New York State Assembly Albany, New York 12248

2001 Legislative Update
from the
NYS Assembly

Sheldon Silver, Speaker Square William Magee, Chairman Square Fall 2001

William Magee Chairman Assembly Agriculture Committee

"The Assembly Agriculture Committee has taken the lead in developing programs and policies that will greatly enhance the outlook for New York farmers - after all, without our farmers, we don’t eat."

William Magee
Assembly Agriculture Committee

A Message from the Chairman

As New York’s top industry, agriculture contributes over $3 billion annually to the State’s economy. The Assembly Agriculture Committee is working to preserve this tradition and increase the economic viability of New York farmers.

Our farmers provide us with fresh, nutritious foods — feeding both New York’s residents and economy. Clearly, agriculture is the one industry whose products will always be in demand and by taking advantage of this we will stimulate the immense re-growth of the farming economy.

The outlook is brightening and the future is promising as we move forward with the creation and introduction of farm-to-city programs that will create a direct pathway between New York’s farmers, consumers and urban dwellers. One of the keys to agriculture in this new century is marketing — it’s not how much you can produce, but how much you can sell that will ultimately determine the profitability of agriculture.

This newsletter highlights our 2001 legislative successes and accomplishments that will have a positive effect on our farmers for years and years to come.

William Magee
Chair, Assembly Agriculture Committee

Manure goes high-tech

More and more, farmers are finding new, environmentally sound ways to deal with the manure generated on their farms. Rather than simply spreading it on fields, they are, among other things, harnessing the methane gas that it produces and using it to generate electricity.

To assist in this effort, a new law has been enacted — A.4910 (Chapter 374 Laws of 2001), sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Magee — that includes manure processing and handling facilities within the definition of "farm operations."

"Locally Grown, Locally Known" Selling New York Agriculture

Knowing where your food comes from…

With more and more food being imported to the United States and New York State, Assemblyman Bill Magee has introduced a series of bills to help consumers identify where the food they are buying was originally produced. These include:

Arrow Assembly bill A.3264 , which requires the country of origin to be displayed for all produce and vegetables sold in New York State.

Arrow Assembly bill A.7384, which requires the country of origin to be displayed for all meat and veal products sold in New York State.

Arrow Assembly bill A.4951, which passed the Assembly this session, would require the name of the city, village, or hamlet, along with the zip code of where milk is processed to be displayed on the milk carton.

Providing consumers with this sought after information would enable them to choose "locally grown, locally known" New York State products.

Helping farmers get their
"Slice of the Big Apple"

Photo Chairman Magee along with Bonnie Bargstedt of New York Beef Producers and Stanley Fleishman and Gene Casazza of Jetro Cash and Carry.
Knowing the great potential that the untapped New York City market holds for New York farmers, Chairman Magee is working with the New York Wine & Grape Foundation to kick off the "Getting our Slice of the Big Apple: Creating a New York Cuisine" campaign. Its goal is to increase the amount of New York wines, vegetables, fruit and other products sold in New York City.

Additionally, Chairman Magee and other legislators — accompanied by a coalition of farmers, producers, and extension and economic development staff — recently toured Jetro Cash & Carry’s Food Distribution Center in New York City. The goal of this visit was to promote New York agricultural products to New York City consumers. As one of the largest wholesale food distributors in New York City, Jetro sells mostly to mom-and-pop corner stores and "bodegas." Jetro is working with Chairman Magee, as well as various agricultural groups around the state, to vigorously promote New York farm products in New York City. This is an important partnership between rural producers and urban consumers that must be utilized in order to increase the revenue and profitability of New York’s family farms.

Linking agriculture and education with Farm-to-School Program

With schools preparing over 1.5 million meals every day with a value in excess of $500 million per school year, the Assembly is taking the lead in promoting the purchase of New York grown and produced farm products by schools and colleges. Introduced by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, the Chair of the Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy, Assembly bill A.7684 calls for the creation of a Farm-to-School Program that would direct the Education Department to encourage schools to purchase New York farm products. It also provides easy access to purchasing information for schools, universities, and other educational institutions. This bill is awaiting action by the governor.

Vending milk now easier in New York

In an effort to create a larger vending market for New York milk products, Assemblyman Bill Magee introduced legislation (A.5925) that would exempt registered vending machine companies who must comply with the state sanitary code from also being registered as milk dealers. This law was created in order to ease the duplicative regulatory burden that vending companies faced when selling milk, thus making it easier for milk vendors to distribute their product in New York. The goal of this bill is to form a strong partnership with vending companies in order to create a larger market for vending milk from machines. This will aid both the dairy industry and the vending industry as well as promote milk to more consumers. One of Assemblyman Magee’s main goals is to place milk vending machines in public schools as a healthy alternative to soda machines. The bill has passed both the Senate and Assembly and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

Growing New York Agriculture

Assembly shines to New York wines

With New York State’s wine and grape industry generating over $500 million annually in sales and $85 million in state and local tax revenue, the Assembly is moving to help the wine and grape industries become an even greater economic force both in New York State and throughout the United States. Among the bills that have been introduced are:

Photo Chairman Magee along with Committee Member Francine DelMonte, Wine and Grape Foundation Director Jim Trezise and Cambria Wine Cellars co-owner Peter Smith.

Square Assembly bill A.8646, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Magee, which clarifies the right of off-the-premise tourist wineries to sell wine on Sunday.

Square Assembly bill A.5662, sponsored by Assemblywoman Naomi Matusow, which authorizes wineries to conduct tastings of brandy manufactured by that winery.

Square Assembly bill A.6658, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Magee, which allows beer wholesalers to begin selling New York wine to bars and restaurants in an effort to increase the number of New York wines in New York restaurants.

Assembly saddles up to help equine industry

The equine industry is a growing and positive influence in New York agriculture, creating thousands of jobs and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Recognizing the importance of horse and livestock breeding and boarding to the agricultural economy, the Assembly has passed two bills sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Magee that would aid operators of horse boarding facilities. Assembly bill A.3515-A adds the business of commercial horse boarding to the state’s definition of "farm operations." The other bill, A.4621, offers a property tax exemption to horse breeders and boarders by defining the operations as "agricultural and horticultural" under the real property tax law. These bills are both awaiting action by the governor.

Governor vetoes land use protection bill

A bill of great interest to farmers and local governments passed the Assembly, but was recently vetoed by the governor. This bill, A.29-B (sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin Cahill) would have authorized the state Commissioner of Agriculture to render an opinion to a municipality upon request in any case where farm operations could be unreasonably restricted by proposed changes in local land use regulations. This could avoid unreasonable treatment of farmers by municipalities and provide further protection for agriculture, New York’s largest industry.

Reviving rural New York

Photo Chairman Magee along with Frank Adamski peddling cheese at the New York State Fair’s annual Cheese Auction.

The Assembly has made improving the economy of rural New York one of its top priorities, as demonstrated by the following bills:

Square Assembly bill A.5862, sponsored by Assemblyman Jacob Gunther, creates a rural revitalization program to provide financial assistance to the state’s rural economy. This bill is awaiting action by the governor.

Square Assembly bill A.5800, also sponsored by Assemblyman Jacob Gunther, establishes an agribusiness revolving loan fund to assist in developing commodities using agricultural and forest products. This bill passed the Assembly and is awaiting action by the Senate.

Safeguarding Livestock Health

Assembly gathers information about livestock diseases

Photo Chairman Magee, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz at a hearing on Emerging Livestock Diseases in New York City.
With the tragic consequences of Europe’s livestock disease outbreak fresh in the minds of farmers within the United States, members of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and the Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy -- led by Committee Chairman Magee, Task Force Chairman Felix Ortiz and Assemblywoman Margaret Markey — implemented a program of informing and discussing diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease and BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy), better known as "Mad Cow Disease." By conducting these public hearings and roundtable discussions throughout the state, it was found that the state and federal governments already have many safeguards in place to prevent the introduction of Foot and Mouth Disease and BSE. Presently, the Agriculture Committee is exploring ways the Legislature can enhance these already strong protections.

Improvements to Cornell Diagnostic Lab

Animal health is one of the top issues in agriculture, and New York State can take great pride in the research facilities at Cornell University. In order to broaden and strengthen the services offered by the Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell, the Assembly and Senate passed legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Magee to improve upon the Diagnostic Lab’s array of services through the creation of an advisory board to the laboratory and an animal health issues committee to better address livestock diseases. This bill is awaiting action by the governor.

Farm Vehicles, Pest Compacts & More

Photo Chairman Magee proudly drives his classic Minneapolis Moline in the DeRuyter Firemen’s Fair.

Other important bills that have been introduced include:

Arrow Assembly bill A.8596, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Magee, authorizes New York State to join the Interstate Pest Compact to provide financial assistance in deterring and controlling the outbreak of foreign pests. (This bill is awaiting action by the governor.)

Arrow Assembly bill A.5865-A, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Magee, allows farm vehicles to operate on public highways for the purpose of transporting them to a repair shop or garage. (This bill has been referred to the Assembly Codes Committee.)

Arrow Assembly bill A.4228, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Magee, exempts farm vehicles from the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Financial Security Act. (This bill has been referred to the Assembly Agriculture Committee.)

Arrow Assembly bill A.8969, sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Magee, increases the penalties for those who knowingly and willfully destroy crops.

Project MOO to put milk vending
machines out in the open

Working on a proposal dubbed Milk Out in the Open or Project MOO, Assemblyman Bill Magee is seeking to put milk vending machines into schools, workplaces, parks, sports fields and other venues. This proposal includes initial and follow up surveys exploring the attitudes of people towards milk and charting the purchases of all vended products including milk, soda, water and fruit juices as well as a promotional campaign to encourage individuals to purchase milk from vending machines. Though a solid time frame has not yet been developed, it is hoped that the first milk vending machines will roll out in early to mid 2002.

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