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Farmers say mounting state and federal paperwork is hurting business

Ian Lamont
File photo

Farmers across New York state converged in central New York for the State Farm Bureau’s annual meeting this week.  According to those at the meeting, the biggest problem these farmers face is too much paperwork.

"Whether it’s coming from the EPA, or USDA, or FDA with the Food Modernization Act, or whether it’s coming from Albany, the DEC, not that I want to put them down, although they’ve been good friends to us," said Farm Bureau President Dean Norton. "It’s just more and more paperwork we’re required to file and follow just so we can supply food, fuel and sustenance to our fellow New Yorkers and communities.”

Right now, if farmers use irrigation, they test water once a season. But starting next year there will be new regulations in place.

"They’re going to have to do weekly testing on that water," Norton said. "Whether it’s coming from a well, a lake or a pond. That’s rather burdensome when you figure out you have to test it every week, send it to a lab that’s probably not in New York, that’s probably somewhere else, and you can’t irrigate until you have the test results from the water.”

The Farm Bill is also an issue Norton has been watching closely for the last three years.

“When we were going through the sequester negotiations three years ago, they thought about doing a farm bill," Norton said. "And last year in 2012 they were doing a farm bill, and here in 2013 they are doing a farm bill. But I’m fairly confident they’re going to get one done. If it’s not by 2013, you’ll see something very early in 2014.”

He says the most important aspect of the Farm Bill for New York farmers, will be the dairy security program and how that’s implemented.

Norton says while well intentioned, it’s regulations like this that get in the way of farmers doing their job efficiently. He also says the blizzard of state and federal rules has already hit critical mass, especially for small farmers.

“They’re just throwing up their hands and saying if I have to continue to do this paperwork and not being out on the land and with the animals I love, then I just ought to work somewhere else and let them do the paperwork and I’ll collect a paycheck,” Norton said.

Norton says the Affordable Care Act will also sock farmers with more regulations, because even if they have fewer than 50 employees, the number of hours worked brings them into the category that could require them to provide health insurance.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.