At the same time the Assembly treads water as majority Democrats decide the future of the speakership, the New York State Farm Bureau outlined its legislative priorities for the year during a conference call this morning.
The Farm Bureau is the largest general agricultural organization in New York, representing all areas of the farming community. The legislative priorities were established by its farmer-members at the statewide annual meeting in December.
The theme for its lobbying efforts in Albany this year is investing in agriculture. President Dean Norton outlined four priority areas that he says drive the rural economy, enhance local food production and market access. “Our members for many years have been advocating for a refundable investment tax credit. An issue that is near and dear to our equine members here in New York is the Inherent Risk law. We’re looking to see if we can work with the governor and the legislature to try and find some type of inherent risk law for equine operations. The next thing that we’re looking to do is to increase the availability of local foods. We’re working to connect upstate farmers with downstate consumers. So we’re going to work to do that. We’re going to be encouraging tax credits for those donations that are made by our farmers to food banks.”
Public Policy Director Jeff Williams added that some of the initiatives outlined by the governor in other sectors are also important to farmers. For example he says they will work with the environmental community to assure finding to the state Environmental Protection Fund. “There are funding lines in the EPF that go right toward helping farmers be good environmental stewards when it comes to water quality or farmland protection easements or water conservation districts, invasive species. Those are lines that we advocate for increased funding. The governor thankfully decided to increase in his executive budget funding for the EPF to $172 million and maintained much of the funding that we had in last year’s budget. So we’re watching the EPF. We’re thankful with the governor’s start and we’ll be working with the legislature to see if we can bump that up a little higher.”
Basic infrastructure is a priority for the state’s agriculture industry. Williams noted that there has been a marked decline in the quality of roads and bridges, leading to restrictions on farm vehicle use and higher costs. “We would just be growers if we weren’t able to get our products to market. And so we are working very closely with the legislature and the governor to make sure there is infrastructure money in the final budget. Likewise with the cost of travel the thruway system is very expensive, so we’ll be talking a lot about a farm EZ Pass discount to help incentivize their trips and help them make the match between upstate growers and farmers with the downstate consumers.”
Farm Bureau President Dean Norton reported that dairy price forecasts indicate that farmers will receive on average 7 to 8 dollars per hundredweight less than they did this year. The decrease in revenue may be buffered by lower costs for fuel and feed.