Congress is away from Washington for the month of August, and New York Congressman Antonio Delgado has visited a number of craft breweries as well as family farms so far.
The 19th District Democrat held five town halls in five counties in six days, at breweries and distilleries. He toured each facility and spoke with the owners, recognizing the role they have in New York’s upstate economy. On a conference call with reporters, Delgado said he’d like to see more tax relief for craft breweries and distilleries.
“That’s why I was proud to support the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which recalibrates the federal excise taxes and streamlines regulation on small alcohol beverage producers,” Delgado says.
Delgado, who serves on the House Small Business Committee and House Small Brewers Caucus, says his beer sampling was limited, as he had a number of town halls to host. However, he did manage a swig of an ancient ale at The Beer Diviner Brewery & Taproom in Cherry Plain, in Rensselaer County.
“The gentleman who owned the establishment talked about how this beer was an ancient brew and had long been one of his go-tos, and I did sample that one, and it was nice,” says Delgado. “It was a good one.”
Delgado, who is a member of the House Task Force on Rural Broadband, says improved broadband can help this sector connect to marketplaces outside the region. Delgado also focused on young farmers and what Congress can do to support them, citing a few barriers, including the cost of farmland.
“There are programs that the state and federal government can fund more that’ll make it easier for folks to provide conservation easements as a part of a transaction, which would allow the farmer, the owner of the property, to sell off a portion for rights that would conserve the property for purposes only of farming, but hand those rights over to the government, or to state actors, leaving the remaining portion to the purchaser of the farm at a discounted price,” Delgado says. “These are the kind of things that they’re available to the public, but there’s a not a lot of education around it; there’s not a lot of information sharing around it; and there’s not a lot of funding to the degree necessary to make sure that people are able to pursue these things in the fashion that could be helpful. That’s just one way.”
Another way is to offer public loan forgiveness programs.
“We just got behind legislation that would make farming for public service for purposes of loan forgiveness. A lot of our farmers, a lot of our young farmers are carrying an insane amount of debt, and find it difficult, given the cost of farmland, to have access to the land when they’re also dealing managing their own debt,” Delgado says. “So the more and more we can provide loan forgiveness programs through public service as a way of farming defined under public service, the better we’ll be.”
The first-term congressman noted that bipartisan legislation he introduced in April to ease the process of reorganizing debt through Chapter 12 bankruptcy rules to assist farmers during this down farm economy now awaits the president’s signature. It’s the Family Farmer Relief Act. Delgado is also on the House Agriculture Committee. Delgado has held 21 town halls since joining Congress.
“And thankfully and gratefully, people show up and they’re engaged, and they have great questions, so I’m really excited to continue to do this work,” Delgado says.
Meantime, Delgado and his wife Lacey Schwartz Delgado are with fellow House Democrats, led by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, on a trip to Israel and the West Bank. The delegation was slated to meet with top Israeli and Palestinian government officials, Palestinian entrepreneurs, Israeli civil society leaders and peace activists.