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Small businesses push for further reform in New York state, including immigration

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Small businesses from around the state took their concerns to legislators in Albany Wednesday. The message from leaders in the agricultural industry particularly highlighted the need for reforms to support small farms, and boost local economies upstate.

Concerns over tough regulations and tax burdens dominated discussions during Small Business Day.

“What we hear from them, more often than not, is just that they’re very concerned about the level of spending in New York state, the level of taxation. What they want is just the opportunity to be successful and part of that means that government is going to have to take a step back.”

Brian Sampson, executive director of business coalition Unshackle Upstate, says the state has made progress in the past two years, but this year’s budget isn’t what the business community needs.

The current debate around immigration also figured in discussions on challenges facing the state’s agricultural sector.

Senator Chuck Schumer says reforming the country’s immigration system is vital to boost the viability of small farms.

“Agriculture is one of our biggest industries in New York state and it’s been in handcuffs, and the handcuffs are lack of legal labor that will work in farm.”

Senator Schumer is one of eight legislators behind a new bill filed in Congress this week that, among other things, would create a new visa program for farm workers.

He says US workers simply won’t do the back-breaking tasks required on most farms. Therefore, farmers are left with the option of hiring illegal workers, or cutting back production.

"If you're a farmer in New York you simply can't get an American to do the work. Americans do not do the back breaking, difficult, arduous farm labor."

Senator Schumer says a system needs to be in place to allow farmers access to pool of legal employees, and this bill is it, he says.

“It’s going to give a huge shot in the arm to New York agriculture. I think we’re going to see our agriculture industry start growing at a much greater pace because of this bill, and the reason is very simple; the number one problem facing our farmers other than those that are acts of god, or bad weather, is that we do not have an adequate supply of labor.”

He says the hope is that the bill will pass both the senate and the house, and make it to President Obama’s desk by fall this year. 

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail
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