Agriculture is a critical part of New York’s economy and a strong tradition I am committed to helping preserve. Farmers in New York and across the country work hard every day to provide a safe, affordable and abundant food supply, but many have faced hard times in this tough economy.
Dairy farmers in particular faced a historic crisis in 2009, when milk prices dramatically declined even as middle class families continued to pay the same price at the store. As New York dairy farms struggle to recover from this crisis, I am working in Congress to end to the price instability that has caused such a large part of our economy to suffer for years.
New York has a strong agricultural tradition and a wealth of resources that make our state a great place for production. I am well-advised by many from the area who are doing exactly that, as I have assembled an agricultural advisory committee of local farmers and producers with whom I consult on these issues. As Congressman, I take every chance I get to help farmers grow their operations and find new opportunities to succeed. To that end, I have introduced legislation to improve access to farm credit, reduce barriers for local apple growers who export to Canada, and create growth opportunities for New York maple producers.
In addition, I continue to support a farm worker program that makes sense for local employers and ensures an adequate labor supply for family farms. Even with historically high unemployment, I consistently hear from farmers who struggle to find workers for their operations. The unwillingness of Americans to perform the labor-intensive work required by our region’s dairy farms, apple orchards and other specialty crop operations has forced these businesses to rely on immigrant labor. Although many of these foreign workers have returned to the U.S. for generations to fill this critical need for family farms, the broken and unreliable H-2A visa program often makes it difficult or even impossible to obtain these workers legally. We must address this agricultural labor crisis to ensure the long-term survival of New York’s family farms.