Albany, N.Y., February 9—State Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today joined his colleagues and statewide farm advocates to introduce the next phase of their “Grown in New York” agricultural development strategy and announced they will seek to include key portions of it in the 2016-17 state budget.
This year’s program, “Planting Seeds,” includes tax relief; health and safety initiatives; an emphasis on agricultural education; expanded efforts to attract young and new farmers, including veterans; and restoring funding for numerous agricultural programs and services which have been targeted for significant funding cuts under Governor Cuomo’s 2016-17 proposed state budget, many of which are administered and operated by Cornell University.
“The Senate Republican Majority has always been a leader in the effort to keep New York one of the nation’s proudest and most successful agricultural states. Over the past several years we’ve initiated actions to attract new farmers, to keep our next generation of farmers competitive, and to try to prevent New York’s farmers and farm families overall from being taxed, regulated and priced out of business,” said O’Mara, who also serves as a member on the Legislature’s joint, bipartisan Commission on Rural Resources. “I’m especially proud that we’ve developed such a productive and successful working partnership with Cornell University to strengthen agriculture and rural affairs, and I strongly support these efforts to ensure that New York State’s commitment to this partnership remains strong and grows even stronger moving forward.”
Julie Suarez, Assistant Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, said, “I am so pleased to learn of the Senator Majority’s initiative to help grow the agricultural community in New York. We are poised for incredible growth in farming and food production if we can simply take advantage of the sometimes insurmountable opportunities that exist today. By providing support for the critical partnership between New York State and the Land Grant mission at Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Senate is showing incredible leadership for the research based knowledge that gives New York’s farm families an economic advantage in today’s marketplace.”
Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau President said, “The success of agriculture is essential to the economic well-being of our rural communities. The Senate Majority’s plan focuses on critical areas including program funding, research, new farmer initiatives and agricultural education. They are all pieces of the puzzle that will assist in growing an industry that supports thousands of jobs and a healthy, safe food supply. New York Farm Bureau would like to thank the Senate Majority for their plan, and we look forward to working with the Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Patty Ritchie, and her colleagues to support farming in New York State.”
Specific provisions of the Senate Republican “Planting Seeds” plan include:
> restoring more than $11 million in agricultural program funding cuts proposed by Cuomo impacting nearly 50 different programs, the largest single reduction in agriculture programs in five years. Since 2011, O’Mara and his colleagues have initiated budget restorations and funding for new programs totaling more than $32 million. Among other programs and institutions, the governor this year has proposed to cut or eliminate funding for the Wine and Grape Foundation, Future Farmers of America, Tractor Rollover Prevention, Farm Net (Farm Family Assistance), Integrated Pest Management, and the Cornell Diagnostic Lab along with other vital Cornell research and study programs invaluable to the dairy industry among other critical agricultural challenges including food safety research and study, disease detection and prevention, honeybee die-off, invasive species, pesticide use, and rabies prevention and treatment.
“We will make it a priority in this year’s budget to fully restore state funding for our critical, long-standing and successful agricultural programs, so many of which operate out of Cornell University,” O’Mara said. “In the important weeks ahead it’s now up to the Legislature, in these and other ways, to closely examine the governor’s plans for agriculture and rural New York to determine and reestablish the priorities.”;
> establishing an innovative proposal by Cornell’s Small Farms Program to assist the establishment of up to five veteran-owned small farms through a first-in-the-nation pilot program, which in turn would be used to attract and train future veteran farmers. Returning military veterans and those seeking a career change could be encouraged to try agriculture, utilizing benefits they’ve earned under the GI Bill to gain training and expertise to begin their own successful small business;
> an acceleration of the estate tax reform enacted in 2014 so that it becomes fully phased in this year and allow state farmers to claim the federal exclusion amount ($5.45 million on April 1); and
> raising the Personal Income Tax exemption for small- and mid-sized family farms from the current 5 percent to 20 percent, making more farmers eligible for the exemption and saving them $5 million annually.
O'Mara said, “We need to keep taking actions like these to preserve, protect and strengthen our family farms and our entire agricultural industry. The Senate’s continually updated ‘Grown in New York’ strategy over the past several years has been a bold, common sense blueprint, and we’re hopeful that we can enact even more pieces of the strategy this session. Farming has been a mainstay of upstate New York’s culture and economy for generations, and it remains the backbone of so many of our communities. But the challenges and the competition are tougher than ever.”