Farm Bureau discusses hurdles and hopes for state agriculture


Farm Bureau discusses hurdles and hopes for state agriculture

New York Farm Bureau President David M. Fisher said Wednesday that New York farmers struggle to stay competitive like never before as their earnings have dropped, but their costs have escalated. He and other bureau officials are advocating for regulatory reform and state funding they feel could help farmers stay afloat, if not thrive, in a worldwide market. “As a whole, farming income is down $5 billion from last year. There’s not much left for farmers to live on,” Mr. Fisher said. “A lot of people are at the end of their ropes.”The prices for Northeast dairy farmers’ milk have remained consistently low for four years as producers worldwide continue producing more milk than processors can handle.“We’ve out-produced the market right now,” Mr. Fisher said. Earnings from beef, grain and other commodities farmers produce have also declined, Mr. Fisher said during a Times editorial board meeting.While state officials and advocates have little, if any, influence on commodity pricing, the Farm Bureau has been encouraging lawmakers to adopt policies that lower costs and grow markets. One of the organization’s legislative priorities was to convince legislators to double the minimum wage credit for farmers from $300 per employee to $600. The legislative effort, which was included in the Senate’s one-house budget, was introduced to help farmers cope with the rising cost of minimum wage.Jefferson County Farm Bureau President Adam Miner said the minimum wage hike dissuades farmers from hiring younger workers who could learn about agriculture and has “put us at a competitive disadvantage” with other states. “In Pennsylvania, which is a main competitor agriculturally, it is $7.50, $7.25” per hour, said Jeff Williams, public policy director for New York Farm Bureau.The organization has also continued advocating for federal immigration reform that would allow farmers to recruit workers from other countries.Mr. Fisher said he thought lawmakers were going to pass a policy last month that would benefit farmers, but the effort never came to fruition.“Labor is really tight and it’s just difficult to find people,” Mr. Fisher said.The advocacy group has vied for state funding that would increase access to school districts that are interested in purchasing goods from local producers. Lawmakers have responded to the organization’s encouragement with financial backing like a recent allocation of $300,000 the Assembly included in its one-house budget proposal for the Farm to School program. Steve Ammerman, New York Farm Bureau manager of public affairs, said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo also allocated $10 million to the school lunch reimbursement program in his executive budget proposal, which aids school districts who purchase food from local farmers. The allocation, if adopted in the final state budget, would increase the reimbursement rate from six cents per meal to 25 cents per meal.“We’re certainly hopeful that makes it into the final budget,” Mr. Fisher said. Bureau officials have also recognized the recent growth in the value-added production of goods and supported efforts to grow those markets, such as the Senate’s proposal to provide tax credits to dairy farmers value-added processing equipment. Mr. Fisher, however, said several established farmers’ lack of marketing expertise for value-added products and distance from major markets create barriers to entry for those growing markets. Mr. Williams said efforts like the Senate’s tax credit can help some farmers who want to capitalize on that growth.“That value-added tax credit will help some producers (who harvest) onions and want to make pickled onions,” he said. While dairy farmers continue to face a flooded market with limited processing capacity, Mr. Fisher said he was optimistic conditions would improve as some operators invest in expanding their existing plants. One example the Farm Bureau President provided was Agri-Mark’s expansion to its McCadam Cheese plant in Chateaugay. Mr. Fisher said the Northeast dairy cooperative hasn’t dumped any milk as of late. “(Dairy Farmers of America) may have dumped a little milk, but not a lot,” he said.
Source: Watertown Daily Times Latest News
Farm Bureau discusses hurdles and hopes for state agriculture

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Comments