Niagara County Farm Bureau held its annual dinner meeting in conjunction with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County recently. New this year was conducting the policy-making portion of the meeting during the program.

Policy Development Chair Kevin Bittner described it this way: Policy development is a truly grassroots effort. Members of Farm Bureau express their concerns. The board analyzes them and formulates resolutions. The resolutions that pass become our political agenda for the coming year. We have three categories: local, state and federal. The state resolutions we pass move onto the state level to be voted on at the annual convention in December. The federal resolutions move onto the state and, if passed there, will move on to the American Farm Bureau Federation meeting in January.”

John King, Niagara County Farm Bureau president, moved this portion of the meeting from a pre-dinner session to during the dinner. “We know there is an overlap of members,” he said. “We wanted to show everyone how it works. Then if they have a concern or issue in the future, hopefully they will feel more comfortable coming to the Farm Bureau Board to get it resolved.”

Following Roberts Rules of Order, Bittner presented each resolution and asked for a second. As part of the discussion, he explained the reasoning or issue behind each topic. Locally, the resolutions dealt with funding Niagara County CCE and the Soil and Water District, zoning issues and maintenance of drainage ditches.

State issues concerned weight restrictions on vehicles that made it difficult for farmers to access their own land and buildings, agriculture license plates and conversion penalties. Discussion topics included challenges to the recently passed farm labor bill, which included a labor board making unilateral decisions, a power normally with the state legislature.

Federal issues concerned the H2A labor program and a policy to “support a supply management system for the dairy industry that includes a Market Access Fee for dairy farms to grow. This program would replace the current program and any taxpayer funded insurances.” This resolution was adopted during both the state and federal policy discussions because it concerned the federal Farm Bill, which needs state support.

One current state issue that raised a concern was a bill that passed both the Senate and Assembly concerning the ban on Lorsban, an insecticide. Currently the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation tests and approves all chemicals used. This legislation circumvents that process. Bittner pointed out that it is a lengthy process to get something approved and that approval is based on scientific research. Attendees were encouraged to participate in the E-Lobby efforts to get Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto this bill.

Afterwards, King was pleased with how the meeting went. “It only took 10 or 15 minutes, but we introduced many people to how our lobbying efforts work. We look forward to more participation next year.

Margo Sue Bittner, a.k.a. Aggie Culture, has been involved in Niagara County agriculture for 40 years. She’s had experience in dairy farming, fruit production and wine agri-tourism. Ask her any question about local agriculture and if she doesn’t know the answer herself, she knows who to get it from. Email AggieCultureNiagara@gmail.com.

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