SCHUYLERVILLE — Farmers Jamie Pettis III, Mike Schwerd, Amy Larmon, and Dave Wood from Saratoga County Farm Bureau spent two days in Albany visiting with lawmakers on March 6 and 7 to highlight the organization’s state public policy priorities for the year.
“Schwerd, Larmon, Wood and I took time away from our farms to build on the valuable relationships we have with our lawmakers in Albany,” said Pettis, Saratoga County Farm Bureau President, in a statement.
“It is important to cultivate relationships at every level of government so our representatives can better understand the impacts their decisions have on local farms. We will continue to advocate for public policies that will not only benefit agriculture but also support our rural communities as a whole,” Pettis added.
The farmers kicked things off with a Taste of New York Reception for state lawmakers, commissioners and staff. The county Farm Bureau hosted a table featuring pie from Smith’s Farm.
Following the evening event, members participated in the annual Lobby Day on Tuesday, March 7 where they met with their local state senators and Assembly members as well as New York City lawmakers that the county Farm Bureau adopted.
At the New York State Capitol, Saratoga County Farm Bureau advocated for a number of priorities this year. They include securing a refundable investment tax credit for farmers.
With 2015 farm income down nearly 20 percent to $5.3 billion across the state, according to the latest figures from the National Agriculture Statistics Service, it is important that tools be in place to help farmers weather the downturn. The tax credit would incentivize farm investment to meet the needs of global competition.
In addition, Saratoga County Farm Bureau pushed to double the minimum wage tax credit from $30 million to $60 million. At the beginning of the year, the first step of the minimum wage hike climbed on its way to $15 for farms on Long Island and $12.50 for upstate farmers.
New York Farm Bureau led the way in opposition to the wage hike last year, resulting in a $250 tax credit per employee for this first year of the increase. That will cover only a small fraction of what it will cost family farms to implement the wage hike.
State funding for critical farm programs is another top priority for the Farm Bureau.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo included a number of things in his budget plan that would help agriculture in the state. This includes funding for the Environmental Protection Fund, which will assist farms with water quality, conservation and farmland protection programs, as well as necessary investments into animal health programs.
Farm Bureau also asked lawmakers to restore funding for promotion and research programs that benefit agriculture. The Farm Bureau supports the governor’s proposed $2 billion clean water infrastructure program that includes $70 million for nutrient management and conservation programs to reduce farm runoff.
The Farm to Food Bank Bill is another top priority for Farm Bureau members who have seen the governor veto the popular legislation the past two years. Members asked their lawmakers to include the tax credit that encourages greater fresh food donations to regional food banks and local food pantries to be included in their one-house budget bills.
These priorities are based on member-approved public policies that originate every year at the county Farm Bureau level and are passed by the full delegate body at New York Farm Bureau’s State Annual Meeting in December.
In addition to advocating for priorities with lawmakers, Saratoga County Farm Bureau members also participated in a special panel discussion with the Commissioners from the Departments of Agriculture and Markets, Environmental Conservation and Labor. Members were able to ask questions about a number of issues facing the state’s family farms.