Chautauqua County Farm Bureau members visit Albany

Submitted Photo: John Knight, Dick Kimball, Kaitlyn Whalen, and Adrienne Ploss at the panel discussion with the Commissioners in Albany.

Farmers from Chautauqua County Farm Bureau spent two days in Albany visiting with lawmakers on March 6-7 to highlight the organization’s state public policy priorities for the year. They kicked things off with the popular Taste of New York Reception for state lawmakers, commissioners and staff. The county Farm Bureau hosted a table featuring local farm products. Following the evening event, members participated in the annual Lobby Day on Tuesday, March 7 where they met with both their local Senator and Assembly member as well as New York City lawmakers that the county Farm Bureau adopted.

At the New York State Capitol, Chautauqua County Farm Bureau advocated for a number of priorities this year. They include securing a refundable investment tax credit for farmers. With 2015 farm income down nearly 20% to $5.3 billion across the state, according to the latest figures from the National Agriculture Statistics Service, it is important that tools be in place to help farmers weather the downturn. This initiative would incentivize farm investment to meet the needs of global competition.

In addition, Chautauqua County Farm Bureau pushed to double the minimum wage tax credit from $30 million to $60 million. The first step of the minimum wage hike climbed at the beginning of the year on its way to $15 for farms on Long Island and $12.50 for upstate farmers. New York Farm Bureau led the way in opposition to the hike last year, resulting in a $250 tax credit per employee for this first year of the increase. That will cover only a small fraction of what it will cost family farms to implement the wage hike.

State funding for critical farm programs is another top priority for Farm Bureau. The Governor included a number of things in his budget plan, which would help agriculture in the state. This includes funding for the Environmental Protection Fund, which will assist farms with water quality, conservation and farmland protection programs, as well as necessary investments into animal health programs. Farm Bureau also asked lawmakers to restore funding for promotion and research programs that also benefit agriculture. NYFB also supports the Governor’s proposed $2 billion clean water infrastructure program that includes $70 million for nutrient management and conservation programs to reduce farm runoff.

The Farm to Food Bank Bill is another top priority for NYFB members who have seen the Governor veto the popular legislation the past two years. Members asked their lawmakers to include the tax credit that encourages greater fresh food donations to regional food banks and local food pantries to be included in their one-house budget bills.

These priorities are 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, Chautauqua County Farm Bureau members also participated in a special panel discussion with the Commissioners from the Departments of Agriculture and Markets, Environmental Conservation and Labor. Members were able to ask questions about a number of issues facing the state’s family farms.

“Chautauqua County Farm Bureau members took time away from their farms to build on the valuable relationships we have with our lawmakers in Albany. It is important to cultivate relationships at every level of government so our representatives can better understand the impacts their decisions have on local farms. We will continue to advocate for public policies that will not only benefit agriculture but support our rural communities as a whole,” said Dick Kimball, Chautauqua County Farm Bureau President.

New York Farm Bureau is the State’s largest agricultural lobbying/trade organization. Its members and the public know the organization as “The Voice of New York Agriculture.” New York Farm Bureau is dedicated to solving the economic and public policy issues challenging the agricultural community.