Proposed pesticide ban, recycling legislation among issues that deserve a scientific approach to mitigate damage to environment and New York’s family farms
The New York Farm Bureau has highlighted several key pieces of legislation during a virtual press conference that are important to members with four weeks to go until the end of the state legislative session.
The bills include a potential ban on seeds treated with neonicotinoids and the Extended Producer Responsibility Act which aims to overhaul the state’s recycling system.
“Our goal is to encourage New York state senators and Assembly members to let science be their guide when setting farm policy in this state,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau president. “Some of the legislation could have detrimental impacts not only on our farms, but also on the environment and consumer prices.”
The first piece of legislation discussed is a bill to ban neonicotinoid seed treatments, as well as the products’ use on ornamental trees and shrubs, and turf (S.699B/A.7429). Seed treatments are a precision tool for farmers to manage their risk by protecting their crop from catastrophic destruction from pests. As more farms turn to no-till and cover crops to improve soil health and sequester carbon, the improved soil biology also attracts additional pests, like wire worm and seed corn maggots, that can proliferate and do real damage to a crop. The neonic seeds are treated before they go into the ground, the equivalent of less than one ounce of pesticide per acre as opposed to spraying gallons of pesticides per acre, which will be the case if farmers are forced to move away from seed treatments.
Neonics were developed as a much safer pesticide for the user as well as for the environment. New York state has made inroads in using best management practices to improve pollinator health through its nationally recognized Pollinator Management Plan, including protections put in place when neonic treated seeds are being planted, greatly reducing exposure. The bill ignores that effort, and the alternative would be to return to toxic pesticides of the past that were not as safe for the environment or for the person applying them. Farms would also be forced to return to less climate friendly tillage practices that turn over the soil to help fight off harmful bugs.
“That not only burns more fossil fuels in the process of working up the soil by breaking it up, but it also breaks the carbon sink that we have tried and have been very successful at developing over the years,” said Brad Macauley, a corn, soybean and vegetable farmer in Geneseo. “We are using a tool that helps us provide a more positive outcome in challenging years. When pests are prevalent, they can have devastating effects. When we have crop failure, the food supply suffers.”
Bureau officials also discussed the Extended Producer Responsibility Act, a proposal that would create an entirely new statewide recycling program and shift the program responsibility from private recycling waste management companies and municipalities to “producers” including farms and agribusinesses that package their products in containers like milk cartons, wine bottles and maple jugs, along with the forest product industry.
The concern is this will greatly impact food access and prices during a time that we are trying to encourage food production and on-farm processing of food products, especially coming off a pandemic.
“Unfortunately, this legislation is lacking in detail, specifically on the cost on what it will take to administer and run this huge new program,” said Peter Saltonstall, co-owner of Treleaven Wines on the east side of Cayuga Lake. “We are hoping the governor and legislature can pause on this legislation to study the problem…and include the stakeholders who are involved in this.”
The New York Farm Bureau is supporting an expansion of the Agriculture Property Tax Credit to address off-farm income (S 4773-A/A 6385-A). The legislation essentially modernizes the Farmer’s School Property Tax Credit to take into account the way many farm families earn a living. The Farmer’s School Property Tax Credit was created 20 years ago to help farmers deal with high real property taxes. This legislation increases the exclusion of $30,000 in off farm income to $50,000, recognizing that many off-farm wages have grown over the last two decades.
“It’s a small change, but so meaningful to farmers. The high property taxes in the state are more challenging for farmers with land,” said Jeff Williams, New York Farm Bureau public policy director.