State senator from Heuvelton hopes ag committee can carry progress from 2015 into new legislative session
Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - 5:33 pm

State Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, says she wants the state agriculture committee to continue in 2016 steps they took last year aimed at making it easier for farmers to grow and sell food.

“With 35,000 family farms, record-setting sales exceeding $6.4 billion annually and a workforce of more than 100,000, farming is our state’s most important industry,” Ritchie said. “In 2015, my colleagues and I made great strides.”

Ritchie said highlights from 2015 include:

• Marking the first year that a new 2 percent cap on agricultural assessments was in effect and, according to the Department of Agriculture and Markets, this new cap resulted in savings of $11 million in property taxes for farmers across New York.

• The committee renewed its focus on strengthening the connection between farmers and those who eat the fresh foods they grow and produce, including funding for new “food hubs,” a first-ever expansion of the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program and new investments to help bring more New York-grown farm products into schools across the state.

• A measure to save farmers across the state millions of dollars by cutting fees to register trailers used for transporting produce, livestock and other items in half was signed into law.

• The committee took steps to promote farmer safety by increasing funding for a successful program aimed at reducing injuries from tractor rollovers. Ritchie says to date, this initiative has benefitted more than 1,300 farmers and has saved countless lives.

• The committee got what Ritchie calls “record budget funding” for programs including new and restored funding for ag-educators, support for marketing and promotion of state-grown products, aid for research in animal and plant health and investments in farmer health and safety.

• The committee also took major steps in 2015 to protect the public from deadly diseases, including the mosquito-borne EEE virus and rabies.