The New York Farm Bureau has released its national agricultural priorities for 2018. The Farm Bill is key along with trade and regulatory reform.
The state Farm Bureau’s priorities emphasize the need for better safety nets, especially for dairy farmers, and reforming immigration and regulatory policies.
NY Farm Bureau President David Fisher and other members of the state organization were in the nation’s capital last week to discuss what they want to see in the Farm Bill to meet agriculture’s needs. “This year the Farm Bill is up and the Farm Bureau will be engaged with our federal representatives to assure that our members’ priorities are reflected in the final legislation. Ultimately the Farm Bill is a food security bill making sure that there’s sound farm policy in this country for farmers to be able to grow food as well as providing access to food for those who can least afford to buy it in some situations.”
Fisher believes four priority items must be included in the bill to help New York farmers. “Some of the main points include improving the safety net for dairy farmers. The Margin Protection Program was not successful and so we’re looking to include some options for milk protection pricing for farmers. We’re also looking for a Farm Bill that better reflects the diversity of crops that we have in New York. We’re very supportive of making the Whole Farm Revenue Protection Program more workable for these farms. A couple of other priorities in the Farm Bill include maintaining cost-sharing conservation programs. New York Farm Bureau also opposes splitting off the nutrition portion of the Farm Bill from agriculture.”
New York Farm Bureau Associate Director of National Affairs Lauren Williams noted several regulatory issues the organization been concerned about including opposing proposed changes to the Clean Water Act. “The proposed changes we believe really broadens the jurisdictions of “Waters of the U.S.” rule and expands it from navigable waters to include now dry land. We’re really supportive of EPA’s efforts to rescind the current rule and rewrite it in a way that addresses Congress’ intent to protect our nation’s water supply. And the Supreme Court recently threw the case back to the District Court to sort out and this case is likely be tied up in the courts for a while. But we would still like for EPA to move forward with the process to rescind the rule and work on an appropriate alternative.”
Immigration reform and trade remain primary concerns for the industry. David Fisher says a manageable guest worker program is crucial when farmers cannot find local employees. "This involves having an improved guest worker visa program that addresses both seasonal and year-round needs of our farmers. We have to have a system in place that will allow farms in this country to grow the food we need to feed ourselves. New York Farm Bureau will work with President Trump’s administration and our representatives in Congress to find a workable solution that strikes an important balance between strong enforcement and a strong guest visa program.”
Williams notes the ongoing NAFTA negotiations between the U.S., Canada and Mexico also concern the ag sector. “U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have increased from $8.9 billion to over $38 billion annually since NAFTA went into effect in 1993. Trade is vitally important to farmers in New York. We need markets to sell our products and if NAFTA fails our farm economy will take a serious blow especially when net farm income is at a really at an all time low for farmers in New York state in the past several years.”
The farm advocacy group issued its state legislative priorities in late January, focusing on issues surrounding economic and income losses.