Sen. Ritchie proposes $30 million plan to help young farmers preserve their family legacy
Thursday, March 6, 2014 - 6:06 am

Sen. Patty Ritchie has proposed a $30 million plan to help young farmers preserve their family legacy.

“Young Farmers NY,” is a series of proposals to smooth the transfer of farmland to the next generation, preserve existing farmland, and help young farmers overcome obstacles to give them a greater opportunity for a successful career in agriculture, according to Ritchie.

“Farming is critically important to the economic success of our state. It’s also a way of life, handed down from generation to generation,” she said. “But the next generation of family farmers is being driven off the land by skyrocketing start-up expenses, tight profit margins, and high risk. The real risk we face is a continuing decline in family farms if we don’t do more to preserve them by investing in the next generation of farmers. The Senate plan would do that and more.”

She said the proposals are in response to research that shows the average age of New York farmers is increasing, as fewer young people pursue farming careers. According to new data from the USDA Census of Agriculture, the average age of New York farmers is now 57.1 years.

There are two farmers aged 65 and older for each one under age 35. This and other factors lead to farmland being lost forever to development.

About 50,000 acres of farmland were lost in New York in each of the last five years, the federal agency reported, Ritchie said.

The plan calls for a state investment of more than $30 million.

Highlights of the Young Farmers NY program include:

• Loans, grants, and tax credits for the sale or lease of land and equipment, as well as for new technological innovations;

• Estate tax reforms to encourage farm preservation from generation to generation; and

• Agricultural education efforts including an apprenticeship program, student loan forgiveness and increased funding for the in-school Future Farmers of America (FFA) program.