O’Mara: Help is available for young farmers

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

State Senator Tom O’Mara, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, says two key provisions of a comprehensive “Young Farmers NY” program are now in effect.

The “Young Farmers NY” strategy, which O’Mara co-sponsored, combined financial and educational initiatives and incentives aimed at keeping New York State’s leading industry competitive for the next generation.

“This year’s state budget started to enact key elements of our ‘Young Farmers NY’ plan,” said O’Mara, who also serves as one of 10 members on the Legislature’s joint, bipartisan Commission on Rural Resources. “This year’s budget acknowledges that we need to take steps to keep our next generation of farmers on the farm and competitive for the long haul. We can’t risk New York State’s young farmers being taxed, regulated or priced off the farm. ‘Young Farmers N.Y.’ offered a common sense blueprint. We’re starting to enact some of it, and we’ll keep focusing on other key challenges facing the future of agriculture locally, regionally and statewide.”

Applications are available for:

• The New York State New Farmers Grant Fund, which offers grants of up to $50,000 for eligible beginning farmers participating in the production of an agricultural product at commercial farm operations statewide. Eligible costs include leasing or purchasing farm machinery and equipment; constructing or expanding farm buildings or systems; and purchasing supplies such as root stock, seed, or fertilizer. The new grant fund is being administered by Empire State Development (ESD).

Details and the application for the New York State New Farmers Grant Fund are available on the ESD website at http://esd.ny.gov/BusinessPrograms/NewFarmersGrantFund.html. The deadline for submission is Jan. 28, 2015.

• The “Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program” to provide loan forgiveness awards for students who earn an agricultural degree from a State University of New York (SUNY) college or university, including the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, and work in New York State agriculture for at least five years after graduation. More information and the application for the Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Program are available from the state Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) at http://www.hesc.ny.gov/pay-for-college/financial-aid/types-of-financial-aid/nys-grants-scholarships-awards/new-york-state-young-farmers-loan-forgiveness-incentive-program.html. The deadline for submission is Dec. 15, 2014.

O’Mara says New York’s 36,000 farm families help make New York’s $5.2 billion agricultural industry a national leader. O’Mara said that the state’s aging farmer population poses one of the most serious threats to the future of New York’s family farms. The average age of farmers in both the United States and New York is approximately 57 years old. A growing percentage of all farmers are aged 65 and above.