New York Farm Bureau Outlines National Priorities
The New York State Farm Bureau outlined its 2019 national priority issues during a conference call Wednesday morning. WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports the group has been advocating for a number of the initiatives for several years.
The Farm Bureau establishes annual priorities through a grassroots process. Bureau members discuss concerns that are then crafted into resolutions, which are proposed during the public policy development process each fall. The state meeting is held in December and then in January the American Farm Bureau Federation establishes its national public policy priorities.
New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said immigration reform has been a top priority for years. He says bureau members want the stalemate in Washington to end and for lawmakers to advance public policy that will establish a more comprehensive guest worker visa program for agriculture. “So much of the discussion lately has revolved around border security. We do not disagree that having a secure border is important. But there must be a system in place for people who want to work on our farms who want to stay on our farms. We also need to update and reform the H2A program. It is the only available federal program in place right now for agriculture but it applies to seasonal farms. We are asking for the expansion of the system for farms that need workers year-round like the state’s important dairy sector.”
The New York Farm Bureau Senior Associate Director of National Affairs Lauren Williams says the state’s rural economy has been hard hit by retaliatory tariffs on exports. “A trade war with many countries has depressed commodity prices and hurt our farmers’ bottom lines. We’re asking lawmakers to defend and expand trade opportunities for New York agriculture through existing and new trade agreements. This includes supporting the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. It will expand the dairy market for New York products and ensure that trade doors opened under NAFTA will remain opened. The impact of losing the deal and abandoning NAFTA altogether would be devastating for New York seeing a 15 percent overall drop in exports. When you consider that the farm economy is already suffering, an additional drop in farm income would only exacerbate the pressure our farms are under right now.”
Williams says the Bureau is closely following the implementation of a number of major regulations including the Food Safety Modernization Act, new Worker Protection Standards and the 2018 Farm Bill. “It contains significant benefits for New York farmers including a reformed and flexible safety net program for dairy farmers of all sizes. There’s also funding for research and support programs that will benefit New York’s specialty crop producers. There’s also conservation and research programs as well as the legalization of industrial hemp as an ag commodity. The New York Farm Bureau will be submitting comments on the Farm Bill identifying our priorities and stressing that these regulations need to be workable and rolled out in a timely manner.”
Infrastructure is another national priority that David Fisher believes might be the most feasible to implement. “We rely on roads, bridges, waterways, locks, dams and seaports to get our goods to market both here in the U.S. and abroad. Without safe reliable infrastructure our production and transportation costs rise and we run the risk of food spoiling in trucks, rail yards and ports. New York state has begun investment into the infrastructure and we encourage the federal government to do the same. Infrastructure improvements are also needed to continue to expand rural broadband. Our farms must remain on the cutting edge to be competitive.”
Several members of the New York Farm Bureau are scheduled to meet with some of state’s Congressional delegation this March in Washington.