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Farm Bureau Discusses National Priorities

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New York Farm Bureau

The New York Farm Bureau discussed its national agricultural priorities during a conference call Tuesday morning.

The Empire State’s largest farm lobbying group has already outlined its state legislative priorities, which focused on economic initiatives such as farm-to-market transportation and enhancing state investment in agriculture. The NY Farm Bureau is now eying what Washington needs to do to help the rural sector. President Dean Norton said the group’s primary issue at the Congressional level is immigration reform.  “We’re looking for a stable workforce on our farms so that we can secure the rural economy and secure the local food supply that we all need. Without immigration reform that may suffer. We support  efforts to keep the workers who are already here on our farms. And we’re also looking for a flexible guest worker program.”

Norton says immigration reform is crucial to New York’s diversified agriculture industry, with all sectors from dairy to fruit and vegetable farms at risk.  With debate so fluid inside the Beltway, Norton noted certain provisions are required to aid New York agriculture.  “One of the most important things in the legislation is to make sure that those workers that are here now have a pathway to some type of permanent residency and there is some way to allow them to remain in agriculture so that we have a safe and reliable workforce. That would be number one. Number two would be to make sure the rules are the same for everyone across the country. Whether you are in the Northeast region, the west, south, Midwest, we’re all playing under the same rules.  Number three is, as we stated earlier, to have a legal process where we can have a flexible guest worker program so we do not have to come back to the drawing board and Congress. Something that can be long standing and permanent.”

The second federal concern Norton outlined is implementation of the recently passed Farm Bill.  “The Farm Bill has been passed but that’s only half of the job. The rest of the work is now working with our friends at USDA and our partners in the Legislature and with other ag organizations to make sure that the laws that were passed with the recent Farm Bill passage, and that the rules that are made, are helpful to our New York farmers.”

Senior Associate Director of National Affairs Kelly Young adds they will be vigilant for any changes in regulations.  “Every time new regulations are proposed we are checking to make sure that they are both warranted and they have a public benefit. Many times new regulations cost our farmers more money. Money that they can’t pass on to their consumers, which undermines their ability to stay in business.”

Young points to proposed changes in safety standards as an example.  “One of the concerns of our farmers in the current food safety proposal is the use of irrigation water meeting the standards of swimming pools. Swimming pool water has absolutely nothing to do with food consumption. So we’re looking at making sure FDA is setting standards that are based on actual science.”

The Farm Bureau will also focus on the “Good Samaritan Hunger Relief Tax Extension Act” to create a permanent tax credit to farmers that donate to food banks. The farm bureau notes that corporations already have a permanent tax credit for food donations.

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