Tuesday, March 26, 2013

State Budget Includes More Money for Ag

Here is information on the state ag budget from state Sen. Patricia Ritchie:

The new state budget restores cuts to key agriculture programs, while adding new funding and a new marketing initiative to help farmers grow, state Sen. Patricia Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said this week.

Ritchie, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said for the first time in years, the budget not only restores some cuts made to agriculture but also includes new funding, and a new initiative that makes it easier for farmers to market products to government agencies, creating an opportunity for dramatically expanded markets.

“For two years, my focus has been on stopping budget cuts and ensuring that farmers continued to receive the support they need to make their businesses more productive and profitable,” Ritchie said. “Now, New York’s farmers are poised to grow, and state government is stepping up with new and restored funding, and initiatives to help them take advantage of expanding markets and new opportunities.” 

On Sunday, the Senate gave its approval to a budget bill that encourages state agencies to purchase more local food, by giving them expanded authority to spend up to $200,000 for “food commodities that are grown, produced or harvested in New York.”

The Legislature is expected to act shortly on budget bills that increase funding for key agriculture research, marketing, education and promotion, including:

**         More than $1.7 million for the New York Farm Viability Institute, a farmer-led nonprofit that sponsors dozens of agricultural research and other programs across Central, Northern and Upstate New York to help bolster farmers’ bottom lines. The total is more than $1.2 million above than the Governor originally proposed, and includes $220,000 to expand so-called dairy profit teams to help boost farmers’ bottom lines;

**         $884,000 for Cornell University’s FarmNet program — an increase of nearly $400,000 — to help struggling farmers with services, counseling and assistance;

**         $500,000 restoration for Northern New York Agricultural development. The program was eliminated in the Governor’s budget;

**         $40,000 for research aimed at helping farmers who want to take advantage of the state’s growing microbrewing niche, under provisions of a new law sponsored by Senator Ritchie;

**         $1 million each to state apple growers (an increase of $794,000 above the Governor), to help farmers who suffered significant weather-related crop loss last year, and for expanded marketing of New York wine and grape products (an increase of $287,000);

**         $125,000 for promotion of New York maple products, representing a restoration of $100,000 and a $25,000 increase from last year;

**         $100,000 restoration to continue the state’s highly successful tractor rollover prevention program. Tractor accidents are a leading cause of on-the-farm injuries and fatalities, and funding was eliminated in the Governor’s budget;

**         $200,000 in new funding to help berry growers combat invasive species that are destroying their crops;

**         $150,000 in new funding for turf growers, and $100,000 in new funding for Christmas tree farmers. New York ranks seventh for Christmas tree production in the US;

**         Increased funding for prevention of rabies, following growing incidences of the disease on farms and among wildlife, and the mosquito-borne EEE virus.

The Senate is expected to act on the agriculture portion of the state budget in the next few days. The Assembly is scheduled to act on the bills later this week.

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