New York Farm Bureau testified this afternoon on behalf of its members in regards to Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget as it concerns agriculture and environmental conservation in the state. NYFB considers the spending plan to be a good start for providing the necessary programs that support New York farmers and their record of strong environmental stewardship.
“Since farmers and consumers both rely on the Department to provide critical food safety, farm animal health and plant inspection services, the Department of Agriculture and Markets is an integral Agency to the entire state of New York. The Agency’s Executive Budget overall provides a good framework to ensure that both farm and consumer interests are protected,” said Jeff Williams, New York Farm Bureau’s Deputy Director of Public Policy.
NYFB’s testimony was especially supportive of funding for various animal health programs, as well as programs designed to assist farm families directly. And following up on the Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit, the Governor once again maintained funding for the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, as well as a needed boost for hops research in order to fulfill the growing need for grown hops as a result of the just enacted farm brewery license. This also ties into the Governor’s new Taste-NY initiative that will assist New York farmers to market and sell more of their great locally grown and made products.
NYFB also asked for the Legislature to consider increasing funding up to $1,000,000 for promotion and marketing activities for New York’s apple growers. Because of crop losses last year due to a devastating frost in the spring, a grower assessment for apple promotion took a big hit, driving down the availability of marketing resources. It’s imperative to get a one-time boost in funding to recapture lost markets. In addition, NYFB is advocating for restoration of marketing funding for maple producers as well as similar funding for Christmas tree growers.
NYFB also supports additional funding for the Farmland Viability Institute which provides critical research to help increase farm profitability.
NYFB is also supporting additional funding for NY FarmNet, which provides farm families with psychological counseling and business planning support services to help them through the extremely stressful time such as dealing with farm crop loss due to a severe weather event or when the farm business is experiencing profitability challenges.
“FarmNet has helped countless farmers stay on the farm through their services, continuing to be able to produce local foods and farm products,” said Williams.
In addition, New York Farm Bureau also strongly supports the Environmental Protection Fund which champions the partnership between agriculture and the environment by funding farm environmental programs. These include the critically important Agricultural Nonpoint Source Pollution Abatement Program which is slated to receive a $1.2 million boost.
“We are very pleased the Governor recognizes that funding for this program is critical as our livestock industry is operating at a pivotal time; as farmers strive to increase dairy production in an environmentally sound way to meet the demand for New York milk from the growing Greek yogurt industry,” said Williams.
The Agricultural Environmental Management Program also would see an increase under the Governor’s plan offering farmers needed assistance in continuing to implement best management practices to further improve soil and nutrient management. NYFB is also supporting a restoration of the Environmental Stewardship Program, previously funded within the Department of Environmental Conservation, and eliminated during the last few years of budget cutting.
There are a number of other items that are included in the Governor’s budget that deserve careful consideration and thought. New York Farm Bureau remains steadfastly opposed to a proposed hike in the minimum wage, and would also like lawmakers to consider the addition of a training wage for those who are 18-years-old or younger who are being hired for seasonal employment.