State lawmakers satisfy a Farm Bureau agenda with support for ag-friendly programs and policies

New York State Farm Bureau on Wednesday applauded the Assembly and Senate “for making the state’s family farms a priority in their respective budgets.”

Earlier this month, lawmakers heard from members of 90 county Farm Bureaus and like-minded organizations that presented a wish list at the annual Lobby Day held at the state capital.

“Many of the funding lines have been restored to last year’s levels, which will make a difference in the support and promotion of the state’s diverse agricultural commodities,” stated the Farm Bureau (NYFB) in a release. “This includes funding multiple research projects that the agricultural community depends on to confront growing challenges that exist on farms.”

The items approved include a refundable investment tax credit, which farmers say will help them reinvest in their businesses in a down farm economy. Also approved is a doubling of the agricultural minimum wage tax credit. NYFB stated this will “help farms better manage labor costs while attempting to remain competitive with farms in other states that have significantly lower wage rates.”

The Farm to Food Bank Bill — which would give New York farmers a tax credit for donating fruits, vegetables and other products to food banks — also received budget support for the first time in both chambers’ budgets.

“This is a big boost to the bill that has seen bipartisan support the past two years only to have the Governor veto the bill, in part, because it was passed outside of the budget process,” according to NYFB, which had strong words for the Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “There is no excuse for the Governor to pull out his veto stamp again, and we encourage him to negotiate funding in the final budget to support the tax credit, as he promised. It will allow farmers to donate even more fresh food to their regional food banks and pantries.”

Support of the “Farm to Food Bank Bill” comes on the heels of New York state farmers donating more than 13.2 million pounds of food in 2016 — the second highest for any state in the country. The total was announced last month at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Fusion Conference in Pittsburgh. NYFB participates in Feeding America’s Harvest for All Program.

“This record number for New York highlights the generosity of farmers in this state, and food donations will likely increase with the passage and signing of the Farm to Food Bank Bill,” projected NYFB. The tax credit on 25 percent of the wholesale value of the food, up to $5,000 annually, would help offset a portion of the costs of labor, packaging and transportation required to get more food from the fields to those in need.

NYFB President David Fisher added: “As the April 1 budget deadline approaches, we are hopeful these items will remain in New York State’s final fiscal plan. The past year has been a difficult one for the state’s farmers. From higher labor costs to lower commodity prices, coupled with extreme weather woes, the additional support could not come at a more necessary time for the hard working farm families of New York.”