Thursday, March 3, 2016

New York Farm Bureau Completes Successful Lobby Days

From New York Farm Bureau:

Farmers from across the state spent two days in Albany visiting with lawmakers Feb. 29 and March 1 to highlight New York Farm Bureau’s public policy priorities for the year.

They kicked things off with the popular Taste of New York reception for state lawmakers, commissioners and staff where 70 county Farm Bureaus and agricultural organizations hosted tables featuring local farm products for people to sample.

Following the evening event, nearly 250 members participated in the annual lobby day where they met with both their local and adopted senators and assembly members. 

In addition, the organization’s executive committee met personally with all four legislative leaders, including Senator Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and had a meeting with the Governor’s Deputy Secretary for Food and Agriculture, Pat Hooker.

“This was one of the most successful lobby days we’ve held, and it couldn’t have come at a more pivotal time for New York agriculture. The issues that will be decided upon in Albany this year will have profound impacts on farming in this state for years to come,” said New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton.

Topping the list of state priorities is opposition to the proposed $15 minimum wage and the impact that it will have on New York farms. Farmers are concerned a nearly 70 percent increase in labor costs will only make it harder to compete with products coming in from other states and countries with considerably lower production costs.

An American Farm Bureau Federation economic analysis found a $15 minimum wage would cost New York agriculture $500 million or 25 percent of additional net income. This is expected to affect farms in a number of ways. The state will likely see farms reduce employment, turn to automation or close the barn doors for good.

State funding for critical farm programs is another top priority for Farm Bureau. Members also asked for funding parity when it comes to repairing upstate roads and bridges.

New York Farm Bureau also remains committed to securing money to help schools in starting up new FFA programs as well as for agricultural education programs. 

Farmers also discussed with lawmakers about transferring farm assessment functions to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets from the Department of Taxation and Finance.

These priorities were based on member approved public policies that originate every year at the county Farm Bureau level and are passed by the full delegate body at New York Farm Bureau’s State Annual Meeting in December.

In addition to advocating for priorities with lawmakers, members also participated in a special panel discussion with the Commissioners and representatives from the Departments of Agriculture and Markets, Environmental Conservation and Labor. Members were able to ask the public officials questions about a number of issues facing the state’s family farms.

“I cannot thank our members enough for the time spent away from their farms to visit with their lawmakers in Albany,” Norton said. “The large turnout reflects the passion and commitment they have to make a difference for their fellow farmers and this great organization. I also appreciate the time lawmakers took to speak with our members both at the reception and in their offices.”

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