Assemblyman Chris Tague (R,C,I,Ref-Schoharie) has rallied his colleagues in the Assembly Minority Conference to write a letter calling on the governor to provide financial and regulatory relief for farmers struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tague says assistance must come quickly, as many farmers were already experiencing hardships before the crisis began.
The longer we wait to give our farmers the help they need, the more food gets dumped, and the more family farms are forced to shut their doors forever, Tague said. If we have no farms, we have no food, and even more than that, we would be losing a way of life that has sustained our upstate families and communities since before the Revolutionary War. Relief must be broad, swift and meet the regulatory and financial needs of ALL farmers. We are in this together, and we cannot let our farmers get left behind as we work together to make it through this unprecedented crisis.
Measures proposed by Tague and the Assembly Minority Conference for agricultural relief 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.