5 ways Cuomo's 2014 agenda would help NY agriculture

Gov. Cuomo had more than one idea for NY agriculture. Photo: Gov'Cuomo's Flickr stream.

Gov. Cuomo had more than one idea for NY agriculture. Photo: Gov'Cuomo's Flickr stream.

Happy 2014 all! The Dirt's been on a holiday hiatus, but we're back with the view of farm and food news from Upstate NY.

In yesterday's State of the State message, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo offered a generous helping of good news for the state's agriculture community. I wouldn't say it was earth-shattering or anything. But Cuomo has made it clear that he sees agriculture as a core piece of the economic puzzle in Upstate New York, rather than a "siloed" separate sector (nice pun, huh?).

The New York Farm Bureau said Cuomo's 2014 agenda included a number of "standout proposals". "Having a strong partnership with Governor Cuomo and his administration is imperative to growing New York agriculture,” said NYFB president Dean Norton in a press release.

Here are the five big takeaways from the Governor's farm and food agenda for the year:

1. Yogurt Summit & Wine, Beer, and Spirits Summit 2.0. Cuomo effectively focused his economic agenda on these farm products the last two years, and he promised there will be another go-round this year.

2. Upstate-Downstate Farm-To-Table Agriculture Summit. A new edition of the summit-style efforts above, this one focused on a tantalizing opportunity for Upstate farmers that has nevertheless remained largely out of reach for years — how to get those millions of New York City mouths to eat more food produced in Upstate New York?

3. Raising the estate tax threshold. Many farms today are valued higher than the current $1 million threshold. NYFB has long lobbied for this as a way to help farms pass intact to the next generation.

4. Lower property taxes. Farmers own a lot of land, so any reduction of property taxes would help them.

5. Phasing out the energy surcharge. Recommended by Cuomo's tax commission, the 2% surcharge on most utilities would be phased out more quickly than the existing 2018 expiration date. Farmers use a lot of electricity and gas.

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