William Magee - Chairperson
December 15, 2005
The Honorable Sheldon Silver
Dear Speaker Silver,
As Chairperson of the Assembly Standing Committee on Agriculture, I respectfully submit to you the 2005 Annual Report. I have outlined the Committee's significant legislation and our outlook for the 2006 Session.
The Committee was successful this year in promoting legislation that was crucial to help family farms remain solvent and profitable by reducing regulatory burdens for agriculture, creating new promotional opportunities for New York-grown products and providing funding for critical farm programs and research, including support for several new initiatives. The Committee also made significant progress toward improving New York's food safety standards and enhancing the humane treatment of domestic and companion animals.
Many issues and challenges face the agriculture industry, especially the small farmer. I look forward to your continued support and leadership in addressing these challenges.
2005 ANNUAL REPORT
NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
STANDING COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
Joanne Barker, Legislative Coordinator
William Ketzer, Principal Analyst
Caryn Canfield, Committee Assistant
Judy Day, Committee Clerk
Kathleen Quackenbush, Program and Counsel Secretary
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Assembly Standing Committee on Agriculture is responsible for legislation that relates to the Agriculture and Markets Law, oversight of the Department of Agriculture and Markets (the Department), and the budget of the Department. The Committee works closely with institutions of higher learning to promote agricultural research and development. The Committee also monitors and, at times, mediates policy disputes and conflicts when agricultural issues are involved.
Some of the major topics investigated by the Committee as part of its legislative and oversight functions include, but are not limited to food inspections and safety, farmland protection, farm product sales and marketing, agribusiness licensing and regulation, humane treatment of domestic animals and pets, kosher laws and animal disease. The Committee also works to repeal unnecessary or unenforced laws and programs, if such actions are in the public interest.
The Committee also provides sponsorship, input and support for agriculturally-related program legislation referred to the Committees on Insurance, Energy, Labor, Economic Development and Environmental Conservation.
New York State offers many advantages for food producers and processors. However, as both seek to diversify their operations to keep pace with a rapidly changing marketplace, technological advances and more stringent environmental requirements, the Committee seeks to strengthen the state's leadership role accordingly. The Chairman recognizes this need and places it at the top of his priorities.
1. Allowing Farm Wineries to Purchase of Out-of-State Grapes in Certain Instances
This chapter allows duly-licensed farm wineries to purchase out-of-state grapes for the production of wine if a natural disaster or continued adverse weather destroys at least forty percent of the grape or fruit crop as used in the production of wine. Under the former law, a farm winery owner was required to forfeit his or her license and apply for licensure as a commercial winery if out-of-state grapes were to be used in the production of wine, causing considerable financial and administrative impact on the farmer. (A.7432, Magee) (Chapter 83 of the Laws of 2005)
2. Including Alpacas and Llamas as "Livestock" in Agricultural Districts
This law includes wool bearing animals, such as alpacas and llamas, within the definition of "livestock" for the purpose of the highly successful Agricultural Districts Law, providing benefits to producers. (A.6061, Magee) (Chapter 200 of the Laws of 2005)
3. Enhancing Agricultural Producers Security Program Protections
This chapter enhances the protections offered farm producers under the recently-enacted producer trust benefit option of the Agricultural Producers Security Program. Specifically, it increases from thirty to sixty days the time provided for producers to activate the trust provision and clarifies that such notice may be given prior to the date by which the dealer was obligated to make payment. (A.7170, Magee) (Chapter 209 of the Laws of 2005)
4. Including Timber Processing Operations in Agricultural Districts
This chapter includes certain timber processing operations among those within an agricultural district that receive certain protections from restrictive local laws and other benefits under the Agricultural Districts Law. (A.7494-A, Magee) (Chapter 573 of the Laws of 2005)
5. Making Horse Boarding Operations Eligible for Agricultural Assessments and Protection
This law makes start-up commercial horse boarding operations eligible for agricultural assessment and protection from unreasonably restrictive local laws. (A.8101, Magee) (Chapter 587 of the Laws of 2005)
6. Strengthening Farm Product Payment Protections
This chapter modifies provisions governing the licensing of farm products dealers regarding the definition of prompt payment, creating an exemption from filing a bond or letter of credit, and the manner of a processor's notifying the Commissioner of stated grape prices. (A.8104, Magee) (Chapter 490 of the Laws of 2005)
7. Clarifying Farm Wineries Authority to Grow and Sell Grapes
This law adds language to Chapter 83 of the Laws of 2005 to clarify that, while specifically permitting farm wineries to purchase out-of-state grapes in certain circumstances, those wineries also have the authority to manufacture and sell wine produced from such grapes. (A.8851, Rules (Magee)) (Chapter 286 of the Laws of 2005)
8. Promoting Urban "Greenmarkets"
This bill would provide for the planning and development of regionally-based urban greenmarkets. Such markets would be similar to existing farmers' markets, but would target the need to provide New York producers with increased market opportunities while assisting with revitalization in cities and urban areas. This would be accomplished by bringing farm products and crafts into such areas and allowing for direct sales to consumers. (A.869, McEneny) (Passed Assembly)
New York State has approximately 36,000 farms and 7.6 million acres of farmland that produce corn, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. Unfortunately, the conversion of farmland to forest and suburban housing continues at a significant rate. Preserving farmland remains an important challenge to State government. Programs proposed by the Assembly Agriculture Committee are directed at ensuring that essential farm operations are recognized by the state regulatory framework and easing financial burdens on farmers.
1. Encouraging the Development of Local Farmland Protection Plans
This Chapter grants municipal access to state dollars for the development of municipal agricultural and farmland protection plans to promote continued agricultural use of farmland inside town borders. (A.4534-C, Magee) (Chapter 527 of the Laws of 2005)
2. Maintaining Viable Farming in Agricultural Districts
This Chapter encourages the maintenance of viable farming by allowing the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets to review administrative regulations and procedures proposed by other state agencies that may have an adverse impact on agriculture and farm operations in New York State. The law provides that the Commissioner may either voluntarily initiate the review or conduct such a review after a request from the New York State Advisory Council on Agriculture. (A.5479, Koon) (Chapter 688 of the Laws of 2005)
3. Creating an Inventory of Farms and Farmland for Sale
This bill would assist beginning or expanding farmers by making readily available information regarding farms and farmland for sale throughout New York State. The bill would require the Department of Agriculture and Markets to initiate and maintain an inventory of farms and farmland for sale in the state. (A.4798, Magee) (Passed Assembly)
4. Consulting on Land Use Regulations Regarding Agricultural Practices
This bill would authorize the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets, upon the request of a municipality, farm owner or operator, to render an opinion to local government officials on land use regulations pertaining to agricultural practices. (A.5744, Cahill) (Passed Assembly)
Dairy products are vitally important to the economy of New York State, representing the vast majority of the State's agricultural industry. New York remains third in the nation for both milk and cheese production and is the top producer of these commodities in the Northeast. Although cash receipts have improved following a year-long upswing in milk prices, bottom lines continue to be unstable for many dairy farmers as they recover from a lengthy period of record-low prices. While milk pricing is primarily established by federal order, the Chairman recognizes the continued need to help producers diversify, find new markets for their products and ensure that farmers receive payments in a prompt manner.
1. Notifying Producers Regarding Changes to Milk Marketing Agreements
This bill would require the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets to notify milk producers who are members of certain dairy cooperatives in the event of proposed changes to milk marketing agreements and/or orders. It would also require that such notification occur not less than thirty days prior to the referendum date and include the nature of the proposed amendment. (A.7353, Aubertine) (Passed Assembly)
Staffing levels at the Department's Division of Food Safety and Inspection remain a concern for the Assembly Agriculture Committee. The ratio of food inspectors to food establishments in New York State remains dangerously low, with approximately 115 inspectors for over 28,000 stores statewide. Yet, budgetary proposals continue to request the elimination of further positions. The Committee believes that this does not provide adequate protection to consumers from food-borne disease. Sickness from adulteration, improper observation of storage and other sanitary concerns pose a serious threat to public health, as does the industry's vulnerability to terrorism. In response, the Agriculture Committee passed legislation to enhance the effectiveness of New York's food safety programs. Additionally, the Committee recognized the importance of implementing sound, enforceable kosher and halal statutes.
1. Establishing a Food Safety Education Program for Retail Food Stores
This Chapter establishes a continuing education program for retail food establishments that hold a state-issued food processing license. (A.423-A, Pheffer) (Chapter 665 of the Laws of 2005)
2. Providing Consumer Protections for Purchasers of "Halal" Products
This Chapter requires clear and accurate information about food labeled "halal" to be available to consumers by requiring vendors of food and food products represented as "halal" to make the basis for that representation available to consumers. (A.5957-A, Benjamin) (Chapter 529 of the Laws of 2005)
3. Ensuring the Safety of Apple Cider
This Chapter requires that manufacturers, processors and sellers of apple cider implement a process to treat apple cider to consistently produce cider without pathogens. Apple cider sold for the purposes of manufacturing wine, vinegar and hard cider would be exempt from this requirement. (A.7410-B, Magee) (Chapter 211 of the Laws of 2005)
4. Ensuring Safe Transportation of Food Products
This bill would ensure maximum safety and quality of food products during transportation in the state by allowing Department inspectors to examine common carriers transporting food and food products under conditions that could lead to adulteration. Current law exempts common carriers from this provision. The measure would ensure that all food and food products are transported under the safest conditions at all times. (A.338, A. Gunther) (Passed Assembly)
5. Suspending Slaughterhouse Licenses after Three Consecutive Failures
This bill would require the Department to suspend licenses issued to any establishment where animals or fowls are slaughtered or butchered for food if such establishment fails three consecutive inspections. The legislation would also require these facilities to conspicuously post the results of their last sanitary inspection in a manner similar to what the state now requires for retail food stores. (A. 1280-B, Nolan) (Passed Assembly)
6. Increasing the Frequency of Slaughterhouse Inspections
This bill would require the Department to inspect every slaughterhouse in the State at least once per year and require each slaughterhouse to post a copy of such inspection. Any slaughterhouse failing three consecutive inspections would be ordered to cease operating until passing an inspection. (A.1557, Nolan) (Passed Assembly)
7. Notifying Zoning Boards of New Slaughtering Operations
This bill would require the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets or his or her authorized agent to notify municipal zoning boards in the event that a business commences additional slaughtering operations other than those for which the Department has issued a license. (A.1783, Clark) (Passed Assembly)
8. Enhancing Food Safety Programs
This bill would create a nine-member advisory board within the Department on food safety and inspection programs, which would be responsible for advising the Commissioner on the enforcement of food safety laws and regulations. The Board would also review existing and proposed laws and regulations and report to the Legislature on needed changes. (A.3714, Cook) (Passed Assembly)
New York residents care deeply for the health and safety of their pets. Information gathered during statewide hearings in previous years continued to inform the Assembly Agriculture Committee's pet agenda for 2005. As the Committee continued its progress toward needed revisions to the Agriculture and Markets' Article Seven laws governing dog licenses, the Chairman prioritized additional legislation to strengthen animal rights and encourage responsible pet ownership.
1. "Fingerprintable" Misdemeanor for Animal Cruelty
This Chapter deems animal cruelty a "Class A" misdemeanor, so that for purposes of Criminal Procedure Law, animal cruelty would be treated as a misdemeanor. (A.1011-A, Paulin) (Chapter 523 of the Laws of 2005)
2. Requiring Improved Dangerous Dog Notification in Towns and Villages
This law requires that anyone owning a dangerous dog must notify the clerk of the city, town or village in which they reside, and that a report will be filed for each street address at which a dangerous dog is located. (A.2608, Tonko) (Chapter 289 of the Laws of 2005)
3. Providing Additional Protections for Dangerous Dog Attacks
This Chapter provides additional protections for the general public from attacks by dangerous dogs, including an increase in monetary penalties for owners in both cases of first time attacks and those where a dog has previously bitten a person causing serious physical injury. The Chapter also incorporates similar provisions for restitution into the penalty provisions covering dangerous dog attacks in the Administrative Code of the City of New York. (A. 4433-A, R. Diaz) (Chapter 526 of the Laws of 2005)
4. New Dog Licensing Options for Municipalities
This law encourages the licensing of dogs and improves administrative efficiency in the dog control program by allowing dog owners the flexibility to license their pets at one, two or three-year intervals. The law also requires that licenses expire with the expiration of required rabies certificates. (A.6873, Magee) (Chapter 269 of the Laws of 2005)
5. Expanding Animal Population Control Program to Low-Income Pet Owners
This chapter makes low income pet owners in New York State eligible for low-cost spay/neuter vouchers regardless of where they obtain their pets. The Chapter also provides safeguards against falsification of information entitling a person to participate in this program. (A.7644-A, Grannis) (Chapter 534 of the Laws of 2005)
6. Authorizing a Tax Check-Off for the Animal Population Control Fund
This bill would authorize a tax check-off for gifts and contributions to the Animal Population Control Fund, which provides low cost spaying and neutering services to cat and dog owners. The measure would allow corporate and individual taxpayers to donate to this fund. (A.3651, Magee) (Passed Assembly)
7. Sanctioning Security for the Care of Abused Animals
This bill would authorize district attorneys to bring a petition to require an owner to post security for the care of an abused animal on behalf of an impounding organization. It would also clarify that all such petitions may be filed at or anytime after an arraignment on animal abuse charges. (A. 5421, Englebright) (Passed Assembly)
1. Providing Technical Amendments to the Kosher Law Protection Act
Chapter 151 of the Laws of 2004 strengthened consumer protections against false or misleading representations of foods sold or offered for sale as "kosher" by requiring vendors to disclose the basis for their representation that such foods are kosher. The statute was based on recommendations made by a task force convened by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer after federal courts declared New York's existing system for regulating kosher products unconstitutional. This chapter provides clarifications regarding the kosher certification process, advertising requirements and store signage. (A.8903, Silver) (Chapter 543 of the Laws of 2005)
2. Optical Scanning
This bill would authorize the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets to inspect and test optical scanning devices and systems. The Agriculture and Markets law would be updated to include laser scanning equipment within the scope of weights and measures provisions. This equipment scans and registers the price charged to consumers for products purchased. An error or malfunction could result in monetary losses to consumers. This legislative proposal seeks to prevent such losses by certifying the accuracy of the laser scanning devices. (A.162, Lafayette) (Passed Assembly)
3. Creating a Task Force on White Tail Deer
This bill would authorize the establishment of an interagency task force to identify and develop new and innovative ways to curtail future deer population increases as a way to mitigate further agricultural, horticultural and motor vehicle damage. The bill would also authorize the task force to identify new ways to encourage deer hunters to donate venison to charitable organizations that supply food to the poor. (A.6428, Magee) (Vetoed; memo 13 on 7/12/05)
4. Conforming Commercial Fertilizer to Pollution Standards
This bill would require fertilizer and agricultural liming materials sold in New York State to conform to pollutant standards set forth for soil conditioning products under the Environmental Conservation Law. The bill would also prohibit the sale and distribution of products with pollutant levels above those established under such law. (A.7078, Koon) (Vetoed; memo 14 on 7/12/05)
On December 16, 2005, the Assembly Agriculture Committee held a public hearing on food safety and other issues relevant to the 2005-2006 budget enacted in April. Committee members and staff also traveled statewide, meeting with different sectors of the agriculture industry to determine what more can be done to ensure that farming remains economically viable in New York State. Sight visits and informational meetings were conducted, during which valuable information from producers, processors, distributors, researchers and educational authorities was attained on a variety of issues. Subject areas included dairy economics and processing, agricultural waste management, small-scale meat processing, fruit and vegetable farming, dog licensing, Farm-to-School marketing and animal husbandry. In 2006, the Committee will consider roundtables to address, among other items, challenges surrounding the equine industry, avian influenza safeguards and the establishment of a statewide distribution system to help our farmers compete at the national level with large distributors.
The continued success of New York State farmers is vital from both an economic and environmental perspective. Since a healthy agriculture industry means jobs for New York residents, the Assembly Agriculture Committee remains dedicated to developing a more integrated and innovative approach to land preservation and stewardship, marketing and regulatory oversight to ensure the prosperity of our farms in the 21st Century and improve the overall economic health of our rural communities.
$20 Million Allocated for Agricultural Initiatives
This year the Assembly secured $161 million for the Department of Agriculture and Markets, including $20 million in aid to localities to keep successful programs strong and fund several new initiatives. Funding was provided for the following:
In this past legislative session, many bills were signed into law that protect and enhance New York State's valuable agricultural industries. The Committee will focus much of its efforts on continuing to expand marketing opportunities for New York farmers and ensuring the viability of New York agriculture in the 21st century. Pending issues include:
Other issues facing the Assembly Agriculture Committee include the establishment of a statewide pricing accuracy law for retail consumers and increasing support for Cornell's Geneva Experiment Station, which is vital to the development of innovative agricultural practices in New York State.
The Committee will examine these and other issues and will formulate possible legislative solutions, seeking input from all sectors of the agricultural community and the public.
2005 Summary of Action on All Bills Referred
CHAPTERS OF 2005
2005 Bills Passed by the Assembly
2005 Bills Vetoed by the Governor
New York State Assembly
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