Area Farmers Visit State Capitol To Discuss Bills

Farmers from Chautauqua County took time away from their farms to visit with their lawmakers in Albany recently to make the case for new legislation that will help grow farms and in turn grow the economy in the Chautauqua County region.

Agriculture generates more than 200,000 jobs on the farm and off in New York state. From capping skyrocketing agricultural land assessments at 2 percent to raising the threshold for the estate tax to match the federal $5 million mark for agriculture, the farmers lobbied for farm-friendly bills they say will help keep the land in farming for the next generation.

Additional priorities include the establishment of tax deferred Farm Savings Accounts to use as a risk-management tool to combat severe weather impacts or extreme price downturns. Farmers also opposed a hike in the minimum wage to contain already high labor costs, as well as advocated for a new training wage for workers 18 and younger who hold seasonal employment during the summer months. Farmers also support a state tax credit for donations of locally grown food by farmers to food banks. New York farmers last year donated more than 8 million pounds of food to New York food banks.

While in Albany, state Sen. Patty Ritchie, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, unveiled a package of Grown in New York bills in support of New York Farm Bureau’s efforts that will reduce taxes, curtail unreasonable regulations, expand market opportunities for farm products and improve farm safety. State Assemblyman Bill Magee, chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, also spoke to the New York Farm Bureau delegation offering his backing and full support on a number of bills important to the state’s farmers. Both were among the hundreds of lawmakers and staff who attended the Taste of NY Reception on March 4 that showcased the diverse array of food and farm products made in New York.

In addition, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed several new initiatives while New York Farm Bureau was at the Capitol including new funding for his FreshConnect Farmers’ Markets Program, expansion of programs to help farmers contain energy costs and protect water quality and launching a one-stop shop to provide a single point of contact for New York’s wine, beer and spirits industry.