By New York State Senator Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, 47th District
Whenever we eat a locally grown product, it is very easy to take for granted all of the hard work our farmers do every day to keep fresh food on our tables. And, without the dedication of the farmers who have made agriculture the leading industry of New York, our state would be half the success it is today.
It is also easy to overlook the challenges our farmers continue to face as they simply try to make a living, often to maintain farms that have been in their families for generations.
Recently we celebrated National Agriculture Day on March 21, an occasion to recognize the important role that farmers have always played in the economy of New York State. And on this day, the Republican majority of the State Senate once again expressed our commitment to strengthening the agriculture industry by passing a series of measures to support our farmers.
Not only have we restored $12 million in funding for farmers and important agricultural programs cut from the Governor’s budget, but we also took steps to further invest in the state’s farm workforce and support the next generation of farmers.
Among the legislation we approved in the Senate was a bill I proposed that would make it easier to package wine ice cream in smaller containers. This popular dessert is produced locally by Mercer’s Dairy in my district, and I know there is consumer demand to have wine ice cream available in smaller packages at large events like weddings and fundraisers. This is a perfect example of how the State can step in to make it easier for local farms and businesses to achieve greater success.
We doubled the Farm Workforce Retention Tax Credit, which would help farmers retain a strong and steady workforce, saving farmers an estimated $60 million when fully implemented. We also created new tax credits to help farms transition into organic farms, which have major growth potential in our state.
To help new farmers establish successful careers, we also voted to increase access to viable farmlands by developing an inventory of state-owned real property, and a new Future Agriculture Readiness Marketing Camp would help beginning farmers gain the valuable knowledge and tools to promote their businesses. Additionally, we voted to create tax-deferred Farm Savings Accounts to allow farms to self-insure part of their risk to help offset any losses due to weather or cyclical downturns in the farm economy.
The Senate’s measures would also increase healthy and locally grown food options in our communities by helping schools to purchase local farm products for their students, and by creating a new Healthy Options and Community Outreach Program to address the issue of “food deserts” in low-income neighborhoods. Part of this would include a tax credit for small grocers and convenience stores that commit to selling healthy food and drinks at their shops.
By passing these measures in the Senate, we have made clear how much we want to help our farmers succeed so they can continue to make the agriculture industry the best it can be in New York State.