Priority Issues for 2016
The New York Farm Bureau Board of Directors has established the following state and national Priority Issues for 2016. See NYFB's complete state and national priority issue booklets as PDF files.
Also view NYFB's budget analysis of the Governor's 2016 Executive Budget Proposal and Minimum Wage Increase: Impact on Agriculture case study.
2016 Policy Book
• Strong opposition to any minimum wage increase or unworkable employer mandates in New York State
• Support critical funding for current agricultural animal health, promotion and research in the final 16/17 state budget, including:
- New funding for a FFA Start-Up program (three year support structure) in final 16/17 budget
- Funding for secondary agricultural education programs, including BOCES
- New funding for local fair infrastructure initiative
- Increased funding for the Environmental Protection Program, including the Agricultural Nonpoint Source Pollution and Abatement program and Soil and Water Conservation Districts to meet the water quality requirements of the new CAFO permit and water quality compliance requirements across the state, including Chesapeake Bay regulations
• Transfer farm assessment functions from the Department of Taxation and Finance to the Department of Agriculture and Markets • Ensure parity for road and bridge funding between upstate and downstate New York • Ensure a fair and effective implementation of the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) process
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).