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Immigration reform, infrastructure, and trade highlight NY Farm Bureau's biggest concerns


Immigration reform, infrastructure needs, and the negative impacts of trade mark some of New York Farm Bureau’s priorities for the upcoming year.

In New York Farm Bureau’s federal public policy agenda for the upcoming year there’s a wide range of issues. Some of which, have been on the agenda previously. Immigration reform has eluded Washington lawmakers for years now, but Bureau President David Fisher says there has to be a system in place for people who want to work on their farms.

“We’re calling for a stalemate in Washington to end on this issue and for lawmakers to advance public policy that will establish a more comprehensive guest visa program for agriculture,” Fisher said.

“I think the biggest issue when we talk about making changes to immigration is for the current workforce and giving them some type of status,” said Bureau Senior Associate Director of National Affairs Lauren Williams. “I think some of the rhetoric along those lines is, ‘Are we giving people immunity or providing them the ability to work here when they didn’t come across legally?’”

And while the bureau is making transportation infrastructure a priority, farmers are asking for an expansion of rural broadband. A 2016 federal report showed 17% of rural New Yorkers have no access to broadband. Williams said having access to internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.

“And I think there’s a really good case to making sure there’s access to that,” said Williams. “From an educational standpoint, but also to being able to run a business.  And I think, across party lines that everybody wants good businesses, good education, and good access to resources.”

“In rural America, broadband services increase economic development though new business opportunities and are better able to communicate with current and prospective customers as well as to market and sell their products,” said Fisher. “Precision agriculture also relies on broadband services so farmers and ranchers can manage efficient economical and environmentally conscious businesses.”

Fisher said farmers use precision agriculture for accurate mapping of field boundaries, roads, irrigation systems, and for precision planting for targeting the application of fertilizer and chemicals that combat weed and crop disease.

And when it comes to trade, Fisher said farmers are cautiously optimistic things will get better after retaliatory tariffs negatively impacted US exports.

“Some of the retaliatory tariffs, people are realizing that it’s hurting the economy in different ways, especially our farmers. It feels like we’re headed in the right direction with some of those things on trade too,” Fisher said.

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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