Priority Issues for 2013
The New York Farm Bureau Board of Directors has established the following state and national Priority Issues for 2013. See NYFB's complete state and national priority issue booklets as PDF files.
Also view NYFB's budget analysis of the Governor's 2013-14 Executive Budget Proposal.
Table of Contents for Policy Book 2013 Policy Book
Local Farms, Leading New York’s Recovery
Transitioning Farms to Next Generation
Goal: With Agriculture Assessment rates projected to escalate by well over ten percent annually for the next several years, farm property taxes will continue to dramatically increase at a time when the cost of business has never been higher. Steps must be taken to analyze and reform the current farm assessment system to mitigate the impacts on the agricultural economy and allow farms to revitalize local economies.
• Increase the state estate tax threshold for farms from $1 million to $5 million
• Support legislation that would cap Agricultural Assessment increases at two percent annually to limit property tax impacts on farms.
• Support the establishment of a short term task force of industry experts to analyze the current Agricultural Assessment formula and make recommendations to reform the program.
• Support an additional review of the implementation of agricultural assessment program to ensure its accuracy and consistency statewide.
• Support basing LLC filing fees upon net income instead of gross income
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.
• Oppose any increases to tolls on the New York State Thruway
• Support restructuring of the Thruway Authority to consolidate costs and program spending
• Support legislation removing the “blue card” requirement for farm trucks
• Support legislation establishing new and expanded wine trails in New York State
• 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.
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. And don’t forget, without New York’s safe, affordable and abundant food, workers on Wall Street would be too weak to trade billions of dollars in stocks daily.
• Support for the establishment of a state Farm Savings Account to allow for tax-free savings and withdrawals to help mitigate the impacts of poor crop years.
• Support a state tax credit for donations of locally grown food by farmers to Food Banks
• Support business friendly reforms to the Unemployment Insurance system and Workers’ Compensation to reduce New York’s high labor costs
• Support for “Let NY Farm” legislation
o Remove MTA registration fee from farm vehicles
o Reduce stormwater fees for agriculture
o Return Agriculture Plate registration fees to prior levels
o Reduce SPDES permit fees to $50 for farm wineries
• Support safe drilling for natural gas in all formations in New York State
• Support for a farm cider license category in statute
• Support linking a percentage of the state’s excise tax on wine to permanently supplement funding for the Wine and Grape Foundation
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 4 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 2013-2014 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 farmers enrolled in the New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program.
Comprehensive Agricultural Immigration Reform
Goal: Labor is 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 along the framework released by the AFBF Task Force on Immigration Reform. This includes a process to legally document the current workforce and the development of a new temporary visa program, with a contract and a non-contract option, for a broad definition of agricultural workers.
• Until this is completed:
Oppose a mandatory E-Verify program unless and until a new comprehensive agricultural guestworker program is in place to provide farmers with workforce security
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.
Pursue federal legislative and/or regulatory changes to reform the H2A program to make it more cost effective and efficient.
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 both 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 2012/2013 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 policymakers, 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 funding for critical conservation programs like EQIP and the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program. Both 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 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.
A Stronger Agricultural Disaster Response Strategy
Goal: Following the disasters of Tropical Storms Irene and Lee in 2011 and Sandy and the drought in 2012, it is evident that current disaster assistance is not always strong enough for agricultural recovery. Farms take on a lot of risk in their businesses with variables in weather and markets impacting their bottom line, so making the programs that are already in place more responsive and efficient just makes sense.
• Engage the Army Corp of Engineers to address agricultural areas of habitual flooding.
• Adopt policy to adequately fund the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and Emergency Watershed Program (EWP) in a timely manner so disaster recovery does not have to wait for budget cycles and politics, often leaving approved but unfunded activities for many months.
• 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.
• Maintain and adequately fund in the next Farm Bill the USDA disaster programs that work (ie: TAP, ELAP, LIP) and make them retroactive to their previous expiration in 2011. These provide farmers certainty for some basic relief following catastrophic losses.
Policy That Protects the Environment and Farms
Goal: Agricultural and environmental initiatives are often put at odds, but as stewards of the largest part of New York’s land mass, farmers play an essential role in protecting the quality of our land, water and air. We must find a better way to prevent egregious environmental impacts by bad actors without hampering responsible farming practices intended to safeguard a healthy and sustainable farm business for the next generation.
• Reject proposals to increase regulatory and financial burdens on farmers and rural communities without some expectations of meaningful real-life environmental benefits. We want to see a better and more efficient use of our shrinking state and federal conservation resources and address our most pressing environmental concerns instead of focusing on efforts of questionable impact. Our taxpayers and municipalities are already overburdened with state and federal mandates and are struggling to balance these requirements with smaller budgets and staff. These considerations must be factored into any new environmental proposals.
• Pass legislation preventing EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers from finalizing a guidance document 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 make EPA’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL more fair and equitable for New York.