New York Farm Bureau leaders plan to meet with members of New York’s congressional delegation this week in Washington, D.C. to outline their federal priorities.
They are in the nation’s capital to take in American
Farm Bureau Federation’s Advocacy Conference. It is kicking off a year
full of activities where New York Farm Bureau members will be engaged on the
organization’s member approved public policy priorities.
New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher and Elizabeth Wolters, New York Farm Bureau's associate
director of national affairs, held a press conference call with
reporters the morning of Feb. 28 to publicly unveil the priorities. The priorities
are listed below.
Immigration reform remains a top priority for New York’s farmers. While this is something New York Farm Bureau has been discussing for a
long time, the issue is especially in the forefront right now with
enforcement actions taken by the Trump Administration.
Farm Bureau believes in having stronger border security, but
enforcement cannot be the only approach to fixing a broken immigration
It also involves having a workable guest worker program that
allows farmers to fill positions on their farms when they cannot find
anyone locally to do the work. This involves having an improved guest
worker visa program that addresses both seasonal and year-round needs of
Reforms should allow current, trained workers to stay on farms and
maintain a consistent workforce to plant and harvest crops, and care for
There are proposals on the table to reform the federal H2A
guest worker program that would open up the legal process to allow
workers to be here longer than a growing season while reducing the
regulatory burden that often leads to delays and headaches for farms and
Last year, some New York farms experienced delays of a
month or more in having their workers arrive in this country to work on
the farm. That is unacceptable when you need to plant and harvest
crops on time.
“This is an issue that has major implications for farmers and their
employees. We have to have a system in place that will allow farms in
this country to grow the food we need to feed ourselves. The only
alternative is to import food grown outside of our borders and that
becomes a national security issue,” said Fisher.
A lack of serious reform is not just a problem for farms, but for
their seasonal and year round foreign employees as well. They are
hardworking people who sought new opportunities in this country to
support themselves and their families. They are giving back in many
“Let’s be clear, when they seek employment on our farms, we are
obliged under the law to accept their paperwork. As far as we know, they
are here legally,” said Fisher. “However, when they are targeted by ICE
and law enforcement, some workers may not have legal documentation
after all. Enforcement actions can break up families and send others
into hiding. This is in addition to leaving farms without enough
employees needed to care for animals or harvest the crops.”
New York Farm Bureau will work with the Trump Administration and our
representatives in Congress to find a workable solution that strikes an
important balance between strong enforcement and a strong guest visa
Regulatory Reform is another national priority for New York Farm
Bureau. Its members have long been in opposition to proposed changes to
the Clean Water Act that they believe broadens the jurisdiction of
“Waters of the U.S.” rule.
It would expand regulations from traditional
navigable waters to also including dry land. The Environmental
Protection Agency has placed an undue burden and increased regulatory
control on farmers with no added benefit to the environment.
The issue is currently tied up in the courts after a federal appeals
court issued an injunction on its enforcement. However, Farm Bureau
will continue to support efforts to prevent the EPA and Army Corps of
Engineers from implementing the rule.
This does not mean farmers are
looking to dismantle regulations that have proven value in keeping our
water clean in this country. However, the EPA failed to establish
scientific justification for its rule change, did not address the tens
of thousands of public comments that explained how it is unworkable on
farms in this country, and it created a public campaign meant to
discredit those people who disagreed with the rule change.
New York Farm Bureau is
confident the courts will find that this is a violation, and farm bureau
members will look to their congressional representatives to hold the EPA
accountable to follow the intent of the law that Congress established
under the Clean Water Act.
It is a priority to pursue rational and
effective regulatory policies that are transparent, fact-based and the
will of Congress.
“Necessary regulations are one thing. A federal government that
oversteps its bounds and circumvents Congress is quite another,” said Wolters.
Finally, discussions are beginning on the Farm Bill, which comes up
for renewal every five years. This is the biggest piece of legislation
that impacts every farmer in the state as it sets policy and funding for
things like crop insurance, specialty crop research, rural development,
farm to consumer programs, disaster assistance and so much more.
large component of the bill is also nutrition assistance, which New York Farm Bureau
believes is an important part of the Farm Bill and is a necessary
component to get the legislation through Congress.
As discussions continue leading up to a vote next year, it is a
priority of New York Farm Bureau to keep baseline funding for the myriad of programs. In the previous 2014 Farm Bill, agriculture took a major funding hit of
around $23 billion. That cannot happen again.
There are many needs
for agriculture. A proper safety net and a reformed Margin Protection
Program for dairy farmers are two examples.
Farm income dropped a
billion dollars in New York in 2015 to $5.3 billion. Farm income is
expected to be down again for 2016. These tough economic times
demonstrate why a strong, supportive Farm Bill is critical to the
success of this state’s diverse agriculture community.
“We have to have a strong Farm Bill that invests in this country’s
family farms and its rural communities to ensure we have a sustainable
farm economy in this country,” said Wolters.