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US (NY): State lawmakers discuss labor shortage during downstate agricultural tour

Dozens of state lawmakers wrapped up a two-day farm tour Thursday ready to advocate for additional funding in next year’s budget to support state agriculture and pursue legislation to aid agricultural processors. The third annual farm tour, spearheaded by Assemblyman Chris Tague’s office, featured stops at seven Greene County farms Wednesday. Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin and about 60 lawmakers attended stops on the first day. Roughly 40 representatives visited farms Thursday.

Tague, R-Schoharie, sits on the chamber’s Agriculture Committee. A former dairy farmer, Tague, started the tour so representatives from across New York and urban areas could understand the issues impacting the state’s agricultural industry and its trickle-down effects on tourism, hunger, and public health. “It’s beyond what I could have imagined,” Tague said of the well-attended tour. “A lot of great questions were asked. There’s been a lot of great interaction between farmers and members.”

Tague stressed the need for a balance between protecting the environment and fighting climate change while making cost-effective changes for struggling farmers.

“We have unique ways of culturing hemp,” said John Ng, president and founder of New York Hemp Service & Hudson Valley Fisheries. “The water that we discharge helps fertigate the hemp, and in the future, as we finish development of our greenhouses, we can even ventilate the carbon dioxide the fish exhale, which we have to get out of the water and put oxygen back in, and we can ventilate that into the greenhouse for the plants to capture the carbon and actually conserve heat.

This week’s tour helps lawmakers from across the state see the need for a robust budget that supports New York farms, she said.
“Food isn’t political or partisan,” Hinchey said. “Not every conversation may form one piece of legislation, but it will help us fight in the budget. It will help us say, ‘Remember when you saw this farm, and you heard this issue with labor, or you saw this challenge?’ we can solve that by having a better agricultural budget.”

“If we can have more people be here seeing it, recognizing the importance of the upstate agricultural market and strengthening the ties, that’s a massive win for agriculture across the state,” she added.
Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, D-Hudson, a member of the Agriculture Committee, cited New York’s role in growing a significant portion of the nation’s food supply.

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