Sunday, March 16, 2014

Plan to Help Young Farmers Gains Bipartisan OK

From the office of state Sen. Patricia Ritchie:

Sen. Patricia Ritchie’s “Young Farmers NY” plan to secure the future of family farming and encourage more young people to pursue careers in agriculture won bipartisan approval Sunday March 16 as part of the Senate’s state budget plan that also included nearly $9 million in new investments in programs to help farmers grow.

That amount is the largest increase in support for agricultural research, marketing and education programs in at least six years.

Senator Ritchie’s Young Farmers NY plan was modeled on successful programs in other states that are bringing young people back to agriculture.

“To keep farms growing from generation to generation, we need to break down some of the barriers to young farmers, such as the high cost of farmland and equipment, education and red tape,” said Ritchie, who chairs the Senate’s Agriculture Committee.

“Approval of my Young Farmers plan by the Senate is a step toward ensuring that family farmers will continue to feed New Yorkers into the future," she said.

Young Farmers NY included a number of provisions intended to ease the passage of farms across generations, as well as help beginning farmers star their own successful farm businesses, including:

· a $5 million revolving loan fund to help beginning farmers purchase land and equipment, and tax credits to encourage retiring farmers to sell their business to another farmer, instead of a developer;

· $1 million in innovation grants to provide start-up funding for novice farmers;

· Farm Savings Accounts to encourage families to save for the purchase of a first farm;

· An apprentice program for beginning farmers, administered by local BOCES;

· Student loan forgiveness;

· Increased funding for high school based ag education.

In addition to embracing the Young Farmers plan, the Senate also approved increased funding for agricultural programs, as well as funding for new initiatives.
The $9 million in added funding is a significant increase, and continues Senator Ritchie’s efforts to reverse years of cuts that occurred before she joined the Senate, and which devastated many programs that farmers relied on to improve their bottom line and help their businesses grow.

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