Aubertine to Open Discussion on Agriculture and Energy Issues

By Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine

This fall, I will be travelling in the district and throughout the state to hold public hearings and roundtable discussions to collect public input on two key components of our economy—agriculture and energy. For the future stability and strength of our economy, we have an obligation to protect and grow our agriculture industries and also develop a sustainable and independent energy future that best uses our power generation to create jobs.

This week kicks off a joint effort by the Senate and Assembly to talk with business leaders about the future of New York’s low cost power economic development programs. Perhaps the most well known of these programs is Power for Jobs, which I worked to extend last summer so that businesses in the program could plan for the coming year. However, the program is again set to expire and it, along with other programs supported by the New York Power Authority, is a critical part of powering New York’s future.

These programs have sustained and created hundreds of thousands of jobs in New York State, but still we have no long term plan in place to guide future job creation and retention efforts. As chair of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, I am working with my counterpart in the Assembly and chairs from committees overseeing economic development and our state authorities from each house to hear from business owners and other stakeholders, along with the general public, across the state to build on the successes we’ve seen in these programs and make the programs stronger.

This is the beginning of a statewide conversation on these programs and I look forward to using the public input to craft the best legislation possible to address long term issues and put more New Yorkers to work every day. Likewise, a series of Agriculture roundtables my office is planning will open up the dialogue on the dairy crisis and many other issues facing New York farmers.

As a cornerstone of our overall state economy, economic development should never overlook agriculture as a key component to generating wealth and creating jobs. Yet still, farmers, especially dairy farmers, are struggling. I have been working with our federal representatives to advocate for substantive changes in the way milk prices are set and lift regulations that put roadblocks in the way of farmers that want their local foods in our local schools.

Through these roundtables, I hope to strengthen the voice of farmers to help shape our agenda for the coming year and better push for the changes we need and avoid change that will devastate the industry. I’ve introduced legislation intended to make locally produced milk more valuable, cut costs for farmers, put more locally grown food on kitchen tables across New York State and worked to ensure that farmers, especially in Central and Northern New York, benefit from a new economy and the push for alternative energy sources.

While the scope of our energy future is diverse, the role of agriculture in the energy industry is growing, and certainly the need for stable, low cost energy on our farms is a high priority to farmers. It is incumbent on every lawmaker in New York State to recognize the value of our farms and the importance of developing a plan for our energy future and economic development.

Whether through the Green Jobs/Green New York bill we passed to create jobs and reduce home and small business energy use, or the Governor’s draft state Energy Plan that calls for more renewable energy sources, or through these hearings on low cost energy programs for economic development and frank discussions about the future of our family farms, we must continue to be open with the public and be certain all interested parties have the opportunity to be at the table to craft careful solutions to restore our economy.