Republicans in State Assembly seek help for ailing ag industry

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 April 2020 at 8:38 am

Local State Assembly representatives, Steve Hawley of Batavia and Mike Norris of Lockport, are among 42 Republicans in the Assembly seeking state assistance for the agriculture industry.

The Republicans in the Assembly have signed a joint letter to asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to ease some regulations for farmers.

The Assembly members said efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have led to severe disruptions to the dairy industry’s supply chain, dramatic reductions in demand, and have forced many farmers to dump valuable product.

“Farmers are one of our most important working groups, especially in a situation as dire as this one,” Hawley said. “If there’s any way to give them more support and more relief during this troubling time, we’re obligated to do so. It’s about keeping the supply chain running, keeping a small family farm’s doors open, and making sure everyone has food on the table. We can all agree we need to protect our farmers.”

The Assembly Minority Conference has compiled a list of recommendations to help farms survive and stabilize state and local economies.

“Farmers need immediate help,” the Assembly members state in the letter. “I hope that we can work collaboratively, along with the appropriate State agencies, to implement these changes and get New York’s agricultural community back on track.”

New York has more than 200,000 confirmed cases of the virus, which has killed more than 12,000 New York residents.

“No state has felt the social, economic, and public health effects of the virus like New York,” the Assembly members write. “As we identify ways to manage and minimize the devastating impacts of the virus, we must consider immediate steps to provide critical relief to New York State’s agricultural industry.”

The Republicans in the Assembly made the following recommendations:

  • Suspend, for 1 year, DMV registration requirements for agricultural vehicles and farm trucks;
  • Suspend the highway use tax, special hauling permit fees, and collection of New York State tolls for vehicles used to transport agricultural products, including milk;
  • Suspend, for 1 year, the 60-hour overtime threshold for farm laborers enacted as part of the 2019 Farm Labor bill;
  • Suspend, during the state of emergency period, the 24-hour agricultural rest requirement;
  • Extend the Milk Producers Security Fund to help producers who are unable to sell because of COVID-19;
  • Use additional federal stimulus money for direct cash infusions for Cornell Cooperative Extensions to assist in the provision of emergency services;
  • Use federal stimulus funding to invest in rural broadband infrastructure to assist in the provision of services to farms/rural areas during uncertain social and economic times;
  • Provide vouchers for food banks to purchase local dairy and agricultural products; and
  • Stipulate “green nurseries” as essential businesses for the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis, so that these businesses can re-open while following social-distancing guidelines.

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