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New York Farm Bureau releases 2020 legislative priorities

New York Farm Bureau released its 2020 state legislative priorities during a press call today that look to address important budget and economic needs of its farmer members who make up the diverse agricultural community in New York.

NYFB President David Fisher and Jeff Williams, NYFB Public Policy Director, spoke with reporters during the media call. They stressed that last year was a difficult year for farmers and their employees.  The legislature passed and the Governor signed the Farm Laborer Fair Labor Practices Act which went into effect this month.  During legislative debate last year, several lawmakers who supported the bill indicated that they would work to also support farms in other ways to make up for the costly, uncompetitive burden that the new law places on the state’s farm families. Now is their opportunity to uphold those promises.

A top priority for New York Farm Bureau is obtaining financial offsets and amendments to mitigate the impact of the farm labor law.

New York Farm Bureau is pleased to see Gov. Cuomo included a refundable investment tax credit for farms in his budget. He also is seeking to expand the definition of family that was seriously limiting in the farm labor law.  The current law only excludes immediate family members from provisions like overtime and collective bargaining.  This failed to recognize that farms today often employ extended family members, including in-laws, nieces and nephews.  In addition, NYFB is seeking to alter language in the farm labor bill to properly recognize that farms have professional level employees, including farm managers, who should continue to receive salaried wages.

The organization is also supportive of the Governor’s proposal to increase the farmworker housing loan fund to $15 million to assist farms in building new housing on farms.

Also, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair, Jen Metzger, and Assembly Agriculture Chair Donna Lupardo have proposed to double the agricultural employee workforce tax credit from $600 to $1,200 per employee.

“These are all important proposals to our farmers and will help offset the tens of millions of dollars in regulatory and overtime costs that our farms will have to pay in this tight farm economy,” said NYFB President David Fisher.

NYFB is asking for a fair and equitable Wage Board Hearing process

 President Fisher will serve as the NYFB representative on the newly-created wage board as mandated in the farm labor law.  This three-person board, which also includes representatives from AFL-CIO and the Department of Labor, will look at the 60-hour overtime threshold and whether agriculture can withstand it being lowered.  The first hearing must happen by March first.

NYFB is asking that the three proposed hearings be held in farming regions in New York, ideally in the western, central and Capital Region portions of the state. The organization also supports providing the wage board with adequate time and resources to ensure that there is sufficient farm data available to the board to determine the full impacts of the law.

“Keep in mind, the first hearing will happen before the first crops are even in the ground.  It will be incredibly difficult to judge in a significant way how farms and their employees are managing schedules and dealing with the financial burdens just two months into the year,” said Fisher.

Support New York State Budget funding for vital agricultural programs

Over these next few months, NYFB will largely be focusing on the New York State Budget.  We were pleased with the overall spending amount in the Governor’s proposal. It would support critical funding for agricultural animal health, promotion and research programs.  In addition, NYFB will ask the legislature to also maintain funding for the Environmental Protection Fund which houses several conservation and farmland preservation programs that farms use across the state.

The EPF is incredibly important, and NYFB supports its use to help farms adapt to and lessen the impacts of climate change, along with supporting on farm renewable energy. Farms are natural carbon sponges and should be a part of the solution in dealing with climate change.

“Research and technology will be keys to future environmental stewardship.  Other states are increasingly investing in scientific research, especially as it relates to the dairy industry, and New York needs to make sure research institutions in New York, like at our land grant at Cornell, have the same resources to benefit our farms and environment,” said Jeff Williams, NYFB Public Policy Director.

This includes supporting Cornell’s Nutrient Management Spear Program. New technologies, including yield monitors, drones, and digital agriculture tools, show great promise in assisting farmers in reducing the impact of nutrients on the environment. This funding would support applied research and further extension efforts to further develop those management tools that could help farmers to more precisely apply nutrients at the most appropriate part of the growing cycle, while lessening the environmental impact.

Support NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Pesticide Registration Program

Finally, NYFB will continue to support efforts allowing for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to be the sole regulator of pesticides in New York State.  The Governor rightly vetoed a bill last session that looked to ban Chlorpyrifos and instead let the authority remain with DEC.  The use and safety of crop management tools must be based on science. Let’s let the experts have a role in determining what should and should not be used on farms and keep politics out of it.

“Farming remains a vital industry in New York. It provides jobs, a tax base and most importantly food to the people of this state, so it is imperative that the state continues to invest in agriculture,” said Fisher.