Chautauqua farmers converge on Albany to grow NY farms

BATAVIA Farmers from Chautauqua County took important 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. Studies have shown if you have healthy farms, you have a healthy economy. In these days of high costs of farm production and the land tax burden in New York, it is imperative state lawmakers pass legislation that supports local family farms.

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, these farm friendly bills 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. Plus, they are supporting a state tax credit for donations of locally grown food by farmers to food banks. New York farmers last year donated over 8 million pounds of food to state food banks.

While in Albany, Senator 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. Assemblyman Bill Magee, Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, also spoke to the NYFB 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, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed several new initiatives while NYFB was at the Capitol including new funding for his Fresh Connect 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.

Chautauqua County Farm Bureau is committed to improving conditions in this state for every farmer. The members attending the lobby trip appreciated the great support shown to them by the many lawmakers in Albany. They felt that is was a reflection of their strong grassroots effort to preserve their farms for the next generation and provide the people of this great state healthy, local food.