Farming on Albany agenda

New York is always changing, but one thing remains constant – our agricultural past continues to play a significant role in the state’s future. With that in mind, I was pleased that legislation aimed at enhancing opportunities for our farmers was a focal point for the New York State Senate this year.

Early during the 2013 legislative session, I joined my senate colleagues to unveil the “Grown in New York” plan to strengthen the state’s $5.2 billion agriculture industry. Several of the initiative’s highlights were included in the state budget. These measures will:

-Expand marketing of New York products like maple, apples, and berries;

-Increase dairy profit teams;

-Support more research, marketing and education;

-Launch the Market NY initiative to bolster tourism and better market NY-made foods and produce.

The state budget also included $100,000 to protect New York farmers through continuation of the highly successful New York Rollover Protection System (ROPS) Rebate Program. Funding for the ROPS rebate program, and other agricultural programs, was left out of the governor’s budget proposal. As a member of the senate agriculture committee, I joined with fellow upstate legislators in successfully fighting to reinstate the funding in the final state budget.

Several other bills passed both the senate and the assembly and will be sent to the governor for his signature later this year.

Farm-to-Senior Program

Senate bill 2149 would create a farm-to-senior program to promote the purchase of New York State farm products by senior centers and other institutions for the aging. The program would replicate a similar effort, the farm-to-school program, which was established in 2002 to enable schools to purchase locally-grown farm produce for school children. The bill would give that same access to seniors.

New York State Foods

Senate bill 4061 would establish guidelines that will assist state agencies with the procurement of food products that are grown and produced in New York State.

Farm Cideries

Senate bill 5833 would establish a new license for farm cideries similar to the licenses already available to farm wineries, breweries, and distilleries. By allowing farm cideries to expand the activities that can be conducted at the licensed premises, these businesses, much like farm wineries, will become destination locations that will promote tourism within their communities. In addition, the need for apples in the manufacture of New York State labeled cider would create a sustained demand for products from New York’s farmers.

Feral Swine

Senate bill 5733 would prohibit the importation and possession of Eurasian boar, otherwise known as feral swine, which destroy natural landscape, agricultural lands and carry disease transmissible to humans and livestock and other animals.

Several other bills received senate approval, but were not taken up yet by the assembly, including:

Buy From The Backyard

Senate bill 978 would help farmers succeed by improving agricultural marketing efforts and better connecting farms to consumers across the state. The bill expands upon an existing law and would require state agencies with food contracts to buy a portion of their food from New York sources. Mental health facilities, prisons, universities, and state institutions that have food contracts would be required to purchase at least 20 percent of the products grown, produced, harvested or processed in New York State.

Promoting Cellulosic Ethanol Biofuels

Senate bill 4335 would create sustainable economic development in rural areas by encouraging investment in biofuels produced from crops grown in New York State. This bill would create an incentive to put unused farmland back into production by growing crops like willows, northern hardwoods and grasses that are well-suited to New York’s climate, and converting them to biofuels. The development of this renewable energy source will create new jobs, improve rural economies, and build greater energy independence for New York State.

Helping our farms grow and thrive boosts our economy and strengthens a fundamental way of upstate life. New legislation adopted in Albany will further enhance our state’s agriculture base.

Senator Seward’s office web site is Like Senator Seward at

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