December 15, 2004
The Honorable Sheldon Silver
Dear Speaker Silver,
As Chairperson of the Assembly Standing Committee on Agriculture, I respectfully submit to you the 2004 Annual Report. I have outlined the Committee’s significant legislation and our outlook for the 2005 Session.
The Committee was successful this year in promoting legislation that was crucial to help family farms remain solvent and profitable by providing funding for critical farm programs and research, reducing regulatory burdens for agriculture, and creating new promotional opportunities for New York-grown products. The Committee also made significant progress toward improving New York's food safety standards and enhancing the humane treatment of domestic and companion animals.
Many issues and challenges face the agriculture industry, especially the small farmer. I look forward to your continued support and leadership in addressing these challenges.
Committee on Agriculture
2004 ANNUAL REPORT
NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY
STANDING COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
Paul D. Tonko
Aileen M. Gunther
John J. McEneny
Peter M. Rivera
RoAnn M. Destito
Richard A. Smith
Margaret M. Markey
Darrel J. Aubertine
Barbara S. Lifton
Ranking Minority Member
Patrick R. Manning
Marc W. Butler
Roy J. McDonald
Daniel L. Hooker
Joanne Barker, Legislative Coordinator
William Ketzer, Principal Analyst
Caryn Canfield, Committee Assistant
Lisa Chakmakas, Committee Clerk
Kathleen Quackenbush, Program and Counsel Secretary
|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|I. COMMITTEE JURISDICTION|
The Assembly Standing Committee on Agriculture is responsible for legislation that relates to the Agriculture and Markets Law, oversight of the Department of Agriculture and Markets (the Department), and the budget of the Department. The Committee works closely with institutions of higher learning to promote agricultural research and development. The Committee also monitors and, at times, mediates policy disputes and conflicts when agricultural issues are involved.
Some of the major topics investigated by the Committee as part of its legislative and oversight functions include, but are not limited to: food inspections and safety; farmland protection; farm product sales and marketing; agribusiness licensing and regulation; humane treatment of domestic animals and pets; kosher laws; and animal disease. The Committee also works to repeal unnecessary or unenforced laws and programs, if such actions are in the public interest.
The Committee also provides sponsorship, input, and support for agriculturally related program legislation referred to the Committees for Insurance, Energy, Labor, Economic Development, and Environmental Conservation.
|II. 2004 COMMITTEE ACCOMPLISHMENTS|
|III. PUBLIC HEARINGS AND ROUNDTABLES|
In 2003 Assembly Agriculture Chairman Bill Magee held a series of regional roundtable discussions to explore approaches to ensure that farming remains economically viable in New York State. While no public hearings were held in 2004, Committee members and staff traveled across the state for a number of informational roundtables and tours, gleaning valuable information from all sectors of the agricultural community on a number of issues. Subject areas included dairy processing, agricultural waste management, sod farming, fruit and vegetable farming, custom slaughter, Farm-to-School marketing, animal husbandry and the effectiveness of the Department of Agriculture and Market’s Pride of New York marketing program. In 2005, the Committee will consider roundtables to address, among other items, language barriers on the farm and the establishment of a statewide distribution system to help our farmers compete at the national level with large distributors.
The continued success of New York State farmers is vital from both an economic and environmental perspective. Since a healthy agriculture industry means jobs for New York residents, the Assembly Agriculture Committee remains dedicated to developing a more integrated and innovative approach to land preservation and stewardship, marketing and regulatory oversight to ensure the prosperity of our farms in the 21st Century and improve the overall economic health of our rural communities.
|$17 Million Proposed for Agriculture Initiatives Slashed by Governor|
This year the Assembly reached an agreement with the Senate to allocate over $150 million for the Department of Agriculture and Markets and over $17 million in aid to localities to fund valuable, time-tested agricultural initiatives. Unfortunately, Governor Pataki vetoed the localities portion of this funding in August, dealing a tremendous blow to programs essential to the prosperity of New York growers and processors. It is unclear at this point whether these items will be restored before the 2005 Session. Listed below are the initiatives that were vetoed:
|V. OUTLOOK FOR 2005|
In this past legislative session, many bills were signed into law that protect and enhance New York State’s valuable agricultural industries. The Committee will focus much of its efforts on continuing to expand marketing opportunities for New York farmers and ensuring the viability of New York agriculture in the 21st century. Pending issues include:
Other issues facing the Assembly Agriculture Committee include the establishment of a statewide pricing accuracy law for retail consumers and increasing support for Cornell’s Geneva Experiment Station, which is vital to the development of innovative agricultural practices in New York State.
The Committee will examine these and other issues and will formulate possible legislative solutions, seeking input from all sectors of the agricultural community and the public.
2004 Summary of Action on All Bills Referred to the Assembly Committee on Agriculture
|Bills Reported With or Without Amendments|
|To Assembly Floor||2||0||2|
|To Ways & Means Committee||16||0||16|
|To Rules Committee||3||0||3|
|To Judiciary Committee||0||0||0|
|Senate Bills Substituted or Recalled|
|Bills Never Reported, Held in Committee||19||0||19|
|Bills Never Reported, Died in Committee||73||9||82|
|Bills Having Enacting Clauses Stricken||0||0||0|
|Total Bills in Committee||128||12||140|
|Total Number of Committee Meetings Held||5|
CHAPTERS OF 2004
|A.1454-B||Tokasz||This Chapter sets forth a timetable for prompt payments and regulates changes of suppliers. The Chapter requires retailers and certain other wholesale purchasers of milk to notify and satisfy all existing debts with their milk dealer before changing suppliers, provided that the dealer has fulfilled all substantial contractual obligations. An exemption would be granted for any school, educational facility or government department, agency, commission or office. Chapter 434 of the Laws of 2004.|
This Chapter extends the definition of "dangerous dog" to those dogs that viciously attack farm or companion animals. Due to this expansion, the bill also offers courts a broader range of options for disposition in addition to euthanasia and permanent confinement.
The law also clarifies that the owner of a dangerous dog is liable for medical costs in the event of an attack and requires such owner to register the dog with the municipal clerk in the same fashion already required for owners of wild animals. Chapter 392 of the Laws of 2004.
This Chapter provides that food products shall be deemed misbranded if manufacturers fail to disclose the inclusion of Milk Protein Concentrates (MPC) as an ingredient in such products.
The law authorizes the Department of Agriculture & Markets to test for the presence of MPC in dairy and other products at its food lab and impose fines for undeclared inclusion of the compound. Chapter 369 of the Laws of 2004.
|A.8360-A||Rules (Magee)||This Chapter authorizes the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation to bond for the creation and administration of a revolving loan program for beginning farmers. Loan dollars would be used for the purchase of land, facilities and equipment. Chapter number pending.|
|A.8586-A||Rules (Tonko)||This Chapter makes it a felony to breed, sell or offer for sale any dog for fighting purposes. The law closes a loophole in New York’s dog fighting laws that allowed professional dog fighting operations to do business in New York State. These operations use print media and online sales publications to sell and transport fighting dogs to buyers. This statute prohibits that act. Chapter 190 of the Laws of 2004.|
|A.9041-A||Rules (Silver)||This Chapter enacts the "Kosher Law Protection Act of 2004." The statute strengthens consumer protections against false or misleading representations of foods sold or offered for sale as "kosher" by requiring vendors to disclose the basis for their representation that such foods are kosher. Chapter 151 of the Laws of 2004.|
|A.9436-B||Magee||This Chapter authorizes the Department of Agriculture and Markets to designate farm trails, apple trails and cuisine trails as a marketing tool to encourage the sale of New York-produced agricultural products. This Chapter provides that this program will not diminish the New York Scenic Byways Program and authorizes the Department of Transportation to permit the installation and maintenance of signs on the state highway system for trails designated by this act. Chapter 248 of the Laws of 2004.|
|A.9437||Magee||This Chapter ensures that all qualified beginning farmers will receive an agricultural assessment if they meet the gross sales value requirement during their first year of operation. The land would need to be used in the single operation for the production of crops, livestock or livestock products. Chapter 10 of the Laws of 2004.|
This Chapter makes technical changes to New York’s Farmland Viability Grant Program to clarify the original legislative intent of the program, which was geared more toward farm profitability. The law makes a clearer distinction between environmental and profitability funding and codifies the program’s application procedure. Chapter 249 of the Laws of 2004.
|A.10398-A||Thiele||This Chapter extends the taxable status date in the Town of Southampton, Suffolk County, from March 1, 2004, to July 1, 2004. This Chapter allows applications for agricultural assessments or acquisitions of open space to be made under certain circumstances. Chapter 129 of the Laws of 2004.|
|A.10811||Rules (Magee)||This Chapter alleviates unnecessary regulatory burdens and improves efficiencies in administering requirements pertaining to the issuance of licenses for food processing establishments. The new law establishes four licensing periods throughout the year, valid for two years upon issuance, and a simplified schedule of fees. Chapter 307 of the Laws of 2004.|
This Chapter better ensures that producers of farm products will receive payment for farm products delivered to farm products dealers and authorizes the Commissioner of Agriculture and Market to recover from an agricultural or milk products dealer who has defaulted in payment to producers any amounts paid from the agricultural or milk producers’ security funds.
The law increases producer payment protections in transactions with dealers by replacing the producer’s lien process with a producer trust similar to the one established federally for interstate commerce purposes. The Chapter also provides that the lien for both the agricultural and milk producers’ security funds would be perfected at an earlier date than current required, giving the lien greater priority over other creditor liens. Chapter 165 of the Laws of 2004.
|A.10115-C||Magee||This Chapter gives start-up farmers a two-year agricultural assessment on orchard acreage without first having to meet the $10,000 income requirement normally required for such benefit. Chapter 252 of the Laws of 2004.|
2004 Bills Passed by the Assembly
|A.127-B||Markey||Would require that all persons manufacturing commercial feed would be licensed and would authorize the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets to deny licensure based on the results of an annual inspection of the facilities and operation. The bill would also establish the Commercial Feed Licensing Fund for monies collected and provide an exemption for persons selling pet food and specialty pet food.|
|A.380||Englebright||Would authorize a District Attorney to bring a petition to require the respondent to post security for the care of the abused animal on behalf of an impounding organization. It would also clarify that all such petitions may be filed at or any time after an arraignment on animal abuse charges.|
|A.398||Lafayette||Would authorize the Commissioner to inspect and test optical scanning devices and systems. The Agriculture and Markets Law would be updated to include laser scanning equipment within the scope of the weights and measures provisions. This equipment scans and registers the price to be charged to consumers for products purchased. An error or malfunction could result in monetary losses to consumers. This legislative proposal seeks to prevent such losses by certifying the accuracy of the laser scanning devices.|
|A.584||Cook||Would create a nine member advisory board within the Department of Agriculture and Markets on food safety and inspection programs, which would be responsible for advising the Commissioner on the enforcement of food safety laws and regulations. The Board would also review existing and proposed laws and regulations and report to the Legislature on the needed changes.|
|A.1787-A||Magee||Would create a revolving loan fund through the state Urban Development Corporation that would provide low-cost loans to first-time farmers who need additional assistance to meet down payments or for equipment purchases. The bill would also establish a statewide inventory of farms for sale for the purpose of keeping farmland in agriculture.|
|A.1810||McEneny||Would provide for the planning and development of regionally based urban greenmarkets. Such markets would be similar to existing Farmers’ Markets, but would target the need to provide New York producers with increased market opportunities while assisting with revitalization in cities and urban areas. This would be accomplished by bringing the products of farmers and craft businesses into these areas and allowing for direct sales to the customer.|
|A.4169-A||Klein||Would require the Department of Agriculture and Markets to inspect every slaughterhouse in the State at least once every year and require each slaughterhouse to post a copy of their inspection. Any slaughterhouse failing three consecutive inspections would be ordered to cease operating until they passed an inspection.|
|A.8577||Rules (Cahill)||Would authorize the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets, upon the request of a municipality, farm owner or operator, to render an opinion to local government officials on land use regulations pertaining to agricultural practices.|
|A.9457||A. Gunther||Would ensure maximum safety and quality of food products during transportation in the state by allowing Department inspectors to examine common carriers transporting food and food products under conditions that could lead to adulteration. Current regulations exempt common carriers from this provision. This bill would ensure that all food and food products are transported under the safest conditions at all times.|
|A.9470-A||Magee||Would assist first time, beginning and expanding farmers with easily attainable information relative to the farms and farmland that are for sale throughout New York State. The bill would require the Department of Agriculture and Markets to initiate and maintain an inventory of farms and farmland for sale in the state.|
|A.9638-A||Benjamin||Would provide clear and accurate information about food labeled "halal" by requiring vendors of food and food products represented as "halal" to make the basis for that representation available to consumers.|
|A.10899||Rules (Clark)||Would require the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets or his or her authorized agent to notify municipal zoning boards in the event that a business commences additional slaughtering operations other than those for which the Department of Agriculture and Markets has issued a license.|
|A.11003-B||Rules (Pheffer)||Would establish a continuing education program for retail food establishments which hold a state-issued food-processing license.|
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