Governor Hochul: "And all the farmers and all the different ways that you've innovated to use God's gift, the beautiful Earth that's been entrusted to us - it's amazing. It's amazing. But I also know you've had to deal with global supply chain issues - didn't see that one coming. You've had to deal with more weeds and pests and diseases than ever before, the effect of climate change changing the growing season."
Hochul: "We're looking forward to finding out what's on your mind, really digging into your challenges and when you reconvene over the next 191 years that you're going to see things getting a little bit better, that your government doesn't have to be on your back, it should be on your side. And that is my commitment to you as your Governor, as an Upstater."
Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul delivered remarks at the 191st New York State Agriculture Society's Meeting and Agricultural Forum. During her remarks, the Governor highlighted her agriculture proposals included in the 2023 State of the State.
AUDIO of the event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Thank you, Commissioner. I saw the Commissioner at the State of State the other day and said, "Can you come to this? It's really important that you come to this." And I said, well, didn't know at the time that I'd be leaving at 4:45 in the morning to fly to New York City to settle a nurse's strike. Flew back up to Albany to announce $125 million in clean energy initiatives by Plug Power. Then I have to do the opening ceremonies for the World University Games in Lake Placid in a few hours. I said, "Sure, I can fit Syracuse in. Why not?" Because you're worth it. You're worth it to me, because you mean so much to me personally and to our state.
And that is why having a Commissioner like Richard Ball, who's one of you, he's a farmer. The Carrot Barn where I go every single year and get the best carrot cake. I have a chance to see through his eyes what you're going through year in and year out. The stresses, the frustrations, sometimes the exhilaration and excitement, but always that sense of resiliency that there's always another year. Can have a bad year, can have a tough crop, can have a hard time with prices. But you are the greatest optimists in our state because you always say, "We'll come back next year." So, I applaud you, all of you who make this incredible industry so strong and such a huge point of pride for all New Yorkers.
And I also want to acknowledge the leadership of this organization that's been doing this for 191 years. Being a champion, promoting agriculture, advocating for the needs of our farmers and farm families, and how we get more people to want to sit where you are today in the future. So, the New York State Agriculture Society is important. It's an important source of information for us, but also a way to get information out to all of you.
So, I want to thank Mark Molesky, the President of the Agriculture Society for all he does. Thank you, Mark, for your leadership in this organization. Chris Kelder, our Vice President. Thank you, Chris. Ann Shepherd, the Executive Secretary. I think Dave Fisher is here, President of the New York Farm Bureau, Dave. Alright. Dave saw you up at your farm this summer and appreciate the warm hospitality. And you know, the conversations we've had at the executive residency as you always have a list, you always have a big list.
My job is to make your list shorter every year. And also, to have the Dean of the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. This is a big deal. Dr. Ben Houlton, I don't know if he remembers this, but I happened to be wandering around Ithaca one day on my bike. That's what I do when I - before I was a Governor, and we happened to see him. He came by and stopped by and said hello, and I knew that we'd have a deep relationship and avail ourselves of this national, global gem that is right here in the State of New York.
We also have great partners in our State Legislature, and you are very fortunate, those of you in Central. To have Senator Rachel May on the Agriculture Committee, and let's give her a warm round of applause as well, Senator May.
So, why is this so important to me? Well, the very first job I had that wasn't a babysitter, I was always babysitting big Irish Catholic family in Western New York. It was either babysitting siblings or somebody else for 50 cents an hour.
But I heard I could get 75 cents an hour if I picked strawberries. So, my friend and I, when we were a whopping 13 years old, please don't tell my parents, we hitchhiked down a country road all the way out to Brant, not far from Hamburg. Went past Brian Miller's and my friends, the droughts, not far away past the Zittel's Dairy Farms. I went to high school with all the Zittel's and I started to become a champion of agriculture sitting there picking my strawberries. But for me it was kind of like, pick one, eat two, and you only got paid by what you produced at the end of the day.
At the end of the day, I was exhausted, and I said, "Alright, give me a room full of crying babies. It's got to be a lot easier than this." So, that was my career. And one other reminder that I didn't have what it took to be a farmer. It was for my own family, a long, long line of dairy farmers in Ireland. I went over to County Kerry, you know, Kerrygold Butter, and I said I'd help out, maybe I could milk some cows.
My job was to close the gate after the cows went in. Closing a gate is more complicated than it looks. It really is. And unbeknownst to me, it wasn't latched properly. The cows all left. And my family informed me, "Kathy, you'll never make a good farmer's wife, or a farmer. Go home." So that was my career. I tried, I tried, and so I ended up the Governor of New York.
But over the years, even when I was a Representative in Congress representing the most rural part of our state. I had the privilege of seeing our peach fruit farmers up in Niagara County, going to the Finger Lakes and meeting the grape growers in Chautauqua County, the largest continuous growing area for Concord grapes in the world.
Do you know things like that? My head is filled with all kinds of facts like that. I'm always bragging. And then I had a chance to get to know the dairy farmers. People like John Noble. Sister Sarah, carrying on a long legacy, and I saw what they did. Innovating. Biodigesters. What do you mean you're taking farm waste and doing something to it? And all of a sudden, it's powering houses and maybe even neighbors.
They've been doing it in Europe a long time. So, I asked myself, I'm in Congress, why isn't this becoming something we do here? It makes sense. So, I've stayed in touch with the Nobles over the years and other friends I developed. As I became Lieutenant Governor, I got to know growers on Long Island, and those involved in the maple syrup industry, which I'm always promoting just, you know, the North Country and Western New York and the Southern Tier, always bragging that we're better than Vermont. Always, just period. End. We're better than Vermont. That's it.
But I'm so grateful to know that there's 33,000 families that are continuing on a tradition. And it's one of great pride for all of us and the fact that we're top 10 in the United States in 30 commodities. If you ask anybody around the globe and even other parts of our country, they say the word New York City, they think, or New York State, they think only New York City, right?
There's so much more. And all the farmers and all the different ways that you've innovated to use God's gift, the beautiful Earth that's been entrusted to us - it's amazing. It's amazing. But I also know you've had to deal with global supply chain issues - didn't see that one coming. You've had to deal with more weeds and pests and diseases than ever before, the effect of climate change changing the growing season.
And I remember being at one of the apple farms up in Orleans County, it was in March or April, someone took me out to the orchard and they snapped a branch and showed me when we looked inside and saw that it was already black because of the frost. They weren't going to have a crop that year. I said, "You know already it's not going to work for the fall harvest?" And they said, "Yeah, we know, but there's always next year." So it's an industry that's extraordinary.
And I know also how important it is to our economy. We have to continue to work together as I'm trying to create jobs all over the State of New York. It's important. I grew up in Western New York when our greatest export was our kids. They grew up, had good schools, we could go from a trailer park like my parents and live in a little Cape Cod house and eventually, someday you get a little bigger house for all your kids. It's a good life.
But so many people left because there weren't jobs. So I'm so focused on jobs. But also the people we have here. We have to feed them. We want to nourish them, and that's why last year I saw how the Nourish New York program really helped farmers.
But also when I was in New York City seeing heartbreakingly long lines at food banks. One day I was down there during the pandemic, there was a line of 6,000 people standing in Queens wrapped around the block on a cold, rainy day just looking for a free box of food. Despite that sadness, my heart swelled with pride when I saw the boxes of food were labeled with food from farms all over New York State. I said, "This is the answer. This is how we feed our people, and this is how we keep our farm economy strong."
So last year one of my first acts as Governor, I said, we're going to make it permanent. Don't worry about this anymore. Let's develop programs like that and not make you wonder if it's going to be there next year. That is going to continue.
We also said there's other ways we can help you financially - increasing the farm workforce retention credit. I have been to more events with 4-H groups and local chambers of commerce in their local areas. How do we get more people to want to start farming themselves or to be workers in the industry? I mean, that's one of your greatest stressors. Where are you going to get the workers from? Right? Where are they coming from?
And I know there's a lot of anxiety around the overtime wage. I get that to my core. I get that. But I said, if we're going to do this, the State of New York is going to pick up the cost of extra overtime you're paying. And I said this to Dave because he had a lot of questions. I said, "I believe as a state that's in competition with other farm areas around the country - Florida, California, Texas - when people come here and are seasonal workers or people want to go into this profession locally, if they know they can still work the hours you need but be able to take home more money subsidized by the State of New York, that's makes us more competitive. Think about it. Why would someone want to work at another state the same long hours and not get the same compensation?
We'll take on that responsibility. I don't want that on your shoulders. I need you to be thriving and not under the crushing weight. And when Dave said, well, once a year, tax credit's not going to work. I said, alright, we'll make it throughout the years that money's back in your pockets.
So I say, we market this. Let's lean into this. Let's attract the workers who become part of your families. I've seen them. I see how you take care of them - the homes, the education, the language services, it's extraordinary if people out there would understand what you do to nurture and make them part of your family. It's powerful. You do this all the time and no one knows it. I want to talk about that, that this is the best place for a workforce to come in the nation.
You'll get well paid, you'll have good housing, good education and you're a part of the family. That's what we're going to continue leaning into. But also the investment tax credits so you can make the purchases you need to, to stay ahead. Biodigesters, for example, phenomenally expensive. So our investment tax credit, we raised from 4 percent to 20 percent. And also last year we had had discussions all around the state, as I mentioned, I visited Dave's farm, but I was at Mapleview Farm in Madrid and Lenny Bruno Farms in Manorville and all these little wonderful communities. Had a great farmer forum on Long Island at the brewery out there. I'm Irish. There's always a reason to go to a brewery, even if it's to talk to farmers.
So we had a chance to listen to farmers about their concerns and I said, as I'm doing my next State of the State, because last year was my first time doing it, I said, we can also prioritize more. And I want Commissioner Ball to go into more detail, and you'll hear from him about what I spoke about on Tuesday in my State of the State, but more importantly than the words I said, it's in the 275-page book. And that's where you'll see our commitment to agriculture here in the State of New York.
But I'm just going to mention a few of them. I mentioned the increase in the investment tax credit. Let's make it fully refundable for farms. This is a dramatic change, but make it more lucrative for you to make these investments. Also, the state will now pay 20 percent of all your capital investments on your farms, whether it's a good year or a bad year.
Also, let's get you new markets. Yes, Nourish New York was a great start, but you know what? We run schools and prisons and assisted living homes. Why aren't they all purchasing New York's products? We are going to set a goal of insisting that our institutional and agencies, when they're out there purchasing, at least 30 percent must be grown in the State of New York to give you better access to those markets that should have been there all along. So let's get that done. We'll get that done for you.
You're also overburdened with regulations. I remember this as a member of Congress going down there and saying, "Why is it so hard to get H-2A workers? You're make it impossible. Why?" And I heard all the frustrations. We got things done electronically. We did all this a decade ago, but still the burdens are crushing. And you have enough on your plate. You have a lot of other work to do.
So, we are forming something called the Strategic Interagency Task Force Lessening Obstacles to Agriculture Working Group. Now, why we had to give it such a cumbersome name? Because then we can just call it SILO, a Strategic Interagency Workforce Lessening Obstacles to your success, which means lessening obstacles to our success. So, think about SILO. Commissioner Ball is going to convene this starting next week because I'm impatient, you're impatient. We have to get this done.
Identify for us, areas where we're not going to compromise health, safety, or the environment, but you know, what you don't think is necessary in furtherance of those goals, but also your goals to just do your jobs, get the work done. So, we're looking forward to finding out what's on your mind, really digging into your challenges and when you reconvene over the next 191 years that you're going to see things getting a little bit better. That your government doesn't have to be on your back, it should be on your side. And that is my commitment to you as your Governor, as an Upstater, went to school with farmers, hung out with my friends. I saw how hard their families worked, how hard they worked when they inherited the farms, and this is a legacy that I cherish.
And I'll continue to be out there at the county fairs. And one more thing was I realized when changes were made to the dates of the State Fair, it kind of made it harder for all of my friends in the other counties. Believe me, I heard about it from my friend Bill Brunner in Erie County all the time. So, I said, okay, we can change our dates and do joint marketing. Why aren't we as a state helping promote your county fairs? Where I grew up, went to the fair, all my family members worked there, couldn't wait for the fair to come to town. So, I'll be out there at the fairs. I'll come visit. I'll visit your farms. I look forward to it because I draw so much energy from the hope and aspirations and the resilience that all of you had.
God bless you and thank you. Thank you for all you do for the great State of New York.