New York Farm Bureau capped off the end of the 2018 New York State Legislative Session with a number of victories on bills it advocated for this year. Many of the bills will have a direct benefit on the diverse range of farms in the state. The organization’s priorities are geared towards reducing regulatory burdens and finding solutions to the economic challenges farms increasingly face.
In recent weeks, the legislature passed a renewal of the 10-real property tax exemption on new farm construction, NYFB’s top priority for the session. This helps to incentivize investment while limiting rising property taxes based on updated agricultural assessments of the farm property. Also, lawmakers supported a bill to modernize the assessment process by allowing the renter of leased farmland to electronically submit the agricultural assessment renewal application. This will simplify the annual process, making it easier for farmers to comply.
A bill aimed at improving road safety passed in the session’s final days. The bill would increase the speed at which a slow-moving vehicle, with an attached slow-moving vehicle (SMV) emblem, may travel on roadways. This legislation would help protect farm equipment drivers and the public from accidents involving farm equipment. Modern machinery can travel faster than 25 miles-per-hour, the current limit allowed for the use of a SMV sign. By alerting drivers that machinery will be going faster, but perhaps still not the posted speed limit, it can help to prevent collisions.
The Senate also passed legislation in the final hours of session in support of the Working Farm Protection Act that previously passed in the Assembly. Farms in some of areas of the state, like the Hudson Valley and Long Island, are facing major development pressure which is driving up land prices. In turn, this makes it more difficult for new farmers to purchase affordable farmland. This bill will allow conservation easements to include preemptive purchase rights which would help to ensure that working farmland could be sold at a reasonable price to another farmer.
Two pieces of legislation that will help the craft beverage industry also passed both chambers. The first bill will provide a six-year real property tax exemption for newly planted hopyards. This will bring the law in line with the same benefit provided to new vineyards and orchards. The exemption will reduce business costs for start-up hopyards while also making it easier to increase the hops supply to help farm breweries meet the New York grown ingredient requirement. The other legislation will let craft beverage makers produce and sell beer and cider infused ice cream, much like wine ice cream that is currently allowed in New York.
The successful legislative season followed a positive budget process that saw support for dozens of agricultural programs. This includes an increased state reimbursement rate for school lunch programs that spend 30% of their lunch budgets on New York grown, produced or processed food. New York State is also committing $5 million to improve infrastructure at county fairs. This year’s budget saw a nine-percent increase in funding for NY FarmNet which is sorely needed as the service is seeing a 50% increase in calls from farmers to help them cope with the stresses of a down farm economy. Some other budget lines that saw additional funding include honeybee research, hops and barley programs and support for the growing craft beverage industry. In addition, the budget support for the Environmental Protection Fund has a real impact on advancing conservation efforts on farms across New York.
New York Farm Bureau would like to thank all the lawmakers who have supported legislation important to our members with special appreciation going out to the Agriculture Committee Chairs, Senator Patty Ritchie and Assembly member Bill Magee. They have long championed the needs of farmers. We look forward to Governor Cuomo signing the legislation.