Assemblyman Magee: Agricultural Programs Remain Top Priority
This year brings new challenges for our farmers in addition to the challenges theyíve already been facing. The increased minimum wage, which pushes up the cost of labor, and uncertainty surrounding the federal tax plan, farm bill and immigration policy now join low commodity prices for milk and access to land for new farmers as issues that are on farmersí minds.
As a staunch advocate for our agriculture industry and chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, it was a privilege to speak with New York State Farm Bureau members about these issues at the annual meeting held in December. Iím committed to bringing your concerns to the forefront in the state Legislature. This includes the creation of a new refundable tax credit for farmers. Iím also committed to ensuring local farmers markets are able to afford the necessary equipment to sell to families using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
As we move forward, itís critical that we continue to support New York farms and farmers. The work you do is essential to the state economy and makes us a national leader for a number of agricultural commodities.1 Thatís why I support the governorís proposal to increase the reimbursement schools receive for lunches from 5.9 cents to 25 cents per meal for any district that purchases at least 30 percent of its ingredients from New York farms. I also support the governorís proposal to expand the Farm to School Program, doubling the stateís investment to $1.5 million. Further, I would like to implement a procurement preference for New York-grown food for state colleges, prisons and psychiatric centers. By prioritizing our local farms, we can provide fresh food to New Yorkers while boosting our growers.
The Farm Bureau and its members have expressed concern that the stateís minimum wage raises our stateís already high cost for farm labor. I support the proposal to double the minimum wage tax credit for farms to $60 million to reflect the higher costs imposed on farms.
Not only does agriculture drive our economy and create thousands of jobs, but our farms also provide the fresh food New Yorkers put on the table. While our state will face difficult budget choices this year, agriculture must remain a top priority. Agricultural programs are a vital investment that increase profitability and protect our natural resources. To help our growers flourish, we must craft a state budget and pass legislation that supports this critical part of our economy. Thanks to the tireless ďagvocacyĒ of farmers last year, the legislature was able to restore $10.3 million in various farm programs, and add over $1.1 million in additional funding for new and expanded programs.
Iím listening carefully to the concerns of the Farm Bureau and members like you. As always, my office is here to help and my door is always open. If you have questions about this or any other community issue, please contact me at 315-361-4125 or at MageeW@nyassembly.gov.