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New York Farm Bureau releases 2024 federal legislative priorities


Thu, Mar 7th 2024 08:10 pm

NYFB grateful for Scope 3 ruling of Securities and Exchange Commission; sets sights on securing new farm bill

New York Farm Bureau Press Release

New York Farm Bureau’s national priorities aim for a strong farm bill and critical reforms that will improve market opportunities and the farm economy for New York agriculture. They are based on member-approved public policy positions and were outlined today during a press call with NYFB President David Fisher and National Affairs Coordinator Ashley Oeser.

Securities and Exchange Commission Scope Three Decision

Fisher just returned from Washington, D.C., where he was briefed on a major victory for farm families. The Securities and Exchange Commission voted yesterday to remove Scope 3 from its final climate disclosure rule. This would have had far-reaching effects on farms if Wall Street were required to report greenhouse gas emissions from the supply chain. The work, cost and paper filings to comply with this rule would have fallen on the backs of family farms that are not equipped to handle such a requirement.

“We continue to take sustainability seriously by expanding environmentally friendly practices and investing in research and technology that are helping farmers to improve what we do,” Fisher said. “However, hiring compliance officers to handle what would have been incredibly difficult analysis and record keeping would be disastrous to agriculture, especially for small farmers. Thankfully, because of the advocacy of Farm Bureau and our members, the SEC voted to remove that requirement from the rule. We appreciate that they understood our concerns and the negative impact this would have had on our food supply.”

This issue has been a priority for Farm Bureau, much like the farm bill, the largest piece of federal legislation that farmers depend on for risk management, conservation, research and more. The farm bill also supports important nutrition programs, like SNAP.

Farm Bill

NYFB is asking Congress to pass an updated farm bill, as much has changed since the 2018 farm bill. The pandemic, record-high inflation, and rising supply costs have affected commodity prices and production expenses. Global unrest in places like Ukraine and shipping uncertainties in the Red Sea, Suez and Panama canals illustrate that we can’t rely on other countries to get food to the U.S. It is important to safeguard our own food supply, and the farm bill helps to do just that. Food security is part of national security.

These protections include having strong risk management tools, such as crop insurance. They help farms following extreme weather events, like last year’s freeze that damaged part of the state’s apple and grape crops. Still, many crops lack coverage. For example, a significant number of acres of cabbage, strawberries, nursery plants, maple and more are not covered by any insurance program.

“We believe that farmers should have risk management options regardless of what crop they grow,” Fisher said. “We have a lot of specialty crop producers in New York, and we are working hard to ensure all farms have access to these programs.”

Additionally, farm bill conservation programs recognize farmers as partners in sustainability and provide resources to help Farm Bureau members care for environmentally sensitive land and employ climate-smart practices in their fields to help preserve soil, water and wildlife habitat.

Finally, the farm bill funds agricultural research. New York state is fortunate to have the nation’s top land grant university at Cornell that conducts research programs to improve crop production, animal nutrition, and sustainability efforts, among other things. Cornell receives USDA grant funding for many of these projects, and that cannot stop. In fact, we need to see more of it. China and other countries are outspending the U.S. 2 to 1 in agricultural research.

“We must invest in new technologies that will enable farmers to continue meeting the needs of America’s families and keep the U.S. a leader in food production,” Fisher said. “We all depend on agriculture’s success, so it’s important for Congress to act.”

Agriculture Labor Reform

Agricultural labor reform has been a priority for decades. NYFB continues to advocate for legislation that will address both short- and long-term labor needs on farms. NYFB would like to modernize the H-2A federal guest worker program to have a continuous, legal workforce for all sectors of agriculture. Currently, only farms with seasonal work can use the federal guestworker program, but that has come with significant costs.

The federal government sets the pay rate for guestworkers each year based on a formula called the adverse effect wage rate (AEWR). Farmers are committed to paying their employees a fair wage, but the wage calculations have made it hard for farmers to remain competitive.

The AEWR has grown much faster than the national average wage for most workers in America. AEWR increases have outpaced the overall U.S. Employment Cost Index in eight of the last 10 years.

“In many cases, farmers learn of the mandated wage hike literally weeks before many workers arrive on their farms,” Fisher said. “This makes it hard to budget year to year. We are hoping for a pause in wage rates while Congress works on a more reasonable approach that gives farms the ability to plan better and compete on the world market.”

Dairy Pricing

Farm Bureau is also working to improve pricing for dairy farmers. Milk prices ebb and flow and have not changed much in the past 10 years. To make it more equitable for farmers, NYFB would like to revert back to the pricing structure in the previous farm bill. The change made in 2018 has cost farmers billions of dollars in the past five years.

American Farm Bureau has been a leader in bringing the dairy industry together. This effort led to the milk marketing order hearings that the USDA held over the past several months. This is an important process that is looking to find where the pricing needs to be updated to reflect current market conditions.

“Ultimately, we want to make sure dairy farmers receive a fair price for their milk,” Fisher said.

Supply Chain Issues

NYFB is prioritizing shoring up the supply chain for its farmers and customers. One change would be to speed up the transportation of goods along our highways. This includes limiting how many times trucks need to be inspected in a certain time frame. Many of these trucks carry livestock or perishable goods and time is of the essence. There are fixed weigh stations and random checkpoints, and farmers can be stopped more than once a day. If the vehicle passed an inspection once, there shouldn’t be a need to be stopped again on the same day.

“We also continue to advocate for efforts to increase small meat and poultry processing facilities in New York state,” Oeser said. “The limited number of USDA inspectors is an issue. One way is to be creative. We support alternative means such as photographic or electronic grading systems. Technology exists to review fruits, vegetables, eggs and more in this way. Let’s explore the opportunity for meat as well.”

Rural Mental Health

Another priority issue is rural mental health. The new 2022 USDA agriculture census numbers came out late last month. New York state has lost nearly 3,000 farms. One reason is simply that the cost of production remains high and commodity prices are often too low. There are major financial strains on farms today, and this can weigh heavily on farmers’ mental health, especially having the burden of keeping a multigenerational farm going during tough times. New York is fortunate to have organizations like NY FarmNet, New York State Agricultural Mediation Program, and the New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health, but we can always do more, especially in time of need.

“We are advocating for increased awareness of mental health resources and having more services available specifically for those who work in agriculture,” Oeser said.

This includes stress assistance programs and farmer-facing training. NYFB supports Sen. Gillibrand’s proposed legislation, The National Agricultural Crisis Hotline Act, that would establish a 24/7 national crisis hotline to provide real-time live assistance catered to the unique needs of farmers, ranchers, and their families.

Climate Smart Farming

Finally, an important priority for our farmers is science-based environmental policies and addressing the effects of climate change. Farmers know all too well the impacts of extreme weather conditions. It is important for farmers to have a seat at the table when discussing policy changes around this important issue as well as getting recognition and support for practices already happening on our farms that are reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Farms are part of the solution to addressing climate change.

NYFB is in favor of a voluntary, market-based approach which offers incentives and technical assistance to farmers. This approach has been successful in the past, and the organization believes it would only increase carbon sequestration and climate-smart conservation practices.

Additionally, the Inflation Reduction Act committed billions of dollars to fund farm bill conservation programs that are helpful for Farm Bureau members to continue to achieve climate goals, such as the environmental quality incentives program (EQIP), and support for the development of renewable energy and spending on biofuels infrastructure. 

“This is another push to receive funding for research and development to find new ways to continue to protect our environment,” Oeser said. “It is important to find the balance that will protect our members’ ability to feed our country and do what is needed for our natural resources and planet earth.”

Click here for a recording of today’s press call.

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