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New York Farm Bureau releases state legislative priorities

Facebook: New York Farm Bureau

The New York Farm Bureau has released its annual list of state legislative priorities.

Each year the largest group representing New York’s agricultural interests releases the major issues it wants the state legislature to address during the session.

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher, a dairy farmer from Madrid, said the first major economic issue is getting the state to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.

“This has been a big issue for our members who have been saddled with assessments for charges on their quarterly contributions to the unemployment insurance fund. For some background, New York State borrowed billions from the federal government during the pandemic to cover the increased UI costs and New York is the only state that hasn’t begun to make payments on the debt or interest but instead it’s passing those charges along to the employers. We think this is inexcusable.”

Fisher was the only one of three members of the state Farm Laborers Wage Board who voted against a proposal to lower the 60-hour overtime threshold to 40 hours over 10 years. Fisher says the Farm Bureau is now concerned about efforts to raise the minimum wage.

“It just climbed a dollar an hour at the end of the year and will likely hit $15 upstate by the end of this year to match what’s in New York City and Long Island. The overtime threshold will begin to drop as well next year. Like all consumers, farms are facing high inflationary costs. Inputs are up across the board for energy, transportation, labor, fertilizer and supplies. Let’s press pause on these annual income hikes and let things settle for the business community.”

The Farm Bureau is also seeking what it calls “proper” funding for agriculture in the state budget.

Public Policy Director Jeff Williams said that would include money for a proposed refundable investment tax credit in the final budget and continued funding of the pandemic-era Nourish New York program.

“That program was established in the height of the pandemic to help make the match between farmers, who didn’t have much of an outlet for their product, and the food insecure all across the state. The need for farmers and for the food insecure is still as great as it was during that time. And so we’re hopeful that we can see more money in the budget for that this year.”

A proposed Extended Producer Responsibility bill would require anyone who creates packaging to be responsible for its disposal. The measure concerns Williams, who believes it would unduly burden smaller agricultural businesses.

“That makes tons of sense when it comes to large on-line venders who use a lot of packaging. However dairy processors or wineries simply are not equipped to deal with that issue and certainly not the extreme expense that kind of program would entail. And so we’ll be seeking language in the budget that recognizes that farms are different.”

Farm Bureau legislative priorities also include funding support for agricultural animal health and research, climate change mitigation programs and passage of a measure to allow direct-to-consumer shipments of all New York-produced beverages including beer, cider and craft spirits. Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul’s budget address is set for Feb. 1.