(Albany, NY) Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, (Brooklyn), as Chair of the Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy, knows how hard conditions are for New York family farmers facing high costs and labor shortages and for immigrant farmworkers who must travel with their families seeking work. To address both of these problems he sponsored legislation that recently was signed into law (Chapter 684 of 2002), providing a permanent property tax break to farmers for farmworker housing and other facilities that meet all health, labor and other building codes.
According to Ortiz, "I understand the difficulties our hardworking farmers face competing in a world marketplace where other countries have lower costs and even lower standards. We don't want to lower our standards, especially for equally hardworking immigrant farmworkers and their families; we should try to raise standards and lower costs for farmers. My legislation provides an incentive for farmers to maintain or improve housing, kitchens and other farmworker buildings at the highest standards. This is a win-win law and can help farmers' bottom lines, attract farm labor and provide decent living conditions for migrant workers."
As Task Force Chair, Ortiz has been working to help New York farmers improve their financial picture through initiatives such as his Farm-to-School Law which encourages schools to buy local farm products. These efforts also benefit New York consumers and food businesses in urban and suburban areas by sustaining local agriculture and providing fresh, high quality foods that are increasingly in demand by individuals, chefs and food store owners.
Ortiz said, "Unless we create an economic environment that supports our family farmers, our constituents from Brooklyn to Buffalo won't be able to enjoy an increasingly popular food trend - locally-grown and processed fruits, vegetables, and other foods. Working together we can help farmers, farmworkers, businesses and consumers."