In light of a troubling new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that New York’s apple crop will be the smallest since 1948, Assembly Members Jim Tedisco (R,C,I-Schenectady-Saratoga), Pete Lopez (R,C,I-Schoharie) and Steve McLaughlin (R,C-Melrose) today called on state leaders to hold a special session of the legislature to provide relief to New York’s struggling family farms.
This year’s wild weather has negatively impacted New York’s apple production by 52 percent (lowest since 1948); grapes are down 39 percent (lowest since 1977); peaches are down 60 percent and pears are down 79 percent (both the lowest on record), according to the USDA. Dairy farmers also are facing cost concerns over the price of corn to feed their herd due to drought.
In June, the three lawmakers joined with Senate Agriculture Chair Patty Ritchie (R,C-Oswegatchie), Senator Hugh T. Farley (R,C,I-Niskayuna), and Assemblyman George Amedore (R,C,I-Rotterdam) to introduce the Family Farmers and Apple Growers Relief Act to help apple growers and farmers who have lost a significant amount of their crops due to the extreme weather.
“It’s time to provide some light at the end of the tunnel with a tax credit for small family farms. If not, the only light at the end of the tunnel could be an oncoming financial train wreck for the folks who feed us. New York should have the backs of our small family farmers ,” said Tedisco, former Minority Leader and current Assistant Minority Whip.
“The legislature needs to return to Albany this year to help save our state’s family-owned farms and not to vote on a pay raise,” said Tedisco, who noted that he never has and never will vote for a legislative pay hike.
“Supporting our family farms is critical to our state as a whole,” said Lopez, who serves as a member of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, and whose sprawling 7-county district includes many family farms in the Mid-Hudson, Northern Catskills, and Southern Tier. “In the last year, our farms have been battered by floods, drought and extreme temperature. This pressure added to the serious challenges of the recession and global competition could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. We need real leadership to make sure our family farms survive.”
“Our local family farms are a major part of the economic backbone of our community, but the wild weather this year has placed a tremendous strain on Upstate farmers and there's no doubt they will endure greater hardships over the next several months,” said McLaughlin. “Lawmakers must make the responsible decision to return to Albany for a special session not to vote on a legislative pay raise, but vote to provide tax relief to these farmers who help put food on our tables each night for our families. It's critical we do everything possible to protect and preserve these farms for generations to come.”
New York is the second largest apple-producing state in the nation and the state’s 694 family apple farms employ over 10,000 people and support another 7,500 jobs indirectly that depend on a robust apple crop, according to the New York Apple Association. The apple industry’s economic impact alone on the state’s economy is valued at $233 million.
The bill (S.7551) has bi-partisan support and was filed on June 4th in the Assembly after discussions this spring with farmers. While the bill was introduced in the Senate with 15 sponsors including Senator David Valesky, and has received 25 sponsors in the Assembly including three Majority members, the Assembly Majority leadership has so far refused to issue a bill number for the measure so it can be debated and move forward for an up-or-down vote.
The “Family Farmers and Apple Growers Relief Act” would establish a specialized tax credit for the 2012 tax year that will allow a farmer to claim 35 percent of their crop losses.
The measure is supported by the New York Farm Bureau, the New York Apple Association and the New York Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.
The Senate Finance Committee estimates enactment of the tax credit would cost $5 million, which the sponsors believe would be more than made up from income and sales tax revenues received from agri-tourism to the farms.
Tedisco, Lopez and McLaughlin noted that without this help farm owners would face added pressure to give up their businesses and sell their land.
“Once a farm owner says, ‘enough is enough’ and sells their land to a developer, the open space and quality of life that farms provide a community is gone forever,” said Tedisco.
“People who enjoy eating locally-grown produce and seeing open spaces should support this bill. Our farms are important to the vitality, sustainability and character of our local communities. The alternative of seeing our farms and apple orchards go out of business would be a cultural and economic tragedy,” said Tedisco.