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NY farmers urge budget support amid rising labor costs and minimum wage concerns

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  • Staff Report 

New York farmers are urging state leaders to consider their priorities in the ongoing state budget negotiations, with concerns focused on the potential impact of higher labor costs due to proposed minimum wage increases.

Jeff Williams, the New York Farm Bureau’s director of public policy, is calling for a reassessment of the minimum wage’s effects on small and mid-sized family farms before proceeding. The current budget proposals present mixed outcomes for farmers, who are already grappling with paying wages close to the proposed $15 minimum.

While agricultural leaders welcome the governor’s plan for $7 million in refundable tax credits for farmers, they argue these credits should be linked to inflation if the minimum wage is as well. These credits would help farmers invest in equipment and machinery, thus enhancing their businesses and preparing them for the future.

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New York has lost over 500,000 acres of farmland (nearly 5,000 farms) since the 1980s, prompting agricultural industry leaders to push for increased funding to support the next generation of farming. The Assembly has proposed an additional $50 million for agriculture in the budget, recognizing the sector’s role in economic development.

Governor Kathy Hochul’s executive budget proposal encourages higher discretionary thresholds for food purchasing by local governments and school districts. Her January State of the State address outlined plans for the state to procure almost $400 million worth of farm products from local producers. The governor’s proposal also requires companies selling products with recyclable materials to pay a fee for local recycling programs, though it excludes agricultural products.

Agriculture Committee Chair Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo acknowledges the proposed budget’s potential risks to the state’s agricultural industry and the need for farms to adapt to these changes in a market-driven economy. Farmers are requesting financial support from legislators to offset the risks associated with the proposed changes.

In addition to advocating for farmland preservation and the training and support of the next generation, Hochul’s budget includes $10 million in grants for retail food stores to expand markets, supply chains, and promote equitable food distribution. The state Farm Bureau is also monitoring the inclusion of the promised overtime tax credit to compensate farmers for the increased overtime threshold the state plans to impose gradually over the next decade.