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New Task Force And Legislation Focus On New York Agriculture

WAMC/Pat Bradley

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has formed a new task force to strengthen agriculture in the state.

The Strategic Interagency Task Force on Lessening Obstacles to Agriculture - or SILO task force - is made up of people who work in agriculture and state agency officials. The task force is charged with ensuring all parties are communicating needs and  interacting efficiently. New York Farm Bureau Public Policy Director Jeff  Williams, a member of the task force, says most importantly, they will seek to lessen burdensome regulations. “Agriculture and farms in New York State are regulated by over a dozen federal and state agencies.  Just in New York State farms are regulated by the Department of Ag and Markets, the Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Health, Tax and Finance, Department of Labor. And so the idea of this task force is to get all those regulating entities into the room with farmers and have conversations.  So when one agency comes on a farm, there’s not a train of other agencies coming in behind them.”

Northeast Dairy Producers Association Executive Director Tonya Van Slyke, who is also on the task force, agrees and believes streamlining will help both farmers and state government.  “There are various regulations that cross over. So multiple agencies might be  regulating in similar areas.  So I think the task force was created so we could streamline some regulations in the state of New York in terms of agriculture. And make sure that we don't have multiple agencies regulating in the same areas,  but yet we’re more streamlined and more efficient as state government.”

As the governor unveils his task force to ease regulatory obstacles to farming, New York Senate Republicans are announcing new legislation to encourage young farmers to go into agriculture. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair 48th district Republican Patty Ritchie cited new federal statistics showing the average age of New York farmers is just over 57. She presented her “Young Farmer New York Plan” to strengthen the future of agriculture and preserve family farms. “It recognizes that the biggest challenge to beginning farmers is the cost of farmland and equipment. It includes several ways that we make more capital available to young people that want to start their own farm and continue to make their business grow.”

Fellow Republican and Agriculture Committee member Senator James Seward of the 51st district says helping agriculture is as important as supporting the emerging tech industry.  “ By helping our next generation of farmers contend with industry specific hurdles we will certainly boost our state's economy and sow the seeds for future growth of New York State and our state's number one industry.”

The Young Farmer New York plan includes tax credits, a revolving loan fund, a farm savings account, innovation grants, apprenticeship programs and estate tax reform.

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