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Poor infrastructure and transport costs hindering ag industry, trade group says

Doug Kerr

The quality of roads and bridges in upstate New York is a concern for the state’s largest farming organization.

If a bridge isn’t sturdy enough to support a heavy tractor or dairy tanker, say Farm Bureau policy director Jeff Williams, it creates a major hassle for farm hands, such as added time and detours onto more traveled routes "which isn’t particularly safe on the highway, and it leads to more diesel fuel costs and the like," he said.

The Farm Bureau, a lobbying group for the state’s agriculture industry, is supporting proposals to spend nearly $2 billion in state funds to upgrades roads and bridges. It’s part of the bureau’s 2015 legislative agenda. 

We wouldn’t be anything; we would just be growers if we weren’t able to get our product to market," said Williams. "That’s the next logical step when you grow a product."

Williams says he would also like the Thruway to be cheaper for trucks delivering produce. High toll prices hinder delivery to major metro areas, like New York City, according to Williams.

"Between the tolls and the bridge prices, it can cost easily close to a hundred dollars to get down, just one trip," he said.

The Farm Bureau says it wants the state to create an exclusive E-Z Pass for agriculture trucks that would reduce those delivery costs.

Equine insurance

The Farm Bureau also wants to see it made easier for young people to learn to ride a horse.

Many agriculture clubs used to have equine programs to teach horseback riding, said Farm Bureau President Dean Norton, "but because of the risk of riding horses and because of the risk of trying to find some insurance carriers, a lot of those clubs have gone away."

Norton says adding an inherent risk law for horseback riding would reduce the liability for clubs and make insurance policies more affordable.

Forty-six other states have a law that covers the equine industry, according to the Farm Bureau.