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NY Farm Bureau Outlines Legislative Priorities; Senator Gillibrand Calls For More Dairy Support

farm tractor in field (file)
WAMC/Pat Bradley
farm tractor in field (file)

With less than a month left in the state legislative session, officials from the New York Farm Bureau recently discussed key pieces of legislation and policy strategies they want the legislature to consider or complete before adjourning.

Farm Bureau members focused on three pending bills in the Senate and Assembly, saying legislators need to rely on science as they set farm policy.  One of the bills would ban seeds treated with insecticides known as neonicotinoids.  Merrimac Farms co-owner Brad Macauley grows corn, soybeans and vegetables in Geneseo. He says the bill does not recognize that farmers are using a targeted tool.

"They’re applied directly to the seed and we’ve developed better best management practices over the years to help safeguard pollinators," Macauley said.

The Extended Producer Responsibility Act would revise New York’s recycling system by making product producers in all business sectors responsible for recycling, reuse and recovery of materials.  Trevalen Wines co-owner Peter Saltonstall, a member of the NY Wine Industry Association, said stakeholders and those who would have to run the program were not involved when the bill was drafted. 

"They’re lacking in detail and specifically on the cost of what it would take to administer them and run them," Saltonstall said. "This is a huge huge new program that’s being presented and it’s going to affect not only just ag but it’s going to affect everybody. What we’re hoping to do is encourage the governor and the legislature to pause on this legislation and form a state commission to study recycling and include the stakeholders.”

New York Farm Bureau also wants an extension of the Agriculture Property Tax Credit. Public Policy Director Jeff Williams says it’s not a big change but is critical to help farmers pay property taxes.

“There’s a program which has been a lifeline for farms to help them reduce their taxes called the Farmers School Tax Credit Program," Williams explained. "There’s an exclusion so a spouse can get a job off-farm in order to get insurance for the family. This bill would increase that $30,000 to $50,000 of off-farm income.”

Separate from the Farm Bureau, New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on Wednesday called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide more relief to dairy farmers that have struggled to keep up with volatile dairy prices. She said the Coronavirus Food Assistance program was critical to offset dairy losses during the pandemic. The Democrat said the program has stopped payments and a new program doesn’t include dairy farmers, so she is asking the USDA for additional relief for them.

“My colleagues and I outline the need for USDA to continue issuing payments to dairy farmers under CFAP or new programs like the Pandemic Assistance for Producers Initiative," Gillibrand said. "Not only do we call for these payments to continue for the first half of the year we also want them made retroactive to January 1. CFAP payments have been a lifeline to our dairy producers during this time of financial stress especially our small and mid-sized dairy operations which have been hit the hardest by this pandemic and have few cash reserves on hand to cushion their losses when milk prices fall below production costs.”

Dairy is the largest agricultural sector in New York state, the nation’s fourth largest producer of milk.

Copyright 2021 WAMC Northeast Public Radio

Pat Bradley