The Rhode Island Farm Bureau said Tuesday it won’t send a delegation to an agricultural conference in Albany next month because of “disturbing and insensitive” comments by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said “extreme conservatives” weren’t welcome in the state.
The Rhode Island bureau, which has around 500 members, indicated it feels the comments fly in the face of policies adopted by the American Farm Bureau that the bureau has also embraced, including policies on guns and moral values.
“Most, if not all, of the Rhode Island Farm Bureau members would fit the definition of ‘extreme conservatives’ as defined by the governor,” President Bill Stamp Jr. said in a letter Tuesday to the New York Farm Bureau relaying the board’s decision. “And, since Gov. Cuomo was so explicit in his desire to rid the state of New York of anyone who does not share his liberal views, we feel compelled to accommodate his wishes.”
The New York Farm Bureau said in a statement it respected the Rhode Island affiliate’s right to express its opinion but wished it hadn’t chosen attendance at the national group’s own regional conference as the avenue for doing so in this case.
Rhode Island Bureau Executive Director Al Bettencourt said six to eight people from the state likely would have attended the conference in Albany. It’s a leadership gathering for all state farm bureaus in the Northeast region, including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, among others.
Bettencourt said of Cuomo’s comments, “It kind of flies in the face of free speech. I would think the governor would want to have people from all walks of life come to New York and support his economy.”