New York Farm Bureau Outlines National Policy Priorities
The New York Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors met with the Congressional delegation and other Farm Bureau leaders from across the country earlier this week. They outlined their national public policy priorities today.
The top issue for farmers in New York and across the country, according to New York Farm Bureau president Dean Norton, pertains to biotechnology. He says the Farm Bureau is working with Senate Agriculture Committee Chair and Kansas Republican Pat Roberts on a bill that would preempt state or local labeling of GMO products. “The state of Vermont has their law and if the Vermont law is able to go through in July we’ll see a patchwork quilt of labeling laws across the country. You could have 50 to 60 different labeling laws. And that is an unworkable and untenable solution for our producers, for our processors, for our grocers. So we are working with Chairman Roberts to pass this law that would preempt that and make it a federal statute only.”
Last year, in a controversial ruling, the EPA finalized the Waters of the U.S. rule to protect streams and wetlands. At the time the agency said it did “….not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.”
But the agriculture sector says the rule broadens the jurisdiction of federal agencies from waters to include dry land, placing undue burdens and regulations on farmers. The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued a nationwide stay late last year. Norton explains why it remains a top national priority. “We are going to continue to work with Congress to try and find a solution when it comes to Waters of the U.S. But we’re also going to start a conversation with Congress about regulatory reform. More and more regulations are being heaped upon not just farms but many businesses across the country and it’s getting to a point of infringing upon our ability to be successful and our ability to provide jobs and really our ability to be sustainable in the current economic environment.”
New York Farm Bureau Associate Director of National Affairs Elizabeth Wolters cited trade issues as a priority. She supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership because it is expected to significantly enhance New York’s ag sector. “For New York the TPP agreement is expected to increase cash receipts and net exports and it is estimated that it will add an additional 500 jobs in New York State. So these trade agreements are a great deal for our farmers to improve access. We really want to continue to improve the international markets for our farmers.”
Immigration reform continues to be a top concern, even as Norton admits there’s not much movement at the federal level. “So we’re going to change our focus to see if we can do some reforms to the H2A program. More and more of our farmers in New York are turning to the H2A program because they have no other choice. So we’re going to work to see if we can find some reform in the H2A program.”
The Farm Bureau is monitoring implementation of new rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act. The farm group will also oppose any efforts to limit geographical names on foods, such as feta and parmesan, saying such restrictions inhibit marketability and competitiveness.