Rural Update • Summer 2004
The Legislative Commission on
Rural Resources
Sheldon Silver, Speaker • David R. Koon, Vice-Chair

Dear Friends,

This year I was appointed Vice-Chair of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources. The Commission was created to examine the impact of rural communities and industries on the state’s economy, to review existing laws as they pertain to rural NY, and make recommendations to the Legislature to enhance and protect our valuable rural resources. This new assignment has given me an opportunity to be a strong advocate for upstate New York. Areas of work include economic development, health care, land use, local government structure and others.

This newsletter is an update of the issues we’ve been working on and other information of interest. As always, do not hesitate to contact me with your ideas or questions.

David R. Koon
Legislative Commission
on Rural Resources

Roundtable on Agricultural Land
Stewardship Held in Watertown

Members of Assembly Darrel Aubertine, David Koon and Bill Magee held a meeting to discuss three important farming issues: manure management; reducing pesticide use; and, disposal of plastics. Participants included representatives from several Cooperative Extensions, the Farm Bureau, Cornell University, farmers, private industry and others who offered many suggestions on areas for further study and ways the state could help farmers improve their bottom line and protect the environment at the same time.

Roundtable participants at Jefferson Community College in Watertown.
Manure Management. If managed properly, manure can be an excellent crop nutrient source and soil conditioner. If inadequately managed, manure increases contaminants in water and increases odors. New technologies may efficiently produce energy from anaerobic digestion of manure. Participants suggested that the Legislature:

  • Consider creation of cooperatives for digesters and/or composters; and
  • Research the feasibility of large-scale county-wide digesters.

Reducing Pesticide Use. Modern farmers are incorporating the careful use of pesticides into integrated pest management programs (IPM). IPM conserves beneficial insects while minimizing pesticide use. It was suggested that the Legislature:

  • Support ongoing pesticide and pesticide container collection programs; and
  • Research new pest issues that result from global trade.

Did you know?

  • NYS Executive Law defines 44 of NY’s 62 counties as rural.
  • St. Lawrence County has the largest amount of farmland in New York State.
  • Hamilton County has only 5,379 residents.
Disposal of Plastics. Use of plastics has been growing as a storage method in agricultural operations. Plastic is lightweight, convenient and economical for farmers, but has the downside of difficult disposal. Participants at the roundtable suggested that the Legislature:

  • Consider providing incentives for the creation and expansion of recycling businesses; and
  • Research effective recycling methods to deal with low quality of ag plastics.

Rural Resources Commission Visits Cornell University

Assemblyman Koon, Vice-Chair of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, and Senator Patricia McGee, Chair of the Commission, visited Cornell University in May to hear updates of the many rural activities taking place on and off campus.

New York State Farm Viability Institute. A new not-for-profit program to provide technical and business assistance, feasibility studies, networking and other assistance in areas such as dairy product value enhancement, crop value enhancement through processing and value added horticulture.

Local Government Program. Results from a recent Empire State Poll found that New Yorkers feel that the most burdensome tax is the local property tax, while at the same time they feel that they get the best services from local government. This poses interesting questions for policy makers.

Rural New York Initiative. Areas of research in this program include: the changing structure of agriculture and food systems; poverty and social inequality; environment and society; and, community and economic development.

Rural Research Roundtable. Faculty and staff from many Cornell departments get together regularly to discuss rural issues and priorities. Mr. Koon and Ms. McGee participated in a wide-ranging discussion of issues such as: education; medical care shortages; pollutants; economic development; and the lack of an overall solid vision for New York’s rural areas.

Commission Legislative Highlights

The following bills passed the Assembly and Senate and await approval by the Governor.

No Interest Loans for Physicians. Assembly bill 10338/Senate bill 6809, sponsored by Assemblyman Koon would provide financial assistance for physicians establishing practices in rural, underserved areas. Loans could be used for equipment purchases only. Enactment of this bill would be one step toward addressing the physician shortage in our rural communities.

Micro Business RLF Assistance Grants. Assembly bill 6679-A (Lifton) would create a micro business revolving loan fund (RLF) to assist with small, agriculture related, value-added businesses.

Farmland Viability. Assembly bill 9520-A (A. Gunther) clarifies the definition of an applicant in the farmland viability program. Section 329 of the Agriculture and Markets Law was created “…to improve the profitability, efficiency, and farm income of participating farms. The program shall provide technical and financial assistance in the form of matching grants to applicants for projects which contribute to overall farm profitability and sound environmental management.”

Assemblyman David Koon (2nd from left), Vice-Chair of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, and Agriculture Committee Chair Assemblyman Bill Magee (4th from left), toured the Kraft cheese plant in Lowville, NY. This plant makes cream cheese using milk from local dairy farmers.

Health Care Shortages Hit Rural New York

According to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures, “persistent and worsening shortages of physicians and other health care workers have contributed to a weakening overall health care infrastructure in many rural areas.” It is becoming all too common in rural areas for the nearest hospital or health care facility to be understaffed — or worse, to close. Lack of funding to support these facilities, increasing Medicaid costs and the lack of medical professionals who are willing to practice in rural areas are just a few reasons for this situation. The Healthcare Association of New York State estimates that only about 10% of physicians in America practice in rural areas, despite the fact that 25% of the population resides in rural communities.

To provide an incentive for doctors to practice in rural areas Assemblyman David Koon sponsored a bill this session (Assembly bill 10338) that has passed the Legislature and, if signed by the Governor, will provide financial assistance for the purchase of medical equipment for physicians who start up practices in rural, underserved areas. Interest-free loans would be made available for the purchase of medical equipment such as x-ray machines, examination tables and other necessary apparatus.

Assemblyman Koon sponsors two other bills aimed at addressing the health care shortage by allowing tax credits for physicians who practice in designated shortage areas (A.10024/S.6810) and by providing money for a loan forgiveness program for physicians who come from and return to a rural health professional shortage area (A.10023/S.6808).

Grant Provides Internet Access for Rural
and Inner City Clinics

The Western New York Area Health Education Center (AHEC), in collaboration with the University of Rochester’s Miner Library and Rochester General Hospital’s Werner Health Services Library, has received a grant from the National Library of Medicine. The 13 clinics that will participate in this project span a six county region, eleven of which are in rural areas, while 2 are in the inner city.

The goal of this project is to improve the health of those living in underserved areas by helping to ensure that health care professionals have access to, and are trained in the use of, the internet. The newest research on health care, as well as information promoting prevention and healthy living, will be at their fingertips. For more information on AHEC programs throughout the state, go to

Members of Assembly (left to right) Darrel Aubertine, David Koon and Bill Magee at the Roundtable on Agricultural Land Stewardship.

Agricultural Plastics Questions and Answers

What are those giant marshmallows you’ve seen in farm fields? They are actually round balls of hay covered in white plastic. Plastic is lightweight, convenient and economical for farmers and is used for row covers, silage bags, bale wrap, etc.

The most serious question raised by the increased use of ag plastics is disposal. Since it does not readily decompose, plastic is sometimes burned or buried — not sound environmental practices. Used plastic is difficult to recycle due to poor quality and contamination from dirt, debris, and moisture.

Assemblyman Koon will continue to look into viable alternatives to burning and dumping that protect the environment and make economic sense. Currently there is research being done on biodegradable corn-based films that can be sprayed on, better collection programs and improved recycling methods.

Specialty Plate Benefits Ag in the Classroom

You can purchase a specialty license plate to show your support for agriculture and help fund the Agriculture in the Classroom program which is a joint partnership between NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, NYS Education Department, Farm Bureau, and Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The plate is a result of legislation from the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources. For more information see your local DMV office or

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