State Sen. Tom O'Mara, R-Big Flats, and other Senate Republicans announced a new initiative Tuesday in Albany aimed at getting more young people involved in farming.
State Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, and other Senate Republicans announced a new initiative Tuesday in Albany aimed at getting more young people involved in farming.
Dubbed “Young Farmers NY,” it includes tax incentives, low-interest loans and grants, a new student loan forgiveness program and other educational initiatives, O’Mara said.
“We need to keep taking actions that can help keep our next generation of farmers on the farm and competitive for the long haul. We can’t risk New York State’s young farmers being taxed, regulated or priced off the farm,” O’Mara said in a statement.
He called the plan “a common sense blueprint that recognizes the changing demographics of today’s family farms and focuses on many of the key challenges facing the future of agriculture.”
Among the proposals:
• A $5 million revolving loan fund to provide low-interest start-up loans for land and equipment purchases by new farmers.
• Grants of up to $50,000 to help new farmers buy land, equipment or supplies.
• A tax credit of up to 10 percent for farmers who sell or lease land to a new farmer.
• Special tax-free savings accounts for new farmers.
• Increasing the estate tax threshold on farms from $1 million to $5.25 million and lowering the top estate tax rate from 16 percent to 10 percent, with the goal of making it easier to pass family farms from one generation to the next.
• A loan forgiveness program for students who earn agricultural degrees from SUNY colleges - including Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences - and work in agriculture in New York for five years afterward.
• A hands-on apprenticeship program for young farmers, run by local BOCES and the New York Farm Bureau.
• Boosting funding for the Future Farmers of America program to help high school students in rural communities explore careers in agriculture.
The Young Farmers NY plan includes new ideas as well as programs that have worked in other states, O’Mara said.
Agriculture is a $5.2 billion industry in New York, making it one of the top states in the U.S., but the average age of a farmer in New York is 57, and the percentage of farmers above age 65 is growing, O’Mara said.
“As the average age of farmers grows each year, it is imperative that we encourage and promote the development of our young farmer community,” said Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau, in a statement. “This plan is designed to not only help young farmers that are already involved in agriculture, but to get more young people involved in farming.”
According to O’Mara spokesman Jim Meddleton, the Senate Republicans will try to get the key measures in the Young Farmers NY initiative included in the state budget for 2014-15, which will be hashed out this month in Albany by Senate and Assembly leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The initiative will be included in the Senate’s budget proposal.
If the initiative isn’t included in the final budget - scheduled to be adopted by April 1 - it would likely be introduced as a bill in the Legislature afterward, Meddleton said.