NYS Assembly
Agriculture Committee
2005 Agri-Actions

Sheldon Silver, Speaker • William Magee, Chairman • August 2005

Assemblyman William Magee

“Our farms and farmers continue to constitute the largest and most important industry in New York State – the agriculture industry. Certainly, that is why the Assembly continues to make the issues of our farmers our priority issues as we look for ways that will really aid them with doing what they do best – grow and produce quality food for our communities, our state and our country.”

Bill Magee
Chairman, Assembly
Agriculture Committee

A Message from the Chairman

Dear Friends,

Again this year, we have made agriculture a top priority in the New York State Assembly as we continue to look at ways to brighten the future of farming here in New York State.

From providing for the direct shipment of wine to extending the agricultural school property tax credit to commercial horse boarding operations to ensuring that New York agricultural plates are recognized in neighboring states, we are sincerely trying to work with our farmers to make farming a little bit better.

Over the course of the coming year, I would continue to urge and encourage all of you – our farmers and agriculturalists – to contact me with any issues, concerns or suggestions that you would like to discuss.

Best wishes for a wonderful and bountiful Summer!

William Magee
Chair, Assembly Agriculture Committee

Maple Producers Get Promotion Money

The tapping of sugar maple trees is a homespun tradition throughout Upstate New York and it is clear that our maple farmers are a growing and important part of the New York agriculture industry. In 2004, our maple producers used 1.3 million taps to produce 255,000 gallons of syrup with a value of over $5.6 million. This state ranks third in maple production behind only Vermont and Maine.

In an effort to continue the growth of the maple industry, the Assembly Agriculture Committee was able to secure $100,000 in funding in this year’s state budget to assist the New York State Maple Producers Association to assist them in promoting the maple industry and its products.

It is hoped that with this funding, as well as through the hard work of the Maple Producers Association, New York will soon become the number one producer of maple syrup in the United States.

Assembly Says “Giddy Up!” to Horse Industry

There is no doubt that the equine industry is a strong segment of the overall agriculture industry in New York State. From pleasure riding to horse racing to commercial horse boarding, the horse industry is growing by leaps and bounds. In recognition of that, the Assembly has advanced a number of proposals that seek to further grow the equine industry and ensure that it remains a vibrant part of the agricultural fabric of this state.

Agricultural school property tax credit extended to horse boarding operations

In an effort to ensure that the equine industry is eligible for the same benefits as other agricultural operations, the Assembly has passed legislation that would allow our commercial horse boarding operations to receive the Agricultural School Property Tax Credit. By doing this, these horse boarding operations would be able to receive, through a refundable income tax credit, a portion of the school taxes they pay on their farm. Through this and other initiatives, the Assembly is taking a proactive approach to providing the horse industry with the tools they need to grow and prosper throughout New York. This bill, having also passed the Senate, is awaiting action by the Governor.

photo Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee and a friendly donkey highlighting the diversity of New York agriculture.

Indoor riding arenas to receive property tax exemption

More and more, indoor riding and exercise arenas are being used as part of horse farms or horse boarding operations. In recognition of that, the Assembly has passed legislation that would clarify that these indoor riding arenas are, in fact, eligible for the ten-year real property tax exemption provided to other agricultural structures.

While this bill was based on an opinion from the Office of Real Property Services, it was believed that by putting it into statute it would be more uniformly applied across the state. This bill, having also passed the Senate, is awaiting action by the Governor.

Start-up horse boarding operations to qualify for Agricultural Districts

There are over 4,500 commercial horse boarding operations in New York State and that number continues to grow almost exponentially. In an effort to ensure that this growth continues, the Assembly has passed legislation that would allow start-up horse boarding operations to qualify for the agricultural assessment and the Right-to-Farm laws that provide protections to farm operations from municipal zoning and other ordinances which unreasonably restrict farming operations. By doing this, we can ensure that these horse boarding operations receive the same protections from restrictive local laws as all other farm operations. This bill, having also passed the Senate, is awaiting action by the Governor.

Task Force on retired race horses created

All across this state and country, race horses provide a form of entertainment as well as economic prosperity to millions and millions of individuals and families annually. Unfortunately, many of those same race horses, when retired, do not face the brightest of futures as only a relatively small percentage of these horses are actually able to earn their keep through purses.

Understanding that, the Assembly has passed a bill that creates the Task Force on Retired Race Horses. The Task Force would include the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Chairman of the Racing and Wagering Board, as well as appointees from the leaders of the Assembly and Senate. Among the many issues that the Task Force will be charged with are investigating the feasibility of using these horses in therapeutic settings, the retraining of these horses for other uses, promoting the sale of retired race horses and supporting the expansion of adoption programs supported by private donations and racing industry sources.

More and more, there is growing pressure both on the state and federal levels for prohibiting of the slaughter of horses and this bill seeks to learn what other options are available for these retired racers who have years of living ahead of them. This bill, having also passed the Senate, is awaiting action by the Governor.

New York Wine — You Gotta Love It!

Direct shipment of wine, finally, a reality

After a multi-year lobbying effort put forth by the agriculture community and through the support of our wineries, the interstate shipment of wine has finally become a reality in New York State. Under this legislation, licensed wineries and farm wineries will be permitted to ship wine to individual consumers in other states that have reciprocal shipping agreements and statutes. Likewise, consumers in New York State will also be allowed to receive shipments of wine from wineries located in other states.

This legislation is immensely important to the future of New York’s 200-plus farm and commercial wineries, as it will continue to strengthen the economic development of this industry in New York, help the state stay competitive in the national market, and enable the New York wine industry to expand their sales to the over 2.7 million visitors to New York’s wine country who wish to purchase our wines. In New York, we already know that our wineries produce the best, now we can show all the rest. This bill, having passed both the Senate and Assembly, has been signed by the Governor.

photo Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee and New York Wine and Grape Foundation President Jim Trezise discussing the wine industry.

Thousand Island – Seaway Wine Trail established

Although not generally recognized as a traditional grape growing area, the North Country is becoming a great wine producing region of New York State.

In recognition of that, the Assembly has passed Assemblyman Darrel Aubertine’s legislation to create the Thousand Islands – Seaway Wine Trail in Jefferson County, thereby allowing the wineries along this trail to participate in New York’s wine trail and grape cluster signage program currently used in the Finger Lakes, Long Island, Hudson Valley and Lake Ontario/Lake Erie regions.

This designation as a wine trail will also assist in further expanding the tourism opportunities for wine and grape growing ventures and associated businesses including restaurants, hotels and shopping venues. This bill, having also passed the Senate, is awaiting action by the Governor.

Farm wineries may purchase out-of-state grapes in some instances

Over the past several years, early frosts, late winters, unusual hail storms and remarkable freezes have caused grape production to decrease dramatically from year-to-year, placing an enormous strain on our farm wineries as they seek to purchase grapes for the production of wine. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that over sixty percent of the grapes grown in this state are for wine production, so when grape production drops so dramatically it creates a frenzy among wineries and farm wineries that need to purchase New York grown grapes.

As it currently stands, a duly licensed farm winery must use all New York grown grapes in the production of their wine or they must forfeit their farm winery license and seek to be licensed as a commercial winery, which brings with it much greater costs and burdens. In an effort to assist these small farm wineries this legislation allows, under very specific and limited circumstances, the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Chairman of the State Liquor Authority to take action if grape production drops by at least forty percent due to adverse weather conditions. In doing so, our smaller farm wineries would be allowed, for one year, to purchase grapes from out-of-state sources without jeopardizing their farm winery license. This bill, having also passed the Senate, has been signed by the Governor.

Wine tastings earlier on Sundays under proposed bill

Due to a fluke in the law, New York’s wineries and farm wineries are allowed to sell wine beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays but cannot allow consumers to sample that wine until noon. In an effort to rectify this, legislation has passed the Assembly which would allow these wineries to both provide wine tastings and sell wine beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays. This bill is awaiting action by the Senate.

Niagara Wine Trail expanded

Under legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte and passed by the Assembly, the highly successful Niagara Wine Trail will be extended to include two additional branches as well as designate East and West portions of the Trail. There is no doubt that expansion of this trail will allow for further growth in the wine and tourism industries in Niagara County. This bill, having also passed the Senate, is awaiting action by the Governor.

Dairy Farmers Still Number One

Bill notifies coop members of referendums

Under a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Darrel Aubertine, the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets would be authorized to notify the members of the various dairy cooperatives of producer referendums related to milk marketing agreements or orders. Although bloc voting by milk cooperatives is regulated by the federal government, this would provide a way for New York State to keep dairy farmers and producers better informed of proposed changes to their milk marketing orders, as well as provide them with the ability to lobby their cooperative prior to the actual referendum. This bill has passed the Assembly and is awaiting action by the Senate.

Bill allows formation of co-ops for ag waste

As more and more farmers look for alternative methods to dispose of livestock waste, the Assembly has passed legislation that encourages alternative energy technologies and environmentally sound agricultural waste management by agricultural producers. This bill would specifically allow for the formation of cooperatives to capture methane and other gases for generation and use or sale of energy from agricultural waste products. There is no doubt that by encouraging farmers to work together in disposing of their waste through the production of alternative energy, we will be greatly improving the economics of farming in an environmentally cogent manner. This bill, having also passed the Senate, is awaiting action by the Governor.

And, There’s More. . .
photo Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee, Senator David Valesky and members of the New York Farm Bureau.
Towns to get farmland protection plan money

The county agricultural and farmland protection planning program administered by the Department of Agriculture and Markets has proven to be a great success with completed or pending farmland protection plans in almost every county in New York State.

In an effort to build upon that success, the Assembly has passed legislation that would allow towns to apply for funding to assist with the completion of a local farmland protection plan. Since only localities by law can create and enforce land use plans and zoning ordinances, this legislation recognizes the crucial role that local government plays in agricultural and farmland protection and seeks to assist them in carrying out these important objectives. This bill, having also passed the Senate, is awaiting action by the Governor.

Alpacas get their due recognition

Alpaca and llama days to be held Columbus Day weekend

In an effort to highlight the dedication of our alpaca and llama farmers and educate the public as to the great benefit of these beautiful and woolly animals, the Assembly and Senate have passed a resolution calling upon the Governor to declare October 8th through October 10th “New York State Llama and Alpaca Days.”

There is no doubt that alpacas are becoming a mainstay of New York agriculture as more and more farmers are raising these animals for breeding stock and for their fibers. In New York State, we have approximately two hundred sixty-five alpaca farmers raising almost three thousand alpacas that are valued at over $45 million. In terms of economics, this sector of agriculture is continuing to grow by leaps and bounds as it injects more diversity in our farm industry and puts more income in our farmers’ pockets as evidenced by the fact that New York ranks fifth in the United States in terms of alpaca population.

In an effort to assist our alpaca farmers, legislation has passed the Assembly that would clarify that wool-bearing animals such as alpacas are included in the definition of livestock for the purposes of receiving the benefits associated with the agricultural districts law. This bill, having also passed the Senate, has been signed by the Governor.

Agriculture school property tax credit expanded

As farms are transferred from one generation to the next, it is often completed in stages with equipment being transferred first and later the land, barn and buildings, which are usually the most valuable. Unfortunately, this has meant that because the parents retain ownership of the land while the children actually use the land for production, neither party is eligible for the school property tax credit.

In recognition of the hardship that this places on our farmers, the Assembly has passed a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther that would permit farms where the real estate is owned by one family member in the process of transferring it to another family member who is the farmer to take advantage of the school tax credit. It is hoped that this will assist the transfer of farms from the current generation to the next generation of farmer. This bill, having also passed the Senate, is awaiting action by the Governor.

Questions or Comments?
Contact the Assembly Agriculture Committee at:
Room 641 LOB • Albany, N.Y. 12248 • 518-455-4807

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