Measures to support new St. Lawrence County farmers included in final state budget
Monday, March 31, 2014 - 2:37 pm

State Sen. Patty Ritchie (R-Heuvelton) says that key elements of her “Young Farmers NY” plan to support and encourage careers in agriculture are included in the final state budget.

Ritchie, the Senate Agriculture Committee Chair, said the budget also adds new funding for agriculture programs that she says can help farmers succeed.

Ritchie’s 48th District includes northern St. Lawrence County including Ogdensburg, Canton, Gouverneur, Oswegatchie, Waddington, Lisbon, Madrid, Louisville, DeKalb, DePeyster, Hermon, Edwards, Fowler, Rossie, Macomb, Morristown, and Hammond, plus Jefferson and Oswego counties.

Sen. Joe Griffo (R-Rome) issued a press release noting most of the same facts.  Griffo represents the 47th Senate District, which includes the St. Lawrence County towns of Massena, Brasher, Norfolk, Stockholm, Potsdam, Pierrepont, Russell, Clifton, Fine and Pitcairn, along with Lewis and Oneida counties.

The $1 million Young Farmers NY initiative includes Ritchie’s proposal for new farmer innovation grants—now called the “NY Beginning Farmer Fund”—of up to $50,000 each to help start or expand an agriculture business. That would amount to 20 such grants if all $1 million were applied.

In addition, the budget will include $100,000 for student loan forgiveness for agriculture college graduates who commit to farming careers, increased funding for the in-school agriculture leadership–focused FFA (formerly known as “Future Farmers of America”) program, and changes the estate tax, to make it easier for families with substantial farm holdings to pass on their business to the next generation.

Studies have shown that the average age of farmers is slowing creeping up and that retiring farmers are not being replaced by a new generation, raising questions about the future of this industry.

The budget also includes the highest funding in at least six years for agriculture marketing, education and research programs.

The record $8.5 million in increased agriculture support includes $25,000 for the St. Lawrence and Jefferson County low-cost rabies vaccine program and $600,000 for the Northern NY Agricultural Development Program.