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Borrello Introduces Sweeping Farm Proposal

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, speaks on behalf of agriculture on the Senate floor earlier this week.

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, has proposed a wide-ranging package of policies to address food insecurity, help farms and decrease poverty.

The NY Food Insecurity, Farm Resiliency and Rural Poverty Act (S.5941) amends the state Agriculture and Markets Law, state Tax Law, the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law, state Labor Law, state Public Health Law and the Workers’ Compensation Law in relation to establishing the NY Food Insecurity, Farm Resiliency and Rural Poverty Initiative.

Borrello proposes creating the New York Food Insecurity, Farm Resiliency and Rural Poverty Office within the state Department of Agriculture & Markets to administer a series of matching grants, hiring assistance programs, purchasing assistance programs, tax credits, tax exemptions and reimbursements to farmers, food banks, food pantries and non-profits. Borrello’s bill would also establish the New York Meat, Fiber and Dairy Processing Study Commission to examine challenges and issue recommendations.

“It’s impossible for us to understate the impact of agriculture on New York state’s economy,” Borrello said Tuesday on the Senate floor in support of a resolution declaring an Agriculture Week in New York. “Especially now in light of this pandemic we understand how critically important the agriculture community is to New York and our food security. When people think of New York state they think of the skyscrapers of New York City, but really New York state is an agriculture state. We have more than 33,000 farms in New York state and I’m proud to say that more than one in 10 of those is in my district, the most rural and most agriculturally based part of New York state, the 57th Senate District.”

The program would cost the state $35.7 million for the first year. Annual funding would be $19.7 million with a $20 million dry appropriation during states of emergency.

That money would be spent on a Permanent Agricultural Purchasing Assistance Program, a Commercial Meat and Dairy Processing Incentive Program, a Personal Service Cost Assistance Program, a Beginning Farmers Grant Program, a Farm Infrastructure and Equipment Grant Program, a Commercial Real Estate and Warehousing Grant Program, a Cold Storage Equipment Grant Program, a Cold Storage Transportation Grant Program and a Transportation Fuel Reimbursement.

Tax law amendments would create the Farm Donations to Food Pantries Tax Credit, amendments to the estates, powers and trusts law to increase the value of the estate livestock exemption, benefiting farm estates while maintaining the current principles of inheritance and land conveyance.

Borrello said the state’s COVID-19 response has highlighted several ways in which the relationship between New York state agriculture and its food banks could be improved, for the benefit of both those in need and New York farmers. He wants to see assistance to prevent agricultural food waste and other problems associated with low demand for agricultural products; access to cold storage equipment and the acquisition and maintenance of transportation to bring food to those most in need.

“Last fall when I first became the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee, I logged more than 3,000 miles traveling all across New York state,” Borrello said. “Agriculture permeates every single part of this state from Long Island to the Hudson Valley to the Mohawk Valley and the north county to Western New York, where I’m from. Agriculture is a critical component of New York state’s economy and its culture. It’s incredibly resilient and I’m proud to stand here as the grandson of two concord grape farmers to say that the tradition continues on here in New York state and that we must continue to make sure New York agriculture is resilient for our future. Not just for our farmers, not just for the families they support, but for every single New Yorker that New York has a wonderfully resilient and permanent agriculture community.”

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