Agriculture forms the backbone of the New York State economy, and this is especially true in the 25th Congressional District. Stretching between the urban centers of Syracuse and Rochester, our district is filled with farms, from dairy to grain to fruit. Many of these farms have been owned and operated by the same families for multiple generations.
The most important federal issue we hear throughout the local farming community is access to temporary seasonal workers, otherwise known as the H2A program. Many of our farms, especially those that specialize in fruits and vegetables and dairy, need this workforce to continue their operations in a competitive market. At this time, the H2A program is fraught with inconsistencies, paperwork delays, and bureaucratic wrangling, which makes it harder and harder for local farms to compete. A balance needs to be struck between a legal and enforceable program for seasonal work and the practical concerns of farm owners.
We cannot take our supremacy in agriculture for granted. As the world market grows more competitive, there exist incentives to grow all kinds of Western agricultural products in countries in Asia and Africa. Small and medium-sized farms in New York need all the tools possible to remain profitable, and in doing so contribute to our local and national economy. Our agriculture can compete in a free world market if we do not hinder it with excessive regulations.