Rural Update • Summer 2005
The Legislative Commission on
Rural Resources
Sheldon Silver, Speaker • David R. Koon, Vice-Chair

Assemblyman David Koon

David R. Koon
Legislative Commission
on Rural Resources

268 Fairport Village Landing
Fairport, NY 14450

Room 643 LOB
Albany, NY 12248

Rural Resources Legislative Agenda

Over two dozen wide-ranging bills were sponsored by the Commission this year. Highlights include legislation to:

  • Provide for review by the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets of local rules and regulations and their impact on agriculture (A.5479 (Koon)/S.2619 (Winner)) – passed both houses, awaiting action by the Governor;

  • Expand the rural revitalization economic development program to include cluster-based industry and agribusiness (A.5480 (Koon)/S.2618 (McGee));

  • Increase the penalty for failure to file subdivision maps, an important consumer protection issue (A.5482-A (Koon)/S.2617-A (Winner)) – passed both houses, awaiting action by the Governor;

  • Create an Advanced Telecommunications Services Rural Task Force to evaluate the deployment of such services in rural areas (A.5633-A (Koon)/S.2747-A (Winner));

  • Establish a loan forgiveness program for nursing faculty (A.6138 (Koon)/S.3064 (McGee)) – included in the 2005-06 budget;

  • Require municipalities to give notice when proposing a project that may impact zoning and land use in a neighboring municipality (A.6219-B (Koon)/S.3154-A (Winner)) – passed both houses, awaiting action by the Governor;

  • Clarify and expand the protection of land owners and occupants of land from liability when such land is opened for recreational use by the public (A.6812 (Koon)/S.3636 (Saland) & A.5481 (Koon)/S.2614 (Saland)); and

  • Provide special training in aging and elderly care for certain employees through the Office for the Aging (A.5359 (Lifton)).

Agricultural Plastic Recycling Project in New York

Over the last several decades, farmers in New York have begun to rely on agricultural plastics rather than traditional silos. Sisal fiber twine has been replaced with plastic twine, large sheets or bags of plastic are used to hold silage, greenhouses are often made of plastic and plastics are used for row covers and various containers. There are often limited disposal options for these plastics and they are burned in open barrels or buried in the ground – both harmful to the environment.

There is an exciting pilot project underway in the Central-Leatherstocking region to test and study recycling alternatives and make certain that such recycling is environmentally and economically sound.

Working with faculty and staff of Cornell University, the project will make recommendations on the best ways to:

  • Collect ag plastics – on-farm collections vs. pick-up sites;
  • Handle the plastic – sorting, baling;
  • Recycle the plastic – how to clean, whether or not to grind the plastic into pellets or shreds; and
  • Establish secondary markets – what new products can be made from recycled plastic.

Solving the agricultural plastics disposal problem will go a long way toward the goal of banning the open burning of waste. Assemblyman Koon has been the prime sponsor of legislation to ban such burning for several years (A.3073).

Source for this article: Dr. Lois Levitan, Environmental Risk Analysis Program, Cornell University.

Welcome Senator
George Winner

Senator George Winner has been appointed the new Senate Chair of the Commission. He represents part of Tompkins County and all of the Counties of Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, and Yates. He was elected to the Senate in November 2004 after serving for over two decades in the State Assembly.

Methamphetamine — A Growing Problem in Rural Areas

Methamphetamine (meth), a dangerous stimulant similar to cocaine, is a growing problem throughout the country. Used in a variety of ways, meth may have devastating short and long term effects, such as convulsions, anxiety, violent behavior, insomnia, confusion, hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, mood disturbances and cognitive impairments.

Beyond the physical impairments and addiction that meth brings, it also creates problems that are specific to rural areas. One of the common methods used to manufacture meth involves the use of anhydrous ammonia, which is a fertilizer used to provide nitrogen for crop production. It is used by farmers and is being stolen for the production of this drug, leaving farmers at a loss of a product needed for their crops and in fear of related violence. The other impact on rural areas is the contamination of water and soil produced by the discharge into the environment through the process of “cooking” the meth. The presence of a meth lab may go undetected for months or years, creating a toxic environment for nearby residents.

As the regularly scheduled legislative session concluded, both houses passed a comprehensive bill to combat meth use and production in New York (A.9002/S.5920). Currently, the legislation awaits action by the Governor.

Calling All Rural Doctors

As Vice-Chair of the Commission on Rural Resources, Assemblyman Koon is concerned with the need to recruit and retain physicians in our rural areas. There have been many attempted solutions to the ongoing problems of medically underserved communities. New York has several programs in place to help increase the number of physicians practicing in rural areas, including: the Health Department’s physician loan repayment program, an

Designated Health Professional Shortage Areas
internet based recruitment network called the 3RNet, and the Rural Health Care Access Development Program aimed at rural hospitals. New solutions that have been tried in other rural areas include: federal assistance such as a new 5% bonus in Medicare payments for doctors who practice in physician scarcity areas, rural health scholars programs that begin in high school, signing bonuses for physicians who sign contracts, rural medical education tracks, and quicker partnership incentives.

Many areas in New York State have been designated Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs)

Forestry Industry – Important to New York’s Economy

Did you know? According to the North East State Foresters Association:

  • New York has over 18 million acres of forestland – that’s more than any other Northeastern state! Covering 61% of New York, the forests provide an important economic base for employment, tourism and recreation, and support a diverse forest products industry.

  • The annual contribution of forest-based manufacturing and forest-related recreation and tourism to the New York economy is over $9 billion.

  • While manufacturing jobs, unfortunately, have decreased in most industries in New York State, they have actually increased in the forest products industry – providing for 5.2% of the statewide value for manufacturing.

  • Each 1,000 acres of forestland in New York supports 2.6 forest-based manufacturing jobs and .78 forest-related recreation and tourism jobs.

  • The percentage of land covered by forests has increased 23% since 1953.

The Rural Resources Commission was successful in calling for a new law to increase the penalty for timber theft – a serious problem that has been ignored by many prosecutors. The law provides authorization for training of prosecutors and law enforcement officials about timber theft and trespass. The statute also allows the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation to comment on local laws which might restrict forestry practice.

The future of forestry is very exciting and may include cellulose from trees being used in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Biomass from willow and other trees is being used for renewable energy. The contribution that the forestry industry makes to New York is unquestionable and we must continue to protect and enhance it!

Tribute to Senator Patricia McGee

The Commission on Rural Resources was saddened by the death of Senator McGee this spring. She had been the Senate Chair of the Commission since 1999 and also Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. She was an outspoken leader for rural New York and will be sorely missed.

Senator McGee was particularly proud of her work for rural New York, including: legislation to create a special “ag tag” license plate to benefit “ag in the classroom,” legislation to increase the penalties and provide more education for timber theft, obtaining state fiscal support for Area Health Education Centers (AHEC’s) which help connect rural students with medical careers, and her distinguished leadership award from the Upstate Chapter of the American Planning Association for land use legislation.

To honor Senator McGee for her continued advocacy regarding the state’s nursing shortage, legislation was passed this year (A.8448-A/S.5422) to rename the nursing faculty scholarships and loan forgiveness program in her honor. Given her important role and commitment to this initiative, it is fitting that this program bear her name in memory of her service to New Yorkers and her commitment to the nursing profession.

Did you know?

  • The Legislative Commission on Rural Resources works on a wide range of issues including: agriculture, economic development, education, environment, land use, local governments, transportation, and health and human services.

  • The Commission was established in 1982 and has since sponsored almost 100 legislative proposals which have been enacted and secured funding for dozens of rural programs.

  • Orleans, Genesee, Livingston, Ontario and Wayne counties are all considered rural.

Cornell University Focuses on Rural New York

A symposium was held at Cornell University in early June entitled “Rural NY at a Crossroads: Research, Outreach and Policy.”

Topics included: linking innovation and business through a new Cornell office called the Cornell Center for Technology, Enterprise and Commercialization (CCTEC); slowing the exodus of young professionals from rural NY; how partnerships have improved downtown Auburn and how this could be a model for other upstate communities; the impact of Latino immigration on rural NY; the changing needs of the aging population in rural areas; and the potential for a new future in bio-energy in upstate NY.

The Commission has been working closely with staff and faculty of Cornell to highlight the special needs and benefits of rural NY. Stay tuned for more exciting work in this collaborative effort!


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