NYFarmNet Reaches Local Farmers

A legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
National Ag week was celebrated last week. It’s a week in which we recognize the abundant crops harvested by farmers all over the nation and the contributions they make to the economy.  In New York alone, the agriculture industry recorded $5.68 billion in cash receipts in 2013, up more than $1 billion from 2010.

Economists estimate that for every one job created in agriculture, that one job generates an additional .8 non-agricultural jobs.

The economy has seen a surge in demand for local produce. We’ve also seen communities voice a desire for open spaces amid pressures from land developers.  Local farms provide both local produce and open spaces, but running a profitable farm is not easy.

For the most part, these are family-owned and operated businesses that are subject to market and price fluctuations, weather, crop disease, and any number of rules and regulations where rest and time off is hard to come by, especially in dairy farming.

One group in particular that has recognized some of the complexities unique to a family-owned farm business is NYFarmNet.

I wanted to draw some attention to NYFarmNet this week and highlight some of their services.

The organization assists farmers in transferring assets or farm ownership to the next generation, helps with expansions, as well as helps with retirement and estate planning.

If a farmer calls with a concern, the organization determines which type of counselor to send, either financial, crisis management, or a business analyst.

Counselors are hired on a consulting basis, which helps the organization save on costs, and counselors travel to the farms to directly assist the farmer.

In January, the organization held a two-day seminar on farm business transfers in Syracuse.  The seminar attracted 150 farmers.  In talking with those who operate NYFarmNet, there is a growing demand in agriculture for this type of service.

As farmers look to retire, they either need to transfer their farms to the next generation with financial agreements or sell.  NYFarmNet also helps with advertising farms for sale.

In addition to financial and legal services, they provide mental health counseling services and can send a psychologist or social worker to the farm when asked to come.

Most counselors and financial advisers have some experience with farming so they can identify the problems inherent and unique to farmers. Recently, NYFarmNet has had to respond to reports of barn roofs collapsing or damage to property due to the heavy snowfall this winter. This type of damage or property loss comes with its own set of considerations that the organization can help with.

NYFarmNet is funded in part by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets as well as the Office of Mental Health, and is managed by administrators through Cornell University.

Last year, NYFarmNet received a total of $875,000 in the state budget through both departments.

I support the funding of these services and hope through budget negotiations the legislature can at least maintain funding for these important services they provide to the agriculture industry.

To learn more or to seek help, call 1-800-547-FARM (3276) or visit nyfarmnet.org or email them at [email protected]

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.  My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.