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NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION
submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A7002B SPONSOR: Magee (MS)
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the agriculture and markets law and the public lands law, in relation to access to viable agricultural land for new and beginning farmers   PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: Would direct the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to enhance access to viable agricultural land for new and beginning farmers and would direct the Commissioner of the Office of General Services to work with the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets to develop an inventory of state-owned real property that may be viable for farming.   SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: The bill would amend the Agriculture and Markets Law to: - add a new subdivision 2-d to aid in efforts supporting the successful transfer of viable agricultural land from existing owners to new owners and operators, especially beginning farmers; - amend subdivision 5 of § 309 to require the Agriculture Advisory Coun- cil to provide guidance regarding tax, financial assistance and other policies and programs that could address the needs of new farmers to the Commissioner and state agencies; - amend section § 323 to require the Commissioner to report to the Governor and Legislature to enhance access to viable agricultural land for new and beginning farmers; and, - add a new § 329-a requiring the department to collect and compile information about both public and private lands available for purchase or leasing for farming, and make such information available on its internet website. The bill would amend § 2 of Public Lands Law to: -add a new subdivision 2-a directing the Commissioner of the Office of General Services to work with the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets to develop an inventory of available land for farming; -add a new subdivision 2-b requiring the Commissioner of OGS to report to the Governor and the Legislature within one year of the effective date on issues related to selling state lands for farming; and, -add a new subdivision 3-a directing the Commissioner of OGS to work with other state agencies to identify land that may be viable for farm- ing.   JUSTIFICATION: The most recent federal census of agriculture in 2007 found that the average age of farmers in NYS is about 56, up from 50 in the early 1980s. Facing that reality, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture has set a goal of recruiting 100,000 new farmers across the country to replace those that are retiring. Farming is a difficult business; several factors, such as the complex process of transferring ownership of farms and prohibitive capital costs, contribute to the aging of the farm population and present barriers to younger farmers gaining access to land. There is increasing interest by young people hoping to find viable land they can farm. Trends in the marketplace such as the recent growth in Greek yogurt and other dairy processors, and increased demand for locally grown foods and beverages from consumers, food service busi- nesses and institutions, highlight the importance of assisting new farm- ers starting out. This bill would emphasize assistance for new and beginning farmers in existing state law. For example, it would require the State's Agricul- ture Advisory Council to provide advice to State agencies regarding tax, financial assistance and other policies and programs that could address the needs of beginning farmers and the issues they face related to the transfer of ownership of farms. It would also encourage the identifica- tion of properties owned by the State that are viable for farming, could be sold or leased for that purpose, and promote that information among those interested in purchasing or leasing those properties.   PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: This is a new bill.   FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: Undetermined.   EFFECTIVE DATE: Immediate.