Priority Issues for 2014
The New York Farm Bureau Board of Directors has established the following state and national Priority Issues for 2014. See NYFB's complete state and national priority issue booklets as PDF files.
Also view NYFB's budget analysis of the Governor's 2014-15 Executive Budget Proposal.
Table of Contents for Policy Book 2014 Policy Book
Fueling the Economy
Goal: To put it simply, farms fuel the state’s economy – especially in the many rural regions of the state. In many communities, farms are the largest employer in the area. They also support other business employment, such as equipment and seed dealers. With the proper investment and needed changes, farming can lead the state back to economic health.
• Increase the state estate tax threshold for farms
• Support for a refundable investment tax credit
• Support a pilot program where beginning farmers receive tax incentives to start a farm in New York State. For example, incentives could be similar to those provided in the newly enacted Start-Up NY program.
• Establish a bonus depreciation program for farms in New York. The program would accelerate depreciation on farm investment in a manner similar to the federal bonus depreciation benefit
• Support for reform of New York’s regulatory environment and promotion of a “one-stop” on-farm enforcement program that limits the number of enforcement inspections by state agencies
• Support basing LLC filing fees on net income instead of gross income
• Support repeal of the Article 18A utility tax surcharge
• Oppose mandatory GMO labeling of food
• Support safe drilling for natural gas in all formations in New York State
• Support linking a percentage of the state’s excise tax on wine to permanently supplement funding for the Wine and Grape Foundation
• Support reform of New York’s Inherent Risk law for equine operations
Wise Investment in Agriculture
Goal: State funding for agricultural promotional, research, and economic development programs have been reduced by over 50 percent over the last 5 years. This lack of investment has taken a considerable toll on rural infrastructures, both on farms and off.
While farmers understand that need for balancing state financial resources, it is impossible to stem budgetary shortfalls on the backs of the agricultural industry while still keeping the promise of renewing investment in the industry and rural economies. New York State must ensure that food and livestock safety programs, along with other promotional, research and economic development programs are properly funded in the final 2014-2015 state budget.
• Support for funding for critical food safety, animal health and agricultural promotion and economic development programs in the Agriculture and Markets budget.
• Support for funding of Environmental Protection Fund programs that provide cost-sharing of critical farm water quality and farmland protection projects that allow farms to reinvest in their farm business.
• Focus on funding the Agricultural Environmental Management Program, in light of impending Chesapeake Bay TMDL implementation and state CAFO permit regulatory changes.
• Increase funding for Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
• Establish Freedom of Information Law protections for farms enrolled in state government programs, such as the New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program.
A Healthy “Farm to Market” Transportation System
Goal: Growing a quality local farm product is only half the battle. The other, equally important, part of the effort is getting that product to market efficiently and at low cost. Any time transportation costs increase, any profit a New York farm may make is reduced. Similarly, any regulation or statute that makes it hard for a consumer to access our farm products simply drives the consumer to make easier or less expensive food options, which counter-intuitively, most likely will not be local options. Changes must be made to provide simpler and less expensive opportunities to meet farm transportation needs and provide local, healthy and affordable food to urban and rural consumers in New York.
• Support immediate investment in repair of critical road and bridge infrastructure to maintain quality access to farm fields and consumers in order to alleviate farm access issues, such as municipalities lowering weight limits on bridges instead of addressing the structural problem
• Address state transportation law to ensure full conformity with new federal transportation law for agricultural vehicles
• Oppose any increases to tolls on the New York State Thruway
• Establish a Farm EZ-Pass
• Support legislation removing the “blue card” requirement for farm trucks
• Support allowing agency action to establish new and expanded wine trails in New York State
Local Food/Local Farms
Goal: “Go local” has become the rallying cry for the local food movement which is driving food and agricultural policy decisions at the supermarket and at the State Capitol. Increasing consumer demand has opened new direct market opportunities for the farm community and has the potential to leverage local farm sourcing in institutional procurement. NYFB looks to strategically establish and grow state programs that directly and indirectly support local and regional food systems and the producers that comprise them.
• Support regional food hubs
• Support a state tax credit for donations of locally grown food by farmers to Food Banks
• Support the “Buy from the Backyard Act”, S.2468 Libous/A.8038 Peoples, which requires state agencies to buy 20% of their food from NY producers and processors
Agricultural Immigration Reform
Goal: Labor remains the top concern of New York farmers. The majority of New York's fruit and vegetable farms, and increasingly dairy farms, depend on immigrant seasonal and year-round labor. These employees are critical to the success of family farms in New York State and the availability of an adequate, skilled work force will make the difference in whether farmers are passed to the next generation or not. In order to protect the future of our farms and provide a legal and stable workforce, the following steps must be taken:
• End the immigration stalemate and pass reform that addresses short- and long-term farm labor needs. Reform should allow for current, trained workers to stay on farms and maintain a consistent workforce to plan and harvest crops and care for livestock. It should also replace the H2A program with a workable guest visa program that ensures a continuous, legal workforce in the future.
• Until this is completed:
o Oppose a mandatory E-Verify program unless and until a new comprehensive agricultural guestworker program is in place to provide farmers with workforce security.
o Prohibit DHS or ICE from removing questionably documented workers from farms if such removal would produce immediate crop loss or prevent harvesting, or in the case of dairy farms, jeopardize the health of dairy animals.
Successful Farm Bill Implementation
Goal: With significant reforms and improvements drafted in the next Farm Bill, it is incumbent that these changes are implemented properly. This means that new programs fulfill the intentions of Congress and meet the diverse needs of farmers. The sometimes unique aspects of New York and Northeast agriculture requires a strong voice from our representatives to ensure that the changes Congress authorizes actually help our farm families and communities as envisioned.
• Monitor implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill to guarantee that the provisions critical to New York agriculture are developed as intended. If any clarifying legislation is proposed during the implementation period, ensure that it is both necessary and beneficial to New York, and if so, that it is then addressed in a timely manner.
• Successfully introduce to farmers a new dairy safety net program which provides a fluid transition from the previous safety net, is easily understood by decision makers on the farm and by regulators, and provides adequate and affordable protection to producers.
• Monitor development and study of new and enhanced programs for specialty crops, including NAP buy-up and whole farm revenue products.
• Encourage RMA to make changes to commodity-specific crop insurance programs to accurately reflect market realities and better protect those impacted by multi-year weather-related losses.
• Support appropriations for critical conservation programs like EQIP and farmland protection (Agricultural Conservation Easement Program) and the needed technical assistance for on-the-ground support. These are used effectively in the state to help farmers extend their commitment to be good stewards of the land.
• Monitor funding and development of new the Regional Conservation Partnership Program intended to replace USDA’s current Chesapeake Bay program. New York areas in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed must have adequate technical and financial resources in order to meet the demands of EPA’s TMDL.
• Support discretionary funding for school and local food purchasing programs, food infrastructure initiatives and food-based entrepreneurship programs. These help link the farmers who produce food with the populations who have limited access to healthy foods. These programs also develop jobs and business opportunities in our rural and urban communities.
Reduce Burden of Farming in A Modern and Safe Landscape
Goal: Farmers operate in a modern world where the expectations placed on them as food producers, land managers and business operators continue to grow. We must be cognizant of the mounting cost and burden that we place on farmers because unlike other businesses, they are usually not able to pass additional costs onto consumers. We must make sure farmers have the resources necessary to meet these expectations or ward off legislation and regulations that undermine the sustainability of healthy, domestic food production.
• Ensure that FDA’s series of food safety rules, particularly those dealing with produce and animal feed, are based on sound science and balance the compliance burden with an actual public health benefit.
o Encourage FDA to continue working with stakeholders as it embarks on this unfamiliar regulatory front so that final rules reflect actual risks, are based on science, can actually be implemented on farms, and which create a real public benefit as intended.
o Funds must be appropriated for FDA to provide adequate training of inspectors and provide for inspections for foreign farms. We must ensure foreign farms are held to the same standards so as not to make domestic farms non-competitive and offshore our food production.
• Pass legislation preventing EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers from changing the definition of “navigable waters” or “waters of the U.S.” Oppose plans to finalize a guidance document or regulations to significantly expand the scope of the Clean Water Act in a manner that is expensive for landowners and municipalities and which demonstrates no increased environmental benefits.
• Support efforts to provide equitable funding and on-the-ground resources to New York State to address prevention and remediation efforts to comply with the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL.
• Provide the necessary funds and time for farmers to be in compliance with OSHA’s Dairy Local Emphasis Program inspections. OSHA will be inspecting small farms that have traditionally not been under this jurisdiction and we are working hard to ensure that the necessary training, education, literature and time is afforded farmers so they can ensure this new compliance requirement.
• Monitor the continued roll-out of the Affordable Care Act and requirements for farm businesses so these employers can continue to provide the same level of benefits and protection to their employees without highly increased costs and paperwork burdens.
• Protect farmers’ private information and data through agency policies and legislation. Unlike many business owners, farmers live where they work and inappropriate releases of private information may not only place them at a competitive disadvantage, but also place animals, their crops or their families at risk.
Business & Technology Tools
Goal: Farmers are engaged in their local neighborhood, but operate in a global community. This means they need the business environment and technology to remain competitive, build a sustainable future and contribute to local and world needs.
• Support legislation to reform the tax code. Any plan must be comprehensive and address both individual and corporate tax reform. It must also recognize the cyclic nature of farm income and protect the concepts of cash accounting for farm businesses, accelerated expensing for capital purchases (ie: Section 179 and bonus depreciation) and reward domestic production (Section 199).
• Pass legislation providing farmers a tax benefit for their food donations to local food banks, especially those that require farmers to incur labor, packaging and transportation costs. NY farmers donated almost $4 million pounds of food in 2013—the largest amount by farmers in any state—but food still goes to waste when farmers can’t afford the additional costs required to donate their products.
• Pass legislation allowing the development of Farm Savings Accounts. These allow farmers to save tax-free during good years so they have something in reserve to make it through down years. Farmers are penalized by the tax code now if they put money away for a rainy day and this change would allow farmers to better use their own resources to weather a disaster.
• Oppose all mandatory federal GMO labeling initiatives. This kind of labeling is not based on science and undermines public trust in the safe and nutritious food our farmers grow without balancing the benefits that GMOs provide to our environment and hungry populations worldwide.
• Support a reasonable and responsible Renewable Fuels Standard for alternative energy.
• Continue to support rural broadband efforts and appropriations so that more farmers and rural businesses have access. In the meantime, provide concessions from mandatory electronic reporting to farmers that don’t have high-speed internet access.
• Continue to support the next generation of trade negotiations that remove unscientific barriers to trade and provide opportunities for U.S. farmers, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement with the European Union.