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Climate Action Goals Concern State Farmers

How the state is going about accomplishing its climate goals are a concern to many New York state farmers.

Those concerns were among the key points discussed by New York Farm Bureau members during a virtual news conference earlier this week.

“Farmers understand the need to take action to support our climate, to mitigate the extreme impacts that our farms are seeing,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau president. “But we’re worried that there is too great a push for electrification before we can successfully adopt it.”

Fisher said the Farm Bureau supports electrification when reliable, battery-powered tractors and machinery can exist on farms. Machines must also be able to be quickly charged during times such as planting and harvesting. Fisher said the state is a long way away from any of those things, and until then exemptions must be made for batteries and machines where batteries do not supply enough power for the task.

Another concern Fisher addressed around electrification is the ability for the electric grid to hold the level of electrical production and consumption.

“We just need a common sense, reliable energy policy and not go too far, too fast,” Fisher said. “We must get this right for the sake of food production.”

The Farm Bureau’s mission is to support agriculture needs, and some of the policies outlined in the state budget follow that mission such as funding for agriculture programs and the Environmental Protection Fund. State legislators are in the midst of budget hearings to make changes to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s 2024-25 budget proposal.

“The New York Farm Bureau has been in discussion with the governor’s office and the state legislature, and there’s a lot of positive momentum out of the gate with the governor’s proposed budget,” Fisher said. “This budget funds dozens of critical environmental, animal health research programs that farmers can use and depend on to improve our best management practices. This includes significant funding for ag programs and the environmental protection fund that will help with water quality.”

Other budget areas include workforce development, farm safety, and modernizing dairy infrastructure, along with improving sustainability and animal care, and making farms more efficient. The budget also promotes New York grown products across the state and fully funds Nourish New York. Nourish New York allows for redirecting fresh, locally grown food into food banks and emergency food pantries, while helping farmers offset costs. School meals funding has also seen an increase last year, and the Farm Bureau is encouraging the state to fully fund this as well.

Jeff Williams, New York Farm Bureau director of public policy, addressed concerns that have been seen for a few years now regarding extended producer responsibility requirements which says that businesses that produce packaging must also be responsible for the recycling of that packaging. Williams said that while this makes sense for large companies like Amazon, it does not for farms. Additionally, Williams discussed the ability for wineries to ship their products out of state, but other beverage producers cannot.

“For 15 or 20 years now New York state wineries have been able to ship out of state their products to people who perhaps go to the Finger Lakes or Long Island for a vacation and really fall in love with the wines that they’ve tasted,” Williams said. “Then they go back to Ohio or Texas or California and say, ‘I’d like to try some of that’. They can ship that wine to those customers.”

Breweries, cideries and distilleries do not have the option to do that, and Williams said the Farm Bureau is looking to legislature and the governor to allow a bill to either get into the budget or for stand alone legislation that would allow that.

Questions at the end of the virtual press conference focused on dairy, workforce development, the political landscape around the farm bill, the electrification impacts on food processing, the farm work overtime threshold, milk check calculations and protecting farms from climate goals and labor regulations.

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