The New York Farm Bureau outlined a host of federal public policy goals during a Zoom press conference earlier this month.
Goals for Washington, D.C. include farm labor reform, ensuring farmers receive fair prices for milk, supply chain changes, addressing the effects of climate change, regulatory reform and the mental health of farmers.
“We continue to face inflationary pressure and pandemic-related supply chain issues, as well as a host of regulatory changes,” said David Fisher, president of the New York Farm Bureau.
“Probably the first and most important, and it has been on our list for many years, is agricultural labor reform,” said Fisher. “We are looking to meet both short-term and long-term labor needs, which would allow current trained workers who are already with the company to stay and work.”
The Farm Bureau wants changes to the federal H-2A guest worker program. It is currently only open to seasonal workers, but the office wants it to allow year-round work.
Responding to a question from the media later, Fisher acknowledged that the problem was linked to illegal immigration on the minds of many senators and congressmen.
He said this leaves little appetite for reform and “It’s been like this for 30 years.”
PRICES OF DAIRY PRODUCTS
“We’ve seen big swings in the price of milk and dairy prices have rebounded now, but that’s only starting to catch up with the higher input costs that we’re also experiencing,” said Fisher.
The Farm Bureau wants to modernize and streamline the federal government’s current milk marketing order system, which determines what farmers get for milk. He considers the current formula too complicated and outdated.
SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUES
“The supply chain has been impacted throughout the pandemic and it has hurt farmers in many ways,” said Fisher. “We have seen products not making it to market, being blocked before reaching our customers. Elements have broken down such as transport or manufacturing.
“But we’ve also had problems sourcing equipment and parts…and it looks from recent experience that this year will be even worse,” he added. He continued. “We have many parts out of stock, not available. Many of our plant protection products may not be available… prices in many situations are double what they were last year.
The Farm Bureau wants a process to identify and resolve supply chain issues. They hope to achieve less congestion at U.S. ports, reduced barriers to good processing and transportation work, and expanded food processing capacity.
“Our farmers know all too well the impact extreme weather conditions have on their farms and it’s really important for farmers to have a seat at the table when it comes to discussing policy changes,” said Lauren Williams, director of national affairs for the agricultural bureau.
“We support a voluntary, market-based approach that provides incentives and technical assistance to farmers” adopt climate-friendly practices, she said.
Williams said the office is tracking possible changes to the Clean Water Act that could change the definition of “navigable waters” to include flooded fields. This would expose farmers to costly permit procedures and delays, she said.
“We are also asking that the USDA enforce its organic certification standards for livestock,” Williams added. “We’ve seen issues here in New York State with organic dairies losing their markets to larger out-of-state farms. It is important that every farm follows the rules and regulations for the housing and care of livestock on organic farms. »
“We want to increase awareness of mental health resources and encourage greater availability of agriculture-specific assistance,” said Williams. “It’s a stressful time and we want to make sure there are enough resources in place for our farmers and rural communities to deal with it.”