Dean Norton, president of New York Farm Bureau, released the following statement Wednesday:
"New York Farm Bureau is very pleased with the commitment lawmakers have shown to a number of important agricultural programs in the final budget. From targeted promotion efforts for local farm products and key funding for agricultural research, including animal and plant health programs, to important dollars for environmental and education efforts, the New York state agriculture budget reflects a growing recognition at the Capitol for farming, a major job creator in upstate and Long Island. We are grateful for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who led the way with his initial budget proposal that increased funding for agriculture over the previous year. New York Farm Bureau also greatly appreciates Sen. Patty Ritchie and Assemblyman Bill Magee for their hard work and support as chairs of their respective agriculture committees. The end result is an agricultural budget that will offer many opportunities for the state's farmers to build upon. For it's been shown that when you grow farms, you grow the economy.
"While there is much to be thankful for in regards to agriculture spending, some aspects of the budget still raise concerns amongst our farmer members. With the hike of the minimum wage and the continuation for the next few years of the 18-a assessment fee on electric bills, production costs are still on the rise for family farmers who must survive in what is an expensive and volatile business. We ask lawmakers to continue to work with New York Farm Bureau to reduce this burden that puts New York farmers at a competitive disadvantage. On average, New York farmers pay $20 more per acre in property taxes than the national farm average. We are hopeful a 2 percent cap on agricultural land assessments can pass this legislative session to contain rising property taxes and provide some needed relief. In addition, extending the estate tax to mirror the federal $5 million threshold will go a long way to helping keep family farms around for the next generation.
"Each one of us has a stake in preserving farming as a way of life in New York. From conserving open spaces to having a safe, local food supply, we all benefit when our farms and farm economy are healthy."