NY Farm Bureau Leaders Outline National Priorities
Leaders of the New York Farm Bureau are in Washington this week for the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Advocacy Conference and to meet with the state congressional delegation. New York’s largest agricultural lobbying organization has a number of priority issues, and it outlined the top three on a conference call with reporters this morning.
Last month the New York Farm Bureau unveiled its statewide public policy priorities including getting state legislators to enact a refundable investment tax credit for farmers and double the minimum wage tax credit for farms.
The group’s top federal priority is also related to employment. President David Fisher says immigration reform is in the forefront, particularly after recent actions undertaken by the Trump administration. “The Farm Bureau believes in having strong border security. But enforcement cannot be the only approach to fixing a broken immigration system. It should involve having workable guest worker programs that allows our farms to fill positions on the farm when we cannot find anyone locally to do these jobs. This involves having an improved guest worker visa program that addresses both the seasonal and year-round needs of our farmers. Reforms need to allow for current trained workers to stay on farms and maintain a consistent workforce to plant and harvest our crops and care for livestock.”
“Our second national priority for this year is regulatory reform.” New York Farm Bureau Associate Director of National Affairs Elizabeth Wolters says they are once again targeting one regulation they believe oversteps Congressional intent: the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule. “It expanded the jurisdiction of navigable waters under the EPA to include areas like dry lands on farms. This regulation, because of the way that the environmental studies were done, really doesn’t show any measurable improvement in environmental quality. But it does continue to provide the EPA with more jurisdiction on our farms. We’re not looking to dismantle important environmental regulations that have a proven value in keeping our water clean. However the EPA really has failed to establish any scientific justification for this rule change.”
The Farm Bill comes up for reauthorization in Congress every five years and the 2018 legislation is already being discussed. Wolters says that’s the third national priority for New York’s farmers. “This is a really big important piece of legislation that impacts every farmer in the state. It sets policy and funding for items like crop insurance, farm to consumer programs, disaster assistance and conservation programs. The largest part of this legislation is the nutrition title. It takes up about 80 percent of the spending. We’re really concerned with talks of budget cuts. Back in 2014 farmers took a $23 billion cut. We really cannot afford, especially with the economy the way it is right now, to shoulder any more of the burden in terms of budgetary cuts.”
The Farm Bureau says farm income dropped a billion dollars in New York in 2015 to $5.3 billion and is expected to continue to decrease when 2016’s data is released.