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Plans aim to propel young farmers

Plans aim to propel young farmers

Senate Republicans are pushing for $30 million in state funding to provide incentives for young farm

Senate Republicans are pushing for $30 million in state funding to provide incentives for young farmers to continue to grow family farms in New York.

The Senate Republican Conference unveiled several proposals Tuesday, including loans, grants and tax credits for the sale or lease of farmland and equipment, and funding for agricultural education efforts.

“Farming is critically important to the economic success of our state,” said Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-St. Lawrence County, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “The real risk we face is a continuing decline in family farms if we don’t do more to preserve them by investing in the next generation of farmers.”

The goal of the “Young Farmers NY” initiative is to more easily transfer farmland to the next generation and preserve existing farmland in the state. The key is to encourage young farmers to pursue their opportunities in the industry, Ritchie said.

The state has lost about 50,000 acres of farmland over each of the past five years. Senators pointed to the average age of farmers in New York at 57 as the cause of that decrease.

“Even in tough times, agriculture remains our state’s No. 1 industry,” said Sen. James Seward, R-Oneonta. “We want to make sure that fathers, mothers and grandparents are able to pass the business down to the next generation.”

The proposed package includes $5 million in tax credits, $5 million for startup loans for land and equipment purchases, and another $5 million for tax-free savings accounts toward those purchases.

The initiative also calls for a total of $758,000 in funding for students to get an education in the agriculture industry. The funding would be used for BOCES and loan programs.

The remaining $14 million is for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed estate tax reform in the 2014-15 budget, which would increase the state’s estate tax threshold from $1 million to $5.25 million.

“Agriculture is the backbone of our economy, generating billions,” said Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon. “Agriculture and family farming in particular is an important way of life worth preserving, protecting and cultivating.”

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