Strong Support Demonstrated for Farm Programs
Budget negotiations began in New York in mid-March between the governor and the New York State Senate and Assembly. The resulting budget includes a $25 million increase in funding for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), representing a 12.5 percent increase over last year’s budget. In addition, the proposed final budget showed strong support for farm programs within the EPF, including $28 million for the Farmland Protection Program (a 21 percent increase over last year’s funding level) and $12.8 million for the Agricultural Nonpoint Water Pollution Control Program (a 14 percent increase from last year).
The sources of revenue for future increases in the EPF remain in question. Currently, the EPF is funded by revenue generated from the state real estate transfer tax, not the state general fund. However, funding from this revenue stream has been capped at $225 million dedicated for the EPF. The remaining $25 million increase in this year’s budget was negotiated as additional funding from the real estate transfer tax, but only for this year. While Governor Spitzer and others in the legislature were pushing passage of the expanded bottle bill as a new dedicated stream of funding for the EPF, it looks unlikely to be included as part of the budget.
The new bottle bill would expand the nickel bottle deposit to include non-carbonated beverages, such as ice teas and water products. Unclaimed nickels would be directed to the EPF to help fund important environmental programs. AFT supports this legislation as a means to reduce litter on farmland and to provide essential funding to farmland conservation programs. Proponents are hopeful that legislation for the expanded bottle bill will pass before the end of this session to provide a secure fund for next year’s increases in the EPF.
The proposed final budget also includes $30 million for the Dairy Investment 2007 program, exactly half of the funds requested by the industry. These funds will go directly to dairy farmers across the state by means of an emergency price support measure based on their production of milk (with a specified cap). Record low milk prices over the last year combined with escalating energy and feed costs—in most cases increasing as much as 20 percent over the same period of time—have created an economic crisis in the state’s largest agricultural sector. Similar measures have been passed in neighboring states of Vermont and Connecticut.
For more information or to lend your voice in support of this measure, visit the New York Farm Bureau Web site.