Rural Update • Summer 2006
The Legislative Commission on
Rural Resources
Sheldon Silver, Speaker • David R. Koon, Vice-Chair

Assemblyman David R. Koon

David R. Koon
Legislative Commission on Rural Resources


268 Fairport Village Landing
Fairport, NY 14450


Room 643 LOB
Albany, NY 12248


Focus on Rural Healthcare

Assemblyman Koon sponsored a Rural Healthcare forum in December 2005 to gain a better understanding of the difficulties in recruiting and retaining physicians in rural New York. Those invited included physicians in private practice, representatives from the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) that focus on workforce issues, and representatives of healthcare coalitions and rural hospitals. Participants recommended that: medical schools should be encouraged to consider rural students for enrollment and rewarded for doing so; school children in rural areas should be mentored and educated about becoming a physician in a rural community; and technical assistance should be provided to doctors for start-up of their practices to allow them more time to see their patients.

This past June, Assemblyman Koon’s Commission staff met with the Rural Medical Education Program, affiliated with the SUNY Upstate Medical University, which has been working to alleviate the problem of the shortage of physicians in rural areas. They place third year medical school students in rural communities full time for 9 months. The faculty from the Program plan to work with the Commission on developing policy solutions to rural healthcare issues, especially the problem of recruitment and retention of physicians.

Assemblyman Koon plans to hold additional meetings or hearings on the healthcare problems facing rural communities. He has also introduced the following bills.

  • A.7077 – Would provide for loan forgiveness for physicians who return to medical specialty shortage areas of origin to practice.

  • A.7079 – Would provide an income tax credit for physicians who agree to practice designated specialities in communities determined by the NYS Regents as designated physician specialty shortage areas.

  • A.8155-A – Would authorize the Charles D. Cook Office of Rural Health to conduct a study of employment incentive options for physicians in underserved, rural areas. (This bill has passed both houses of the legislature and is before the Governor.)

Rural New York Visioning

photo Assemblyman David Koon, Vice Chair of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, talks with participants at the Future of Rural New York Symposium held in July.

The NYS Legislative Commission on Rural Resources has been working with Cornell University on a collaborative project to develop a vision for rural New York’s future. The partners include Cornell’s Community & Rural Development Institute (CaRDI), the Department of Development Sociology’s Rural New York Initiative (RNYI), Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Commission. The project goals are: creating a common vision of rural New York; fostering a productive dialogue among stakeholders that include academics, state and local government officials, business owners, healthcare providers, farmers, and other concerned citizens; and strengthening and improving policies that promote vibrant growth in New York’s rural areas.

This year, Cornell and the Commission conducted 11 listening sessions with over 300 participants across the state as the first phase in the visioning project. The sessions were a way of bringing interested parties together to discuss and gather information on some of the unique issues facing rural areas. Because rural areas have such diverse needs, the sessions divided participants into theme areas that included: rural economic development; workforce development; agriculture and food systems; land use, environment and natural resources; rural healthcare; housing and transportation; local and regional governance; energy; rural schools and youth; community capacity and social networks; and poverty. Each group shared information, identified challenging issues and opportunities, discussed local, regional, and state-level policies that work, identified policies and programs that needed improvements, and made recommendations for new initiatives.

In July of this year Cornell and the Commission sponsored another major component of the rural visioning project, the Future of Rural New York Symposium. The goal of the July Symposium was to build upon the information gathered at the listening sessions and formulate policy and program proposals in each theme area, with recognition of the inter-connectedness of many issues. The Symposium brought together more than 175 participants from agriculture, the business community, schools, healthcare, local agencies, state agencies, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Cornell faculty.

Participants were again divided into small working groups covering the theme areas for more in-depth discussions. Legislators from the Rural Resources Commission chaired 10 theme area workgroups and a panel discussion of the workgroup proposals. The results of the Symposium will be incorporated into a report covering the entire project.

The Symposium recommendations included:

  • using schools as community centers;

  • providing incentives for local government partnering and consolidation;

  • promoting a State focus on wellness and disease prevention;

  • providing incentives to landlords for affordable housing;

  • developing an inventory of renewable energy resources and markets; and,

  • improving connections between agriculture and communities to improve health and farm profits.

The final visioning project report and recommendations will be a valuable tool for the Commission as they develop their legislative agenda for the coming legislative session. For more information on the Rural New York Initiative, including the report, please visit the website at: or call CaRDI (607-255-9510) or the LCRR (518-455-3999).

Rural Resources Legislative Highlights

Over two dozen wide-ranging bills were sponsored by the Commission this year. Highlights include legislation that would:

  • A.5480 (Koon)/S.2618 Provide matching grants to cluster-based industries and agribusinesses, such as wine and grape or bio-fuel crops and production, under the rural revitalization program of the New York State Urban Development Corporation, for the purpose of increasing and/or retaining employment opportunities and contributing to the growth or revitalization of rural areas — passed Assembly;

  • A.5633-C (Koon)/S.2747-C Direct the Department of Economic Development to recommend alternative financial and other incentives and programs to hasten the expansion and deployment of broadband services for economic development in underserved, rural areas — signed by the Governor, Chapter 295 of the Laws of 2006;

  • A.8155-A (Koon)/S.7324 Authorize the Charles D. Cook Office of Rural Health to conduct a study of employment incentive options to attract physicians to underserved, rural areas — passed both houses, awaiting action by the Governor;

  • A.9995-A (Koon)/S.6767-A Adds a definition of “agricultural tourism,” which includes activities such as apple festivals or wine tours, to the Ag & Markets Law listing “sound agricultural practices,” which are protected from nuisance lawsuits — passed both houses, awaiting action by the Governor;

  • A.10194-A (Koon)/S.6940-A Eliminate the limitation on the dollar amount a town may pay to a landowner in the event their land is taken for the purpose of improving or discontinuing a highway. Existing limitations were put in place in 1936 —passed both houses, awaiting action by the Governor;

  • A.10891-A (Gunther)/S.7718-A Authorize registered physician’s assistants and certified nurse practitioners to supervise the withdrawing of blood for the purpose of conducting a blood alcohol test in hospital emergency rooms. In rural areas, these health professionals are often the only staff on duty in emergency rooms. — passed both houses, awaiting action by the Governor; and

  • A.11606 (Koon)/S.7581 Create a dedicated fund within the State Department of Transportation (DOT) for funds received from the rental of their machinery to municipalities who may only need such equipment temporarily. The funds would be used for the repair and maintenance of the DOT equipment. Currently the funds cannot be kept by DOT — passed the Assembly.

Forum on Hispanic Immigrants in Rural New York Communities

The Legislative Commission on Rural Resources. . .

“. . .creating a common vision of rural New York; fostering a productive dialogue among stakeholders that include academics, state and local government officials, business owners, healthcare providers, farmers and other concerned citizens; strengthening and improving policies that promote vibrant growth in New York’s rural areas.”

The Commission co-sponsored a Forum in June at the Legislative Office Building in Albany where Cornell University presented research and perspectives on issues affecting year-round immigrant workers and their employers. Dr. Max Pfeffer from the Department of Developmental Sociology at Cornell and Pilar Parra from the Division of Nutritional Sciences provided a statistical portrait of the wave of Hispanic immigrants who are changing the face of many communities in rural New York. For example, in 1990 the percentage of immigrant farmworkers who briefly visited the State as seasonal migrant workers was 85%, but by 2000 that had dropped to 40%, while the percentage of farmworkers who remained in the State between growing seasons grew from 15% to nearly 60%. Many of these year-round workers are bringing family members with them. The result is rural communities with Spanish language church services and new businesses such as Mexican groceries. The research also touched on the cultural and language barriers that create problems for the workers and employers, as well as concerns among long-time residents.

The New York dairy industry is increasingly hiring these immigrant laborers and a New York dairy farmer who came to speak at the Forum praised the work ethic of his Mexican workers and credited them with keeping his operation viable. A Mexican immigrant who came to western New York to work on a dairy farm, and eventually became a citizen, told his story and offered suggestions about what type of help the workers and farmers could use, such as English and Spanish language training and the ability to legally drive.

Finally, Mary Jo Dudley, the Director of the Cornell Migrant Program, described the research and Cooperative Extension services her program provides. Students in the Program are currently providing English language training for farmworkers; Cooperative Extension provides Spanish language education on agricultural production topics, and the dairy services program provides safety training.


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