Skip to main content

Another path to save small farms

October 29, 2019 03:26 pm Updated: October 29, 2019 10:34 pm

As many area farms teeter on a precipice, farmers and other interested spectators are getting a look at how different elected officials are tackling this complex but elusive problem.

The latest to take a stab at endangered farms is state Sen. Jen Metzger, D-42, whose district includes much of the Hudson Valley west of the river and portions of the Catskill Mountains. She has offered legislation to enable farmers to claim a refundable tax credit of $1,200 for each of their employees.

If passed, Metzger’s proposed legislation, announced Monday, would double the current Farm Workforce Retention Credit applied to each farm employee who works 500 hours or more each year. It would also extend the tax credit indefinitely, beyond its current 2022 expiration date.

Metzger’s legislation, if it achieves what it was shaped for, would aid the relatively smaller family farms operating in New York in shouldering increasing farm expenses. New York farmers contend with significantly higher labor costs than farmers in other states and other nations, making it difficult if not impossible for them to compete in the marketplace.

Compounding their problems, New York farmers face a rising minimum wage, a tightening labor market and the new Farm Labor Rights Act law that ensures farm workers get paid overtime after working 60 hours a week and get one day off each week.

Local farmers face so many challenges that the game seems rigged against them. That leaves the door ajar to the closing of generational farms and a virtually unalterable drain on the economy. U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, is attacking the problem at the national level; Metzger is responding at the state level. They are doing all they can, but more help is needed or local farms will walk off the cliff.