It’s been a challenging past few years for farmers. The New York Farm Bureau laid out priorities Wednesday that focused on supporting legislation this upcoming year that could provide financial relief to farmers in need.
That means paying close attention to the final budget agreement. New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said he’s pleased that Governor Cuomo increased the aid to localities budget for agriculture by $5 million.
“This commitment to the much needed research, promotion, and marketing programs is for a wide range of commodities including dairy, wine, maple, apple, Christmas tree, onions, and much more,” he said.
Fisher said the value for ag. production was just over $5 billion dollars for 2017. That’s more than a billion dollars below where it was five years ago.
Public Policy Director Jeff Williams said one goal is to change the unemployment insurance tax that farmers are currently forced to pay for H-2-A workers. Those foreign workers who come to the country are on a contractual visa for a certain amount of time.
“But they have to go back at a contractually obligated date,” Williams said. “Legislation that we’d like to see pass would be to remove that obligation for employers to pay that unemployment insurance tax on those workers because those workers are returned back to their country and are unable to collect that unemployment benefit.”
The money in this situation currently goes to the state. Williams said New York is the only state in the nation that does this. Something else the Farm Bureau is eyeing? Mandatory law enforcement training regarding animal abuse.
“We were the main advocates for legislation that was passed a couple years ago to mandate training for law enforcement and district attorneys on animal cruelty laws so they can best go out on the farms when there are reports of animal cruelty to really figure out what’s going on and see what kind of law would need to be implemented to enforce or possibly say there’s nothing really going on here at all,” Williams said.
There is also some potentially positive news for dairy farmers. Farm Bureau officials believe the market this fall could be stronger than it has been the past few years.
The Farm Bureau plans to release their federal priorities sometime next month.