The Assembly Minority Conference
The Assembly Minority Conference today called for New York State to minimize the crushing impacts that the COVID-19 outbreak has had on the states agriculture industry. In a letter to Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders, Assembly Minority members urged swift action to help farmers manage the current economic downturn and facilitate a full recovery.
The measures recommended by the Assembly Minority include loosening regulatory expenses and requirements on farmers, broadening eligibility standards to ensure farmers receive federal stimulus money and expanding markets to foster greater opportunities for farms to move their products.
Due to a number of economic factors, New Yorks farmers have faced a steep, uphill climb for several years. COVID-19 has now exacerbated the situation to a degree that no one could have predicted, Minority Leader Will Barclay said. Our agriculture industry is facing a perfect storm which many may not survive. Its time the Legislature, governor and state agencies step up and deliver. The well-being of our farmers is a central component of any possible recovery.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak and associated financial crisis, New Yorks agriculture industry has been struggling in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Census data showed that New York State lost 2,100 farms between 2012 and 2017, including a 20 percent drop in dairy farms during that time.
Measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 have caused severe market disruptions and dramatic shifts in the supply chain for the states 33,400 farms. The Assembly Minoritys recommendations include:
- Suspend, for one year, DMV registration requirements for agricultural vehicles and farm trucks;
- Suspend the highway use tax, special hauling permit fees and collection of New York State tolls for vehicles used to transport agricultural products, including milk;
- Suspend, for one year, the 60-hour overtime threshold for farm laborers enacted as part of the 2019 Farm Labor bill;
- Suspend, during the state of emergency period, the 24-hour agricultural rest requirement;
- Extend the Milk Producers Security Fund to help producers who are unable to sell because of COVID-19;
- Use additional federal stimulus money for direct cash infusions for Cornell Cooperative Extensions to assist in the provision of emergency services;
- Use federal stimulus funding to invest in rural broadband infrastructure to assist in the provision of services to farms/rural areas during uncertain social and economic times;
- Provide vouchers for food banks to purchase local dairy and agricultural products; and
- Stipulate green nurseries as essential businesses for the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis so that these businesses can re-open while following social-distancing guidelines.
A copy of the letter is available by clicking here.