Farm Bureau gets boost with passage by state Senate Monday of two bills to ease rules on agriculture
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 6:12 am

The New York Farm Bureau's legislative agenda for 2012 has received a boost with unanimous passage in the Senate Monday of two bills that aim to ease the rules on agriculture.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Sen. Patty Ritchie said the bills would include maple sugar houses and production facilities under the definition of agricultural buildings, breaking down impediments to allowing the public to visit them on agribusiness tours and helping to grow New York’s maple products industry, and would insure that farmers who raise livestock on wooded acreage are treated the same as other agricultural operations.

The Farm Bureau's Albany agenda for 2012 includes mandate relief for both local governments and farms, maintaining funding for agriculture programs in the state budget, support for safe natural gas drilling, and increasing connections between farmers and urban consumers.

They have endorsed the overall agriculture bill that Ritchie has put forward, called the “Let New York Farm Act.” The bill is sponsored in the Assembly by Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee.

The president of the agribusines lobbying group, Dean Norton, said in presenting the Farm Bureau’s agenda, “At this critical juncture we must strive for efficiency in government while maintaining state support for industries, like agriculture that can have a multiplying effect and create jobs across all sectors. Farmers are an integral part of the fabric of communities across our state and have proven over time to that they provide a return on investment that is second to none. If passed into law, this year’s policy priorities will help to strengthen and expand family farms for years to come.”

Norton said that funding for agriculture programs in the state has been cut by 70 percent in just a few years.

Sen. Ritchie, a Republican from Heuvelton, wants to reduce the paperwork burden placed on farmers by the state.

“Crushing taxes, fees and endless paperwork are stifling investment and forcing farmers to spend more time pushing pencils and cutting red tape than actually farming. We need to remove the obstacles farmers so they compete and win against increasing global competition.”

Ritchie says the Let New York Farm Act would

· protect and strengthen local agricultural districts

· reduce permit fees for agricultural projects

· target tax credits to agricultural operations, and simplify record-keeping requirements

· exempt farm wineries from overly burdensome reporting requirements, and

· exempt rented farm vehicles from highway use tax, and reduce farm-plated vehicle fees.