The New York Farm Bureau has identified its priorities for the state legislative session, saying lawmakers must support the agricultural sector in 2021.
The state Farm Bureau annually releases statewide priority issues near the beginning of the legislative session. President David Fisher said farmers and their employees have been on the front lines of the pandemic assuring New York’s food supply. He says the organization is asking the New York Departments of Agriculture and Markets and Health to establish vaccine locations that target farm workers.
“Access to vaccinations is a top priority of for our organization this year," Fisher said. "New York Farm Bureau along with our ag partners are pressing new York state to add farm workers to the Phase 1B vaccination rollout as soon as possible. We understand that there are logistical and supply issues. But as we learned last year we need to do what we can to make sure our food supply chain functions smoothly and safely and that starts at our farms.”
Farm Bureau officials say they are pleased with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal. Fisher says while most funding is flat he considers that positive in light of cuts that could have occurred due to pandemic fiscal stresses.
“The budget’s responsible for many ag research, marketing, conservation and animal health programs," Fisher said. "Agriculture funding is a tiny fraction of the overall state spending but farms feeds all New Yorkers and are an economic engine that returns state investment exponentially. Nourish NY is one of those programs that we’re asking to be fully funded again at $25 million. This is included in the executive budget and is another top priority for New York Farm Bureau. Nourish NY has proven to be a lifeline for people in need as well as for many of our farms. Nourish NY stepped in to coordinate a pathway to move food from farms to food banks and this program we are very hopeful will continue.”
Farm Bureau Public Policy Director Jeff Williams is enthusiastic that the executive budget includes better access to rural broadband.
“It’s not a new issue for us," Williams said. "Farmers need broadband to do business just like anyone else. We’re happy to see the governor include that in the State of the State. We’re also remained focused, and have a renewed focus, on science-based decision making at the capitol. We support funding in the Environmental Protection Fund for climate mitigation efforts on farms. But with the legislature they’re making decisions on restricting access to needed chemicals and needed pesticides for our farms based more on politics than on the science and that’s something that we’re very concerned about. We’re also very pleased to see that the Farm Labor Wage Board acted to take a one year breather on deciding whether or not the farm overtime limit at 60 hours should be lowered.”
The Farm Bureau is participating in the Let’s Get Immunized New York Coalition, which promotes information about the COVID-19 vaccine.