(Albany, NY) Today, the Senate Democratic Majority advanced legislation supporting farmers and the agriculture industry across New York State. The legislation passed by the Senate Democratic Majority broadens the presence and promotion of farmers’ markets and New York farm products, places in statute the New York State Council on Food Policy, makes the Nourish New York Program permanent, and establishes the carbon farming tax credit.
“New York’s family farms and agriculture industry are crucial to the economy and communities across the state,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “Throughout the pandemic, we have seen how local farms can help New Yorkers who are living in food deserts access healthy foods. These bills will help increase access to locally grown food and assist struggling farms. I thank the bill sponsors for their strong support of New York’s agriculture industry and farmers.”
Bill Sponsor and Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Michelle Hinchey, said, "New York is an Ag state, so strengthening our agricultural sector benefits all of us. Today, the Senate passed a package of initiatives that will improve the economic position of our farmers, help them reach new markets, and bring us closer to our goal of closing the food access gaps in communities across the state. As Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I want to thank Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins and my Senate colleagues for advancing three of my bills today, including legislation that would make the state’s Nourish New York program permanent, make it easier for farmers to access technical support, and help decrease operating costs for our farmers.”
The legislation passed by the Senate includes:
- New York State Council on Food Policy: This bill, S.549A, sponsored by Senator James Sanders Jr., places in statute the New York State Council on Food Policy. The Council will develop and track guidelines and programs that promote locally grown food products and set goals for procurement of locally grown foods by state agencies.
- Agricultural Custom Operators: This bill, S.2135, sponsored by Senator Michelle Hinchey, extends statutory protections for farmers to contractors hired by farmers to work on farmlands with an agricultural district.
- Expansion of Regional Farmers Markets: This bill, S.2199, sponsored by Senator Tim Kennedy, directs the Department of Agriculture and Markets to facilitate the establishment of regional farmers' markets in order to directly market NY grown food and food products. This will benefit those areas of the State that have poor consumer access to high quality and reasonably priced fresh food and farm products, especially in areas that are “food deserts.”
- New York State Animal and Plant Fiber Program: This bill, S.3396, sponsored by Senator Rachel May, establishes the New York State Animal and Plant Fiber Program, which includes animal and plant fiber products grown in New York in the New York State Grown and Certified program.
- One-Stop Farming Hotline: This bill, S.4072, sponsored by Michelle Hinchey, establishes a one-stop farmer hotline operated by the Cornell Cooperative Extension for farmers, agricultural professionals, and others to access information and referral services regarding programs that assist in establishing and expanding farm and agricultural related businesses.
- Establishes a Carbon Farming Tax Credit: This bill, S.4707, sponsored by Senator Kevin Parker, establishes a tax credit for farmers that adopt practices to limit carbon emissions and promote carbon sequestration. This bill will help combat climate change.
- Nourish New York Program: This bill, S.4892A, sponsored by Senator Michelle Hinchey, makes the Nourish New York program permanent and ensures that certain surplus agricultural products are provided to food relief organizations at competitive wholesale prices. This helps both farmers and those experiencing food insecurity.
Bill Sponsor, Senator Rachel May, said, “The nation saw in January how much attention Sen. Bernie Sanders garnered for his Vermont-made mittens, and it is high time for New York to show similar support for our state’s producers of homegrown clothing and other fiber products. New York’s textile manufacturers are eager to showcase their high-quality products in the Grown and Certified Program, and consumers increasingly value the opportunity to purchase local products. As an avid knitter and amateur fiber artist myself, I can’t wait to see our own prominent citizens sporting New York Grown and Certified creations. I am proud to be the sponsor of this bill, and believe the package of bills we are passing today will help our agricultural sector in New York continue to grow in new directions.”
Bill Sponsor, Senator Tim Kennedy, said, “New Yorkers deserve better when it comes to accessing quality, healthy food, and with the passage of this legislation, it is our hope that we're not only creating stronger partnerships for our farmers, but that we're addressing the food deserts that continue to persist statewide.This package of bills places a renewed focus on attaining locally grown, nutritious food, and will ultimately help both New York's producers and consumers live healthier and more productive lives."
Bill Sponsor, Senator Kevin Parker, said, "As we work to implement initiatives that will work to combat climate change, and become leaders in agriculture it is important for us to provide incentives for those who are working to ensure we have fresh homegrown produce. My legislation will help not only provide financial incentives but additionally reduce greenhouse gas emissions here in New York State."
Bill Sponsor, Senator James Sanders Jr., said, “As someone who represents part of a geographic area containing a food desert, I know how difficult it can be to get fresh fruits and vegetables. Instead, we have to settle for sugary, fattening or processed foods which can lead to obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes, No, my friends, we need to support our local farms and eat the delicious fresh produce that they grow right here in the great State of New York. That is why I have introduced legislation, which will incentivize state agencies to set procurement goals for products they purchase from our agriculture industry.”
Senator Alessandra Biaggi said “All New Yorkers deserve regular access to locally-grown and fresh food. Our state has a massive agricultural economy and is one of the leading fresh fruit and vegetable producers in the country. But many New Yorkers, especially low income families, communities of color, and New Yorkers with disabilities still lack consistent access to fresh nutritious food and farm products. I’m proud to join my colleagues in passing legislation to expand access to high quality and reasonably priced fresh food.”
Senator John Brooks said, "COVID-19 has only worsened the issues of food insecurity and hunger, making an already challenging situation worse. It is imperative to both ensure that all New Yorkers have access to food and that our state recognizes, supports, and protects those working in agriculture. On Long Island, this legislation will help food banks keep food on the table of those struggling. Throughout the state, it will keep agriculture strong as we continue to move forward towards normalcy. I wholeheartedly support this package that will take meaningful steps to tackle these issues."
Senator Samra Brouk said, "The passage of today's package of agriculture legislation is a boon to families and farmers across New York State. I represent several family farms here in the 55th District, and their access to local farmers markets and programs like Nourish NY are essential to their survival. Increasing our communities' access to fresh, local foods will alleviate food insecurity and support small farmers who have faced unprecedented challenges over the past year. I am proud to join my colleagues to pass these bills and reiterate the Senate's commitment to the farmers who keep food on our tables."
Senator Jim Gaughran said, “These bills are an important step to supporting New York’s farm industry and will promote farm-to-table initiatives. As our economy begins to rebound from the pandemic, I am proud to champion policies like these to aid our small businesses.”
Senator Brad Hoylman said, “The economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis have left an unprecedented number of New York households food insecure. This agriculture legislative package will help struggling farmers, their workers, and hungry New Yorkers by bringing more fresh food to regional farmers’ markets, establishing a New York State Council on Food Policy, and creating a carbon farming tax credit. I am grateful to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and my colleagues for ensuring New York’s food system, from farm to fork, is resilient and sustainable.”
Senator Jackson said, "New York State is an agricultural powerhouse! As an urban legislator, it’s very important to me that we tap into these resources to increase the food pipelines that connect our various divisions of rural/suburban/urban and upstate/downstate through programs like Nourish NY. I’m proud to support this legislative package that will benefit especially farmworkers, farmers, and all New Yorkers facing food insecurity right now."
Senator Liz Krueger said, “The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have served to make clear once again just how important our New York farmers are. Throughout this last year, New Yorkers have relied on small farms with diversified crops as a vital lifeline, whether through CSAs, farmers markets, or food pantries. The bills we’re passing today will help support our farmers as well as enhance the links between farmers and those of us who depend on their produce.”
Senator John Liu said, "Not only is locally-sourced food great for public health and environmental sustainability, but farming is a huge part of New York’s economy and job base. These bills will reinforce our competitive advantage and further our public policy goals."
Senator John Mannion said, “I recently toured a dairy operation and saw firsthand how a successful agricultural sector supports New York jobs, economic growth, and healthy food options. This legislative package will enhance opportunities for farmers and bring more locally grown food to market - it’s a win-win for New York State.”
Senator Sean Ryan said “The pandemic has magnified the crisis of food insecurity and food deserts across New York State. This legislation will lift up every region by helping farmers get their fresh fruits, vegetables, and other products to the communities that need them the most. At the same time, we are working to modernize farming practices to better protect our environment from the negative impacts of climate change. This is a win-win for Western New York and our entire state.”
Senator Luis Sepúlveda said, "Local agricultural economies are increasingly important to procure healthier and fresh food for our communities and create greater equity in our food supply system. This package of legislation will help local farmers expand and boost their agribusiness, increase access to fresh and homegrown food for communities located in “food deserts,” and provide farmers with access to essential information on their potential farming business while addressing our climate change initiatives with land management practices. The pandemic has heavily impacted New Yorkers and has raised the long-standing issue of food insecurity. We must ensure families have access to healthy food options and that local agribusinesses can continue to provide it during this economically challenging time. "
Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said, “Many people do not realize that our state has a vast agricultural community that harvests a wide variety of produce. This legislation helps our farmers expand their business opportunities while helping to provide high quality, affordable produce to communities in need. In addition, I am proud of the agricultural program at John Bowne HS. They are educating the future farmers who will go on to be leaders in this field”.
John Clark, President, Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance, said, “The Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance supports the NYS Senate’s legislation that will strengthen marketing opportunities for New York food and agricultural products. The agribusiness community knows that market growth is the key to a sustainable production sector, which we serve. We thank the State Senate’s leaders for advancing this package of bills.”
John Dickinson, Chair, Northeast Dairy Producers Association, said, “The Northeast Dairy Producers Association appreciates the NYS Senate for leading forward with a series of bills to strengthen New York’s agriculture industry. Together we can address the challenges and meet the opportunities to assure that New York dairy farmers continue to provide wholesome milk and dairy products to families in New York and throughout the U.S.”
David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President said, "A strong agricultural community should be a priority for not only our state's farmers but for all New Yorkers. This past year demonstrated the need to have a productive and resilient local food system, and we thank the Senate Majority for its effort to build a better foundation for New York agriculture. Farming is a worthy investment that feeds our families, supports our economy, and makes us a stronger state.”
Benjamin Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch, Dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said, “It’s encouraging to see the focus that Senator Hinchey and the Senate Majority have on promoting new opportunities for New York state farmers. Our college accelerates purpose-driven science to improve the lives of people, their environments and their communities — in New York state and around the world. In service of that mission, our experts look forward to partnering with the farm and food community to ensure a just and sustainable food system for our state.
Samantha Levy, New York Policy Manager for American Farmland Trust said, “American Farmland Trust applauds the NYS Senate Democratic Majority’s attention to issues impacting New York’s farmers. The bills advanced this week will improve access to New York grown and raised food for all New Yorkers while helping farmers succeed by growing market opportunities at farmers markets, through increased state procurement of local food, by supporting the Nourish NY program, and through innovative ideas like carbon farming. We look forward to continuing to work with the state Senate, and especially our new Agriculture Committee chairwoman Senator Michelle Hinchey, to pass policies and support programs that keep land in farming, bring a diverse new generation of farmers onto the land, and help farmers adopt sound farming practices now and in the future.”
Brian Reeves, President, NYS Vegetable Growers Association, said, “The New York State Vegetable Growers Association recognizes the State Senate’s leadership in creating new programs that will help New York’s agriculture grow and thrive. This package of bills will help expand markets, support farming operations, and incentivize carbon sequestration. We look forward to working with the Senate to grow and strengthen New York’s vegetable industry.”