While much of the conversation around farms and the New York state budget has revolved around a planned hike in the minimum wage, there is some good news for farmers. Jeff Williams, director of public policy for the New York Farm Bureau (NYFB), calls passage of a renewable investment tax credit for farmers, “wonderful."
“[The tax credit] is designed to spur investing in farms across the state, whether it’s equipment, machinery, land, buildings,” Williams said. “It’s really a watershed program.”
The New York Farm Bureau has been advocating for this tax credit for two decades. It’s especially worthwhile for farmers, says Williams, because they will get money back from the state if they don’t have any tax liability.
“If they don’t pay taxes, they’re going to get a certain percentage of that tax credit back in a check from New York state,” he said.
Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed the tax credit in her executive budget.
While farmers are hopeful the credit will spur growth, they are all but certain that the coming minimum wage increase will have a “dampening effect” on farm investments.
“There…are a number of farmers saying, ‘what am I doing doing business in New York state? My labor costs keep increasing,'" Williams said.
The economics of sweet corn illustrate one problem facing farmers in the state. Recently, farmers could sell sweet corn for $8 a box. The cost of that box of sweet corn to consumers was $13. Now, farmers sell sweet corn for $11 a box, but the price for consumers has remained $13. Thus, farmers who had been earning $5 per box are now only bringing in $2.
“Labor is 50% of a farmer’s costs,” Williams explained. “You see this slimming of the margin for farmers.”
During the balance of the legislative session, the New York Farm Bureau will be focused on preventing passage of a bill that would prohibit the sale of certain pesticides called neonic pesticide seed treatments.
According to Williams, these are seed treatments that minimize the spraying of pesticides all over fields.
But according to the bill language, a report from Cornell University "found that the routine use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds ‘does not consistently increase net income for New York field corn or soybean producers,’ and ‘neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds do not consistently increase expected net income compared to untreated seeds,’ but ‘at the same time, widespread use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds incurs risks for insect pollinators.’"
“These dangerous chemicals have already been banned in Montreal and the EU,” said Peter Lehner, managing attorney with Earthjustice. “Opponents also conveniently forget that these pesticides jeopardize our food system, not to mention our health and environment. This is a carefully tailored bill New York should enact."
Advocates refer to the bill as the “Birds and Bees Protection Act." When asked what he would title the bill, Williams said, the “Anti-Food Security Act."
“This is very worrisome to the agricultural industry,” he continued.