Saturday, February 1, 2014

New York Farm Bureau Releases its 2014 Priorities

From New York Farm Bureau:

New York Farm Bureau this week issued its priorities during the 2014 legislative session in Albany -- a group of items it wants the legislature to support and pass.

Following its annual grassroots development process involving its members from 52 county Farm Bureaus across the state, New York Farm Bureau has released its state legislative public policy agenda for 2014.

1) Raise the estate tax threshold.

So much of the rural economies in upstate and Long Island depend on agriculture with nearly 200,000 jobs connected to farming, according to Farm Credit East. It is imperative farmland stay in production. 

One way to help ensure that happens from one generation to the next is to raise the estate tax threshold. New York Farm Bureau is pleased to see Gov. Andrew Cuomo agrees, proposing in his State of the State to lift the current $1 million threshold to match the federal level of $5.25 million. Currently, around 3,000 farms in the state are above the $1 million mark and may be land rich but cash poor.

“We find this will be an opportunity to help farmers transition to the next generation to continue on with the farm.  If you have a farm with about 250 acres, at $4,000 an acre and maybe 150 cows and some equipment, they are over the $1 million exemption already," said Farm Bureau President Dean Norton. 

"So for that farmer to pass along the farm to his son or daughter, they have to get under that $1 million mark or do some estate planning to make that transition. This would make it easier and much less costly to do that,” he said.

2) Phasing out the surcharge on electric bills

This is something the governor has also proposed in his tax reform package. This is essentially a 2 percent energy tax and when considering how much energy it takes to run a milking parlor or power a barn, this could be a large savings for farmers to be able to reinvest into their operation.  

3) Start a refundable investment tax credit.

NYFB members said this will encourage investment back into equipment and farms.

“For beginning and young farmers, this would be a great way to invest in their farm operations and keep them moving forward instead of struggling with all of the start-up costs,” said Norton.

4) Extend the Start-Up NY program to farms.

The Governor initiated the Start-Up NY program which allows new businesses to operate tax free for 10 years. Farm Bureau proposes extending this to new farms which would encourage more young people and beginning farmers to become involved in agriculture. This would be a benefit for every new farmer…no matter the commodity or convention.

5) Increasing funding for the Environmental Protection Fund.

Much of the investment into New York agriculture will come with working with the governor and the legislature on a budget that reflects the critical need on farms in this state.  This includes securing funding for food safety, animal health and agricultural promotion and economic development programs. 

New York Farm Bureau is also advocating for increased funding for the Environmental Protection Fund that allows our farms to take part in important water-quality and farmland protection programs.  These are imperative especially as many of our dairy farms are looking to grow in light of the yogurt boom that continues to take place in upstate NY.

“These are very critical programs to agriculture and we are looking to continue the momentum that the governor initiated in his budget,” said Jeff Williams, New York Farm Bureau’s Public Policy Director.

6) New York should invest in a farm-to-market transportation system.  

It is necessary for farms to have access to safe roads and bridges that can handle large trucks and farm machinery. “We can grow the best products in the world, but if we can’t get them to market, it doesn’t do us any good,” said Williams.

7) Simplify the process for establishing or expanding wine trails.

Currently, it takes a bill making its way through the legislature for any changes to be made to a trail. We believe it would be better if state agencies like the Departments of Transportation and Agriculture and Markets have the authority to oversee the changes.  It would be more efficient and would better support the wine trail system which is a big boom to tourism and our farm based wineries Upstate and on Long Island.

8) Establish a Farm E-Z Pass.

New York Farm Bureau supports this to help reduce transportation costs and facilitate moving more local food into our urban centers, especially New York City.

9) Establish and increase involvement of regional food hubs.

These are places where farmers can pool their efforts for things like storage and transportation and make it easier to get our goods into many of the green markets and urban locations.  

10) Requiring state agencies buy food from NY producers.

We also support efforts in the legislature that would require state agencies to buy 20 percent of their food from NY producers and processors. This is a great way for New York to lead by example and support those who feed the state.

11) Supporting a tax credit for locally grown donations to food banks.

The generosity of New York farmers is demonstrated each year in their participation in the “Harvest for All” program. Last year alone, nearly 9-million pounds of food was donated to food banks across the state. 

To encourage even greater participation and get more food to low-income New Yorkers who need it, New York Farm Bureau supports a tax credit for locally grown donations by farmers to food banks.  This will help offset some of the production costs while also supporting some of New York’s neediest families who are looking to put healthy food on their dinner tables.

“We look forward to working with Gov. Cuomo and the legislature to support farming in this state and our rural economies,” Norton said.

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