Priority Issues for 2015
The New York Farm Bureau Board of Directors has established the following state and national Priority Issues for 2015. See NYFB's complete state and national priority issue booklets as PDF files.
Also view NYFB's budget analysis of the Governor's 2015-16 Executive Budget Proposal.
Table of Contents for Policy Book 2015 Policy Book
Driving 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.
• Support for a refundable investment tax credit to incentivize farm investment
• 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
• Move LLC and Partnership tax filings from March 1st to April 15th
• Remove the requirement that farms that employ H2A workers pay Unemployment Insurance for those workers
• Clarify that farms are eligible for the newly established Manufacturers’ Tax Credit when they are “related parties”
• Support basing LLC filing fees on net income instead of gross income
• Support safe drilling for natural gas in all formations in New York State
• Support reform of New York’s Inherent Risk law for equine operations
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.
• Re-establish funding in the state budget for Quality Assurance/Quality Control for CAFO planners in New York State
• Work to ensure common sense and fair CAFO permit requirements during the latest permit re-write
• Establish Freedom of Information Law protections for farms enrolled in state government programs.
• Expand opportunities for farm investment in anaerobic digester and other renewable energy opportunities
• Ease wholesale tax reporting requirements for all wineries in New York
• Move Agricultural Assessment program management from the Department of Taxation and Finance to the Department of Agriculture and Markets
Expanding Market Opportunities
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
• Oppose any increases to tolls on the New York State Thruway to fund the construction of a new Tappan Zee bridge
• Establish a Farm EZ-Pass for more affordable market access to urban consumers
• Support allowing agency action to establish new and expanded wine trails in New York State
• Establish an “Agricultural” license plate for trailers used in agriculture
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.
• Mandate greater protection of farmland, in relation to wetlands, when siting any public project
• Support regional food hubs and requiring the Office General Services to provide OGS warehouse space to house local food product for transport to state institutions and schools
• Support a state tax credit for donations of locally grown food by farmers to Food Banks
• Provide state and New York City funding to offset the skilled harvest and transportation of food from farms to food banks
• Provide regional equity for agricultural projects under the CFA grant program
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 legislation 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 plant and harvest crops and care for livestock. It should also replace the H2A program with a new guest worker visa program that ensures a continuous, legal workforce in the future for all sectors of agriculture, including dairy.
• 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 Work with congress to minimize negative impacts of farm labor shortages as a result of the President’s immigration executive order.
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. In particular monitor:
o The first year of the new Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) and ensure that it meets the needs of producers, especially as milk prices are projected to begin to decline in the next year.
o The development and study of new and enhanced programs for specialty crops, including NAP buy-up and whole farm revenue products.
o Implementation of conservation compliance linked to crop insurance to ensure it is easy to understand for farmers.
• Work with National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to address a backlog in determinations of highly erodible lands (HEL) and wetlands.
• 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.
• 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 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.
o Ensure that FDA provides the necessary funds and information for the states to implement the rule fairly and consistently.
• Pass legislation preventing EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers from changing the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” or finalizing its rule to significantly expand the scope of the CWA.
• Support legislation that would align and redefine the separate definitions in the Affordable Care Act of “seasonal” as a worker who is employed on a seasonal basis for six months or less during the calendar year. Further support the simplification of the methods for seasonal employers to determine if they are Applicable Large Employers and determine the full-time status of their seasonal employees.
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.
• 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 (TTIP) agreement with the European Union. Also support the passage of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) which allows the Congress to consider, without, amendment, the trade agreement that the Administration negotiates.
• Continue to oppose limitations on the use of geographic indicators. Restricting geographical names for foods would inhibit the marketability and competitiveness of U.S. food products.
• Support legislation which would continue the science-based regulatory process for biotechnology, inform consumers, provide consistency and oppose mandatory labeling requirements of foods containing genetically engineered products. Broad or individual state labeling requirements are not based on science and undermine 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.
• 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.
• 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).