A Column of News & Comment by Senator James L. Seward



Farming has served as the backbone of New York’s economy for generations, and in my senate district it is a way of life.  In recent years, we have seen new trends – craft food and beverages, Greek yogurt, and “farm to table” restaurants to name a few – that are helping revitalize New York’s agriculture economy.  We need to do all we can to support traditional farming and nurture new ag-businesses.


Recently, I joined my senate colleagues to endorse a comprehensive package of initiatives to help strengthen family farms and create new jobs in the agriculture industry by expanding markets, reducing production costs, and investing in the state’s leading industry.  The Growing Strong plan includes a number of bills that will be advanced in the coming weeks of the legislative session, among them:


Help farmers invest in facilities and buy equipment: S.7851 which provides a tax credit for dairy farmers to encourage investment in facilities and equipment that will allow them to take advantage of a growing demand for “value-added” dairy products, like flavored drinks, yogurts, and other products that can satisfy existing, wide demand, such as in growing ethnic minority communities within the state;


Modernize regulations for home processors: S.7840 which allows home processors to use direct and indirect internet sales; home-based in-person sales; home-based delivery services; and community-supported agriculture subscriptions. Amending the law will reduce artificial barriers to business growth, expand potential markets, and help these entrepreneurs compete and grow their businesses. The bill also calls on the Department of Agriculture and Markets to review onerous regulations that limit the types of products home processors can make and sell. Reforming Albany’s regulations can help unleash the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of New Yorkers to potentially create thousands of new small businesses;


Make it easier to cross-promote products: S.5853 which expands the privileges of farm breweries, cideries, wineries and distilleries to cross-promote each other’s products and to share a more similar set of privileges under the law. The bill will help the state’s regional and craft alcoholic beverage producers to cross-promote and collaborate in new ways that were previously only available to out-of-state competitors;


Ease restrictions on utility vehicles: S.7850 which  allows registration of all-terrain vehicles with a weight of no more than 1,500 pounds, operated upon public highways connecting portions of a farm or farms, fields, and agriculture buildings, and up to one-half mile from the vehicle owner’s farm. Under current law, the increasingly popular utility vehicles cannot be registered for operation on highways in the state. Because of their relatively smaller size, these vehicles have proved useful and cost-effective in helping farmers perform daily tasks, including moving animals, feed, and equipment between fields and in making it possible to access areas of their farms where more traditional tractors and heavy equipment cannot go;


Provide a tax credit for the purchase of New York-grown crops: S.7217 which creates a tax credit for companies that purchase New York-grown crops and use New York crops in their value-added products. This bill is mutually beneficial for the state’s farmers and craft beer producers when they buy in-state crops. Craft beer producers will keep industry dollars in the state economy while encouraging further growth of these high-demand crops. Eligible crops include various fruits, vegetables, and field crops including, among others, wheat, barley, and hops;


Boost maple sap production: S.7842 which creates a system for permitting access to certain state lands for the purpose of collecting sap from maple trees and a tax credit for the purchase of qualified equipment used for the production of maple syrup. Allowing New Yorkers to tap some trees on state owned land will utilize an important untapped resource while creating new jobs and generating new state revenues. The tax credit for equipment will make it easier for farmers and others to enter the business or modernize their operations to more fully take advantage of this unique resource.