County Clerk Ritchie says Senate has gutted state aid programs to farmers
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 - 6:30 am

Patty RItchie, St. Lawrence County Clerk and Republican candidate for the state Senate, is saying that the Senate has gutted state aid programs to farmers.

"Albany’s still-unfinished state budget raises spending and taxes by billions of dollars, but guts programs that are vital to the recovery of New York’s already struggling family farms," says a release from Ritchie's campaign office Tuesday.

The candidate herself is quoted as saying, "New York is losing four farms a week, and family farmers in Jefferson, Oswego and St. Lawrence Counties are fighting mightily just to hold on in the face of crumbling prices, increasing costs, taxes and overregulation.

“There is no question Albany needs to cut spending, but targeting family farms at a time when the industry already is in crisis shows once again how the New York City and downstate interests that control Albany don’t understand and just don’t care,” Ritchie said.

The release, without mentioning his name, was implicitly critical of her opponent in the contest, 48th District Sen. Darrel Aubertine, a Democrat and the Agriculture Committee chair.

The release goes on to say, "New York’s family farmers have seen a 50 percent cut since 2008 in programs that seek to help boost productivity, cut costs and increase profits. Several programs have been entirely eliminated. It may be the largest percentage cut faced by any single industry—and $5 million deeper than what the state Senate Democrats promised just weeks ago."

The new budget cuts annual funding for local agriculture programs from $30.7 million in 2008 to just $15.1, a 51 percent reduction, even as overall state spending was increased, the release said.

The release also says that state lawmakers voted to cancel $4 million in previously issued farm aid grants to groups like the Farm Viability Institute, which lost 92 percent of its annual funding. The Center for Dairy Excellence was cut by 80 percent, and the Wine and Grape Foundation lost 30 percent. Programs eliminated entirely include the North Country Agriculture Development, Maple Producers Association and Onion Research.

The release also says that the Senate’s Democrat majority promised to restore millions in cuts to agriculture, but the money was not included in the plan that passed by a single vote. The overall budget remains unfinished more than 100 days after the due date.