February, 26 2016

(The Daily News) NY Farm Bureau Makes It Case To Congress

NY Farm Bureau Makes It Case To Congress
Jim Krencik
The Daily News

It would have been rather crowded in the Capitol Building if all 2,300 New York Farm Bureau members and 200,000 of the state’s farm workers came down for a visit.

But NYFB President Dean Norton of Elba and Associate Director of National Affairs Elizabeth Wolters worked to share their voices this week.

The state Farm Bureau staff were in Washington for the national organization’s advocacy conference, but stayed an extra day to hold face-to-face meetings with congressional leaders to press the policy priorities approved by New York farmers.

Speaking Thursday, Norton and Wolters outlined state Farm Bureau support for a federal GMO labeling standard; opposition to expanded Clean Water Act restrictions; and calls for a reformed immigration program for migrating farm laborers.

With comprehensive immigration reform now unlikely for another presidency, Norton said the Farm Bureau is narrowing its focus to a smaller reform to the seasonal guest worker program by modernizing the application process through electronic submissions, and adding opportunities for year-round opportunities for dairy farms.

“When we don’t have labor, crops get left on the trees and on the ground,” Norton said. “We need to work to find avenues to make it easier to find people willing to come to the United States to provide the labor we need for harvest or planting time.”

In many cases, the Farm Bureau’s goals are in ensuring new regulations have an actual value to consumers, producers and markets. Wolters said they will work with the FDA to balance the compliance burden of the Food Safety Modernization Act with a public health benefit.

“It is important that the FDA works with New York State to provide both the necessary funding and training that will help educate our farmers about their new responsibilities,”” Wolters said. ““We also will be monitoring the roll out so the rules will be applied fairly and consistently across the country so as not to put New York growers at a disadvantage.”

That includes foreign farms, which the Farm Bureau supports having federal funding for inspections to determine if the same standards are being upheld.

The Farm Bureau also shared their support for trade deals with Pacific nations and the European Union — agreements the organization anticipates will increase New York food exports by a combined $177 million annually.

“These trade agreements are great for our farmers to improve access to markets,”” said Wolters.

The delegation met personally with Sen. Chuck Schumer and Reps. Chris Collins and Tom Reed among their discussions with members of the New York delegation.

The Farm Bureau did not need to sell its case on opposition to regulations that would broaden the jurisdiction of “navigable waters” that many farmers believe would include temporary puddles in fields. A repeal of the measure was vetoed after passing both houses, but is currently in the circuit court system.

The Farm Bureau pledged vigilance on the issue.

Read more here.

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