BATAVIA Farmers from Chautauqua County took important time away from their farms to visit with their lawmakers in Albany recently to make the point that every farmer matters to the rural economy and local food system. They took part in the large Taste of New York reception that greeted lawmakers and staff as well as participated in the annual lobby day where farmers met with representatives from the area.
New York agriculture is responsible for 200,000 on- and off-farm jobs. However, the farms provide more than economic value to their communities, they also supply local food to consumers and continued open space that is free from development.
At the Capitol, Chautauqua County Farm Bureau advocated for a number of top priorities this year that would create a positive economic climate for farms throughout the state. These priorities include ways the state can assist farms in fueling the economy, focusing on state investment in agriculture, improving a farm to market transportation system and promoting efforts to get more local food to consumers.
Chautauqua County Farm Bureau members meet with Assemblyman Andy Goodell at Farm Bureau’s Lobby Days to discuss this year’s top agricultural issues recently. Pictured from left to right: Joanna Nocero, Erin Urban, John Knight and Dick Kimball.
New York Farm Bureau has long called for raising the estate tax exemption from $1 million to match the federal threshold of $5.25 million. According to the Agriculture Census, there are more than 3,000 farms in New York whose land values alone top the current mark. When you include animals and equipment, many more farm families face the dilemma of selling off farm land just to pay estate taxes should they have to. Raising the exemption will allow families to better manage estate planning and keep farmland in production. Chautauqua County Farm Bureau is pleased to see Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed this reform in his state budget.
Much of the investment into New York agriculture will come with working with the Governor and the legislature on a budget that reflects the critical need on farms in this state. This includes securing funding for food safety, animal health and agricultural promotion and economic development programs. New York Farm Bureau is also advocating for increased funding for the Environmental Protection Fund that allows our farms to take part in important water-quality and farmland protection programs. These are imperative especially as many of our dairy farms are looking to grow in light of the yogurt boom that continues to take place in upstate NY.
New York Farm Bureau also supports the establishment and increased involvement of regional food hubs. These are places where farmers can pool their efforts for things like storage and transportation and make it easier to get our goods into many of the green markets and urban locations. We also support efforts in the legislature that would require state agencies to buy 20 percent of their food from NY producers and processors. This is a great way for New York to lead by example and support those who feed the state.
New York Farm Bureau also took part in a press conference with Senator Patty Ritchie, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and members of the Senate Republican Conference as they introduced their "Young Farmers NY" plan. The legislation is designed to address issues related to the increasing age of New York farmers and to preserve the future of family farming.
Chautauqua County Farm Bureau is committed to advocating on behalf of every farmer in our county. "We look forward to working with our lawmakers in Albany on a positive agenda that will boost our rural economy. Our priorities stem from Farm Bureau's annual grassroots process that brings farmers together from across the state who offer up solutions to many public policy issues that impact our farms. In the end, farmers and consumers will benefit," said Dick Kimball, Chautauqua County Farm Bureau president.