Assemblyman Cliff Crouch (R-Bainbridge) has joined the Assembly Minority Conference this week in sending a letter to the governor and legislative leaders calling on them to provide assistance to New Yorks struggling farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Crouch, a former dairy farmer, and the Assembly Minority Conference made note that the agriculture industry, like much of the states economy, is suffering greatly due to the PAUSE initiative aimed at stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus. They have presented a plan they hope to see get struggling farmers back on their feet.
The plan calls to:
- Suspend, for one year, DMV registration requirements for agricultural vehicles and farm trucks;
- Suspend the highway use tax, special hauling permit fees and collection of New York state tolls for vehicles used to transport agricultural products, including milk;
- Suspend, for one year, the 60-hour overtime threshold for farm laborers enacted as part of the 2019 Farm Labor bill;
- Suspend, during the state of emergency period, the 24-hour agricultural rest requirement;
- Extend the Milk Producers Security Fund to help producers who are unable to sell because of COVID-19;
- Use additional federal stimulus money for direct cash infusions for Cornell Cooperative Extensions to assist in the provision of emergency services;
- Use federal stimulus funding to invest in rural broadband infrastructure to assist in the provision of services to farms/rural areas during uncertain social and economic times;
- Provide vouchers for food banks to purchase local dairy and agricultural products; and
- Stipulate green nurseries as essential businesses for the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis so that these businesses can re-open while following social-distancing guidelines.
The COVID-19 outbreak has tested us all, said Crouch. Many are out of work, thousands of businesses across the state have shut their doors, we are experiencing troubling times. Our farmers are also struggling, and all too often they are forgotten. Our family farmers have been dealing with a volatile market for years, but the COVID-19 outbreak has only made things harder for them. I strongly encourage the governor and legislative leaders to take a look at our plan and implement it as soon as possible. Farmers across the state are counting on our support. They need us now more than ever.
The letter may be read here.