Despite this year’s state budget failing to deliver on controlled spending, major tax relief, and transparency and openness throughout the negotiation process, significant investments in agriculture have been made in an attempt to stimulate this vital industry and improve the upstate economy.
The agriculture industry contributes significantly to the economy of New York state, bringing in more than $3 billion annually. However, New York farms are faced with high overhead, increased taxes and regulations, and soaring operating costs, which are jeopardizing the future of farming in the state.
To combat these burdensome obstacles, I supported a $5 million increase in funding for Farmland Protection, as well as a $1.1 million investment in New York Agritourism, and $500,000 for the Farmers Wholesale Market in New York City where wholesalers will be able to purchase goods from upstate farmers.
Also enacted in this year’s budget is the Dairy Assistance Program, which provides $30 million in aid to dairy farmers statewide who have been hurt by below average milk prices and elevated operating costs.
The program provides cash payments to eligible dairy farmers equaling the difference of the target price established by the commissioner of Agriculture and Markets.
All New York state dairy producers who produced milk in 2006 and who were in operation as of April 1, 2007 are eligible to apply. Applications must be completed and postmarked no later than April 27, 2007 with payments mailed by May 9, 2007.
I encourage anyone with questions about the program or those who need an application to contact my Albion district office at (585) 589-5780 for more information.
As we look to the future of New York state farming, there are important measures not included in this year’s budget that I will continue to fight for as we seek to strengthen our agriculture industry.
To achieve this goal, my conference and I support the New York Farmer Recruitment and Retention Act, a scholarship and loan forgiveness program for full-time farmers with incentives for young people to enter the farming profession. Furthermore, the Agriculture Alternative Energy Loan Program would provide a low interest loan program to farmers for the construction of manure digesters that will turn animal by-products into energy.
I also favor an enhanced Dairy Assistance Program. While I feel the $30 million dedicated to the program in this year’s budget is a good start, I will continue to push for an additional $30 million in funding for this much-needed program.
In order to assist farmers who have been hurt by weather related damage, I am proposing legislation to provide grants based on the previous year’s crop sales that will aid in the farm’s recovery.
As a member of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture, I am regularly faced with important legislation that has direct impact on our region’s farming industry. I will continue to support measures that are meant to promote the farming industry as well as provide relief for dairy and all farmers across New York state.