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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Rural Futures"

ALBANY, Dec. 19 -- The joint, bipartisan Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, on which I serve, periodically issues a publication called “Rural Futures” that's one way to stay up to date on rural affairs locally, statewide, and nationally. It’s a publication that’s traditionally been a well-received roundup of valuable information on state legislation, exciting and interesting trends in rural communities across New York and the nation, as well as summaries for local leaders and others on grants, publications, useful websites, and upcoming events. More than two-thirds of New York’s 62 counties are designated as rural, including all of the counties I represent.

The Rural Resources Commission has worked for nearly three decades, since 1982, on a range of issues including agriculture, economic development, universal broadband, education, land use, transportation, local government structure and functions, volunteer recruitment and retention, and health care. How these issues are addressed at the state level has an enormous impact on many local communities.

The latest issue of “Rural Futures” features a look ahead to the commission’s agenda for the upcoming 2012 legislative session, which begins in January. I can tell you that commission members intend to step up our focus on the exciting promise today’s technology holds for the development of an extensive statewide “telemedicine/telehealth network” – a potentially groundbreaking and landmark achievement for rural health care in New York State. Access to high quality, affordable health care and education remains one of the great challenges continuing to face many rural New Yorkers. As New York keeps expanding broadband capabilities into currently underserved and unserved regions, an accompanying emphasis should be to develop policies aimed at developing a more integrated, statewide telemedicine system. In fact, the development of modern telemedicine capabilities to expand the quality of rural health care is highlighted by the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development’s blueprint for the region’s future. In its final report the council noted that telemedicine-based initiatives “will reduce hospitalizations, create Medicare and Medicaid savings, eliminate transportation issues and
disintegration of services for elderly and low-income populations” and provide cost-effective alternatives and reduced health care costs for rural residents.

The Rural Resoures Commission is planning a statewide telemedicine roundtable for January, and I’ll do my best to keep you updated on this important work throughout the year ahead.

One additional, longstanding rural challenge – one made more and more difficult by economic downturns and ever-strained state and local budgets – is the need to ensure an appropriate allocation of state aid to low-wealth, rural districts. The state Board of Regents recently advanced important reform proposals to revisit how New York currently distributes resources to low-wealth schools and, hopefully, reestablish a fairer and more equitable formula that better reflects the needs of many rural and other districts. It’s a great concern that’s going to play a central role in this year’s state budget negotiations.

Another item high on the commission’s agenda will be the development of biomass as an alternative fuel source and as an economic engine for rural New York. Biomass – woods, grasses, plants and crops that can be used to generate renewable energy, including biofuels or electricity – has the potential to create thousands of new jobs across upstate New York, offer new and diversified economic opportunities for many farmers, and generate other spin-off economic benefits. It’s a largely untapped source of economic growth in New York and we believe more can and should be done to encourage it.

In addition to these previews, the latest issue of “Rural Affairs” includes:
-- an overview of a new law enacted this year to reduce the regulatory burdens on New York State’s farm wineries;
-- an update on the importance of the New York State ROPS (Rollover Protection Structure) Rebate Program, a highly successful state initiative in the area of farm safety;
-- and a timely review of this year’s flood assistance efforts.

And much more, including items on broadband development, farmers’ markets, renewable energy, food safety, agricultural assessment, and rural schools.

The Rural Resources Commission has long been noted as a voice of rural New York within the Legislature. I’m excited to take part in its work and to help focus attention on the needs of our rural communities and economies here in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions and statewide. As well, I’m glad to be joined on the commission by two of the region’s assembly representatives: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano of Corning and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton of Ithaca.

The latest “Rural Futures” publication can be viewed online through my Senate website: Or you can always e-mail your request for a copy to

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