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New state initiative will help young farmers break into industry

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: New state initiative will help young farmers break into industry
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Lawmakers have raised questions about the future of agriculture in New York State. Fewer young adults are entering the sector's workforce. But as our Elizabeth Jeneault tells us, a new initiative has been included in the state budget to change that.

NEW YORK STATE -- Studies have recently shown that the average age of a farmer is now 57. It's a finding that alarmed New York State Senator Patty Ritchie.

"That is what precipitated this plan coming out, looking for ways to actually get young people involved in farming and looking at agriculture as a career opportunity," explained Ritchie.

Now that the "Young Farmers NY" plan is a go, Ritchie is looking forward to helping young adults find farming jobs. One of the ways she plans to do that is through the initiative's college loan forgiveness program.

It will benefit students like Krystal Burger, who grew up on a dairy farm and will commit to returning after college.

"I was really excited because since I wanted to come back to the farm, it gave me a sign of relief so I wouldn't have to pay as much while returning," said Burger.

But the plan also sets out to entice other young people in the industry who may not have grown up on a farm, by getting them involved with various FFA chapters similar to the one
at Belleville-Henderson Central High School.

"Coming here in the 8th grade and starting with the program and what not really interested me in taking care of animals," said Colton Ramsdell, a student at Belleville-Henderson Central High School.

"It's about leadership and personal growth and how you can contribute to the community," said Belleville-Henderson Central High School's FFA President Jake Allen.

The $1 million dollar plan will also fund start-up grants for young innovators and an internship program.

Reforms will additionally be made to the Estate Tax to help families transfer their farms to the younger generation.

"Many times they have to sell off their farm in order to pay the estate tax instead of leaving it to their children," explained Ritchie.

A major hurdle to be removed for families, and a step in the right direction for the future of the industry.

Lawmakers say the 2014-2015 budget also benefits the industry by including $8.5 million dollars in additional support.

That is the highest amount awarded in at least six years.

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