passed federal Farm Bill during a conference call this morning.

The group that advocates for farmers across the state indicated that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has already taken up some of its issues in the executive budget. NY Farm Bureau President Dean Norton says the proposed change in the estate tax could benefit nearly 3,000 farms and help new generation of farmers. Norton would like to see creation of a program for agriculture similar to Start-Up New York granting 10 years of tax exemptions for new farms. He is also discussing with legislators the idea of refundable investment tax credits for farmers.  “It’s always been a tax credit that’s been held in abeyance. A lot of our farming operations have invested greatly over the last decade. There’s a lot of credits that are held in their accounts. Let’s work at maybe finding a way to make some of them refundable, so the dollars can be refunded and be reinvested back into their farm.”

At the same time the New York Farm Bureau was outlining its state priorities, members of the U.S. House took their final vote on the federal Farm Bill. After two years of often stalled negotiations, the  nearly $100 billion-a-year bill passed 251-166. The five-year bill now goes to the Senate, which is expected to send it to the president.   The final version changed the Dairy Security Act to what Dean Norton calls a base program.  “Because of some concerns in the House  we didn’t end up with the supply management program that we’d asked for. But when it comes to dairy, I think got about 85% of what we asked for. Farmers and agriculturalists have been waiting for this for a couple of years and now we’ll have some certainty that we can make some plans for our operations for the next 5 years.”

Vermont Farm Bureau President Clark Hinsdale notes that while this region tends to follow the dairy provision first, there are other important aspects to the bill.  “There’s funding in there for projects like farmland preservation, like the environmental quality incentive program for people to keep farming practices that protect water quality which we’re under increasing amount of pressure to do. And funding for rural development. There’s so many things in a farm bill that go beyond traditional concepts of a farm bill. The SNAP program is a part of the farm bill. It’s a very important piece of legislation to the country.”

Hinsdale is disappointed that the supply management program for dairy farmers was stripped from the bill.  “The question is whether or not the substitution provisions will be as effective. And these substitution provisions are that you can only insure up to 90% of your milk production .”

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders issued a statement noting the Farm Bill is complicated, with positives and negatives. He noted one of the bad things about the final version of the bill is the cuts made to nutrition programs. Those cuts within the food stamp, or SNAP program, according to Hunger Free Vermont Executive Director Marissa Parisi, total $8.6 billion.  “They’re very serious and the cuts are to a program called Heat and Eat which affect 14 states where heating or cooling costs are very high.  Basically this program, using its connection with LIHEAP, allows a state to help people get more SNAP benefits who have high heating costs. So in New York State and in VT we have very high heating costs, especially right now. This was a great program that now will experience cuts and we think most of those 14 states will no longer be able to operate the program.”

Governor Cuomo’s office released data Wednesday showing that New York State is now the third largest producer of milk in the nation.

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