Farm Bureau releases legislative priorities [The Daily Star, Oneonta, N.Y.]
Daily Star, The (Oneonta, NY)
Jan. 24—New York Farm Bureau released its 2023 state legislative priorities during a press call Tuesday.
One of the top priorities is asking state lawmakers to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, a media release said. During the pandemic, the state borrowed billions of dollars from the federal government to cover increased unemployment insurance costs. New York has been the only state that has not begun to make payments on the debt or interest, instead its passing those costs on to employers, the release said.
"The state is asking us to pay back the state's debt," Otsego County Farm Bureau President Darin Hickling said. He said a friend of his, who is a farmer, received a $4,000 bill from the state before Christmas.
He said it didn't seem fair since "most farmers worked through the pandemic and didn't lay anyone off."
Hickling said costs to farmers have increased due to inflation, the state's mandated increase in the minimum wage to $14.20 upstate and the reduction of the overtime threshold. "A lot of farmers can't set their prices to adjust for these increases in costs," he said. "On top of that are all the regulations the state bombards on us. The market is tough."
Hickling said many of the other priorities the state Farm Bureau outlined have been priorities for farmers for several years.
Other priorities outlined by NYFB President David Fisher and Public Policy Director Jeff Williams include more funding in the state budget for several programs, and the duo outlined some concerns with some proposed legislation, the release said.
The bureau would like to see important animal health, promotion, and research programs along with full funding for the Environmental Protection Fund maintained in the governor's spending plan, the release said. The EPF is responsible for helping farms implement best management practices that include soil health and nutrient management programs that protect our land and waterways. It also includes efforts to help farms meet the state's climate goals.
However, the bureau would like to see the state "Support the development of solar energy that balances private property rights and the current and future land needs of agriculture in the state.," the release said. "Whenever possible, prime soils and actively farmed lands should be avoided in favor of previously disturbed or fallow lands and rooftop development for distributed generation."
NYFB is also hopeful the governor's proposal for a refundable investment tax credit is included in the final budget. That will incentivize investment, especially coming off of challenging years of low commodity prices and then the pandemic, the release said.
The Nourish New York program should also be funded in the budget, the bureau's release said, as it has benefited both farms and people in need. It redirects fresh, locally grown food into regional food banks and emergency food pantries while also helping farms offset the costs to produce, harvest, package and transport the food.
The bureau said it is concerned about the Extended Producer Responsibility legislation. "This bill looks to pass the cost and responsibility of recycling packaging away from the consumer and to the source of the product, in this case, farms and food processors who need things like milk containers, wine bottles and food packaging to sell what they produce," the release said. "This puts an extraordinary financial burden on to the state's farms and businesses. This would eventually increase the cost of doing business and further drive-up consumer prices."
The bureau is in favor of legislation allowing for direct-to-consumer shipping for all New York produced farm beverages, including beer, cider and distillates, the release said.