ALBANY — Under the leadership of Senator Michelle Hinchey, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, a package of ten bills to promote better agricultural development and the accessibility of local goods for New York went to the floor for a vote in the State Senate this week, including four bills sponsored by Senator Hinchey.
The package would enable schools to better source local, healthy food; create pathways for state agencies to buy food directly from New York farmers with a commitment that by 2024, 25% of all food purchased is locally sourced; expand the New York loan forgiveness program for young farmers; establish the office of urban agriculture; increase the number of farmers markets; develop educational materials for farmers on the use of agrivoltaics and promote co-locating solar power on active farmland; create a farming hotline with the Cornell Cooperative Extension as well as a New York State Council on Food Policy, and increase the farm workforce retention credit. One of the biggest and most vital sectors, New York’s agricultural industry contributes approximately $6 billion in economic output and sustains the state’s position as a national leader in food production. The bills passed this week acknowledge the crucial need for a strong farm economy, which is indispensable to New York’s sustainability, its future growth potential, and to the local-level success of the rural communities that grow and produce the commodities that feed our state and nation.
Senator Michelle Hinchey said, “Protecting our agricultural economy, and the farmers and farm businesses that support it, is a priority in the New York State Senate. This robust legislative package that we’ve passed is a testament to the far-reaching work of the Senate Agriculture Committee and showcases our commitment to the industry by bolstering access to fresh, healthy food for all New Yorkers, providing assistance to new and seasoned farmers alike, and strengthening agriculture’s impact in the fight against the climate crisis. I’m proud of this slate of bills that will bring meaningful and direct support to our small and mid-size farmers across the state and thank my colleagues for their partnership in passing these bills.”
“New York is home to over 30,000 farms, with 98% of them being family-owned. Not only is the agricultural industry our main source of sustenance, it’s also a foundational piece of New York’s economy,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “Many farms have faced too many lean years and were unable to absorb recent economic downturns. A pervasive disconnect between producers and consumers has left many New Yorkers stranded in food deserts. This package will go a long way in decreasing that discrepancy while boosting farm growth. With a homegrown food supply as large as ours, every New Yorker should have access to quality local food. I thank our Agriculture Chair, Senator Hinchey, and the bill sponsors for advancing this crucial legislation and look forward to continuing to support New York farmers.”
The four bills introduced by Senator Hinchey include:
Farm Workforce Retention Credit Increase: This bill, S3502A, increases the amount of the farm workforce retention credit from $600 to $1,200 per farm employee.
Establishing Food Procurement Goals for State Agencies: This bill, S6808A, establishes the procurement goals for New York State food products purchased by state agencies.
The One-Stop Farming Hotline: This bill, S4072, establishes a farming hotline, with assistance from the Cornell cooperative extension. The hotline provides information on all aspects of farming including tax credit programs, beginning farmer loans, and sustainable practices.
The Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Act: This bill, S4082, expands eligibility for the New York State young farmer loan forgiveness incentive program. This bill removes the requirement that the eligible person graduated college in the last two years. Now, the bill states that qualified applicants must not have farmed for more than ten consecutive years.
Other agricultural bills passed by the Senate today with Senator Hinchey’s support include:
Locally Sourced Goods For Schools: This bill, S3974, will help schools that wish to integrate a variety of local agricultural products into their food services be able to do so.
Produce Produced In-State: This bill, S2199, encourages the Department of Agriculture and Markets to help establish and expand regional farmers markets.
Agrivoltaics In Farming Education: This bill, S7861, promotes the benefits of co-locating solar power systems on active farmland for crop production, reduced energy costs, and climate resilience. This bill also requires the department of agriculture and markets to provide a booth at the state fair which will help educate the public on agrivoltaics in farming.
The Office of Urban Agriculture: This bill, S8059, establishes the office of Urban Agriculture to assist and promote different forms of urban farming across the state.
The Local Food, Fams, and Jobs Act: This bill, S549B, creates the New York State council on food policy to create and track guidelines and programs that promote locally grown food products. This bill aims to increase the market for New York agricultural industry’s products by setting goals for procurement of local foods by state agencies and facilities.
Farmers Markets in State Parks: This bill, S5006, permits farmers markets in state and local parks. This bill will increase access to locally grown food products.
Senator Michelle Hinchey represents the 46th Senate District, which includes Greene and Montgomery Counties and parts of Albany, Schenectady, and Ulster Counties. Senator Hinchey serves as Chair of the Agriculture Committee and sits on the Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business, Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation, Energy and Telecommunications, Environmental Conservation, and Local Government Committees.
–The Office of New York State Senator Michelle Hinchey