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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Grown in New York"

ALBANY, March 11 -- Baseball and a farmer’s field were forever linked in one of the great sports movies of all time, Field of Dreams, but otherwise these two iconic symbols of American life aren’t often mentioned in the same breath. Yet baseball and farming had something in common at the Capitol last week -- even more than you might think at first -- with the unveiling of a new state Senate plan, “Grown in New York,” which I’m proud to be co-sponsoring.

So with the beginning of spring and the start of another baseball season right around the corner, I’ll turn to the game to make this larger point about effective government: “covering the bases” is as fundamental to good public policy as it is to good baseball.

Forget to cover the bases in baseball and it costs your team. Same goes for this latest case of policymaking in New York. If we forget to cover the bases for our farmers, just imagine the consequences. "Grown in New York" acknowledges agriculture’s enormous impact on our state. On consumers. On our culture. On the economy.

A whole lot of things have fallen by the wayside across the generations, but not the importance of farming. To this very day, the success of New York’s $5.2-billion agriculture sector starts with the success of New York’s 36,000 farm families. So "Grown in New York" tries to touch every base for farmers – from aging to tax relief, and from energy costs to overregulation. It comes from a pretty simple and straightforward belief: We can’t risk taxing, regulating and pricing farmers out of business.

Why? Just think about all that’s at stake. New York’s farmers are the source of the freshest food for New York’s consumers at a time of ever-increasing demand for locally grown products regionally, statewide and nationally. Farmers are the first stewards of the land. They provide thousands of livelihoods and anchor so many communities in so many ways.

Thanks to our grape growers and winemakers, one of New York’s greatest success stories can be told through our wine industry, the second-largest in the nation. New York’s dairy industry is America’s fourth largest. Farmers also make New York the second-largest producer of apples, cabbage and maple syrup; third in cauliflower, grapes and corn for silage; fourth in pears, snap beans and squash; fifth in tomatoes, onions and tart cherries; and sixth in pumpkins and Christmas trees.

It’s an All-Star lineup, in other words, one that we can take great pride in. There’s a whole menu of good reasons for doing everything possible to keep our farmers competitive for the next generation.

As I said before, plenty has changed but agriculture has been a mainstay of our culture and economy, especially upstate. It’s difficult work though – it’s always been tough work – and the margins are tight. The inescapable truth is that if a farm can’t be profitable, it just won’t survive the long haul.

The challenges and the competition are tougher than ever.

So we cover the bases in "Grown in New York." Clearly we recognize the constant reality that our farmers try to make a living under one of the most oppressive tax and regulatory burdens anywhere in America. That has to end, for agriculture and for all of our leading industries, including manufacturing. We begin putting an end to it.

But "Grown in New York" digs even deeper.

The plan recognizes the demographics of farming today. Nationally and in New York, the average age of a farmer is 57. Increasingly, farmers are 65 and older. To try to encourage a younger generation, we’re seeking initiatives like the creation of tax-free savings accounts that could be used to purchase a farm or to help cover unexpected expenses and farming-related losses.

Grown in New York recognizes agriculture’s modern-day need for diversity. We want to encourage the production of new field crops like malt and hops to accommodate the expansion of a New York State-based craft brewing industry, or so-called “fuel crops” like woody biomass to produce ethanol and biodiesel.

And our strategy keeps looking to the future. One key provision would accomplish estate tax reform, for example, because no New York State farmer should be forced to sell off the family farm to pay taxes.

There’s a lot more to "Grown in New York," and I invite you to take a closer look. Just visit my Senate website,, and click on the "Grown in New York" icon in the left-hand column of the home page.

We may not achieve it all at once, but we’re committed to the effort. It’s worthwhile. We need to keep taking actions that help our farmers stay competitive. "Grown in New York" is the kind of bold, common sense blueprint that it’s going to take to keep our farmers in the game, and keep New York a proud and strong agricultural state for generations to come.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869