State Senate coalition looks to strengthen agriculture

ALBANY – A proposal introduced this week by a bipartisan group of state senators aims to strengthen New York’s agricultural industry by providing targeted tax relief and increasing state aid for programs that try to expand the market for New York-grown products.

Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, said in a press release that New York’s $5.2 billion agriculture industry is a “bright spot” in the state’s economy.

“As farmers in Albany this past week explained, years ago they competed against each other locally and domestically,” she said. “Today they are competing against farmers in New Zealand, China and all over the world. State government needs to be mindful of that fact, the competitive factors in the global marketplace, and (be) more helpful to ensure New York is a place where a farmer can make it profit, particularly at a time when they are seeing escalating fuel and feed prices.”

The Senate’s “Grown in New York” plan would do the following:

-Reduce taxes on farmers by creating a 2-percent assessment growth cap on agricultural lands, restoring the 18-a energy tax to its pre-2009 level and increasing the estate tax threshold for farms from $1 million to $5 million.

-Support Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to review state regulations that limit the size of some dairy farms.

-Support the creation of “food hubs” located in growing regions of the state to facilitate access to New York City markets.

-Seek budgetary support for maple promotion, the Farm Viability Institute and funds to help growers recover from damage from storms and invasive species.

New York Farm Bureau President Dean Lincoln lauded the proposal.

“NY Farm Bureau has long held to the proven belief that when you grow New York farms, you grow New York’s economy,” he said in the release. “The efforts put forth today by Senate Republican Leader Skelos, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Ritchie and their conference colleagues will do just that.”