By Kaley Lynch
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A series of proposals unveiled Tuesday at an Albany news conference would provide incentives for young people to pursue careers in agriculture.
Dubbed the “Young Farmers NY” plan, the initiative would address the advancing average age of farmers by encouraging a new generation of farmers.
The plan calls for a state investment of $30 million. The program would include loans, grants and tax credits for lease or sale of land and equipment, estate tax reforms to encourage farm preservation, and agricultural education efforts.
Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau, said that the plan will ensure that agriculture will remain the state's top industry.
“As the average age of farmers grows each year, it is imperative that we encourage and promote the development of our young farmer community,” Norton said. “This plan is designed to not only help young farmers who are already involved in agriculture, but to get more young people involved in farming.
According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, the average age of New York State farmers is now 57.1 years. There are two farmers aged 65 and older for each one under age 35.
Niagara County is 42 percent farmland, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
State Sen. George Maziarz, R, Newfane, helped present the plan at the press conference.
“We need to strengthen the environment in which tomorrow's young farmers will work, because young farmers are central to our state's economy and our future ability to grow crops, raise animals, and put food on our tables,” Maziarz said.
The plan includes a Young Farmer Farm Preservation Tax Credit, which would provide eligible farmers with up to 10 percent of the sale or rental price of land or equipment to a new farmer. The program would also allow for grants and start-up loans for new farmers, as well as a student loan forgiveness program for up to ten agricultural degree graduates annually who agree to work full-time in agriculture for at least five years.Contact reporter Kaley Lynch at 439-9222 ext. 6245 or tweet to @Lynchie17