Farmers say agenda is promising

Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, discusses issues farmers are facing during a 2019 tour of Dimock Farms in Peru, Clinton County. Photo courtesy of the Office of Assemblyman D. Billy Jones

During her first State of the State on Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul presented her plan for New York, outlining proposals designed to help farmers prosper.

Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake, and farmers in the north country found Hochul’s agenda for agriculture promising, according to Connie Mandeville, community liaison for Jones’ office.

“I was pleased by the proposals prioritizing farmers and supporting local food production,” said Todd Giroux, president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau. “Farmers can’t charge consumers more for their goods to help with the rising costs of labor and these tax credits are a step forward for the New York agricultural industry.

During the State of the State, Hochul proposed increasing existing tax credits and creating a new tax credit to support food production.

One of her plans is to increase the Farm Workforce Retention Tax Credit by doubling the yearly fixed dollar amount per eligible employee and extending the program to 2025. Another part of her plan is to increase the Investment Tax Credit which allows farmers to purchase new equipment that could further automate their farms in response to workforce shortages.

“The tax credits proposed by Gov. Hochul will provide an important lifeline to north country farms,” said Kirby Selkirk, president of the Franklin County Farm Bureau. “Not only will the tax credits strengthen our local food system but will also ease the burden of rising labor costs that are bleeding so many farms dry.”

Hochul also proposed creating a new permanent Overtime Tax Credit on overtime hours for any size farm in New York to offset increasing labor costs to farmers.

“Increasing and creating new tax credits for farmers is a vital step in helping New York farmers stay afloat,” Jones said. “I’ve witnessed firsthand the struggles many farms have experienced for years and have unfortunately seen too many farms in my hometown close due to these difficulties. These tax credits will help north country farms that have been in families for generations keep operating and providing fresh local food for our communities.”

Measures to improve the food supply chain were also proposed by Hochul on Wednesday, to fund the Nourish New York initiative annually, expand SNAP access to New York state farms, and transfer the National School Lunch Program to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.

“Helping farmers reach more New Yorkers through Nourish New York, SNAP, and the National School Lunch Program is great for all involved and I look forward to how these proposals will positively impact farms in Franklin County,” Selkirk said.

These plans to improve the food supply chain are meant to help bring fresh, locally produced food to more New Yorkers.

“Nourish New York has not only helped farmers unload over 35 million pounds of surplus food supply but has also helped so many New Yorkers in need have access to fresh, healthy food,” Jones said. “I am pleased that the governor recognizes the importance of Nourish New York, as well as SNAP and the National School Lunch Program to New York farmers, and recognizes the role farmers play in our local economies. Farmers have been essential to keeping food on our plates and the focus on agriculture in the State of the State is a breath of fresh air.”

According to Mandeville, Hochul also announced plans to expand and implement various grant programs available to farmers to support them in expanding their operations and modernizing their farms.

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