ALBANY — This statement can be attributed to AFT New York Policy Manager Samantha Levy:
“American Farmland Trust is pleased that Governor Cuomo’s FY22 executive budget proposal maintained commitments to many important programs that support New York farmers and address environmental challenges, despite the state’s economic challenges. Notably, the proposed increase to the popular Climate Resilient Farming grants program in the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) is an important step forward to help farmers adopt practices that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help the state meet its climate goals.
“To keep New York on the path of building a strong and resilient local farm and food economy now and in the future, we need farmland. Over 9 million acres of farmland, including some of the best farmland in the country to support food and crop production with the least environmental impacts, forms the foundation for the state’s farm sector which provides New Yorkers with necessary sustenance while generating over $47 billion in annual economic impact and supporting over 160,000 jobs. But this farmland is under increasing threat from development and transition out of farming. As New York’s farmers age, the future of farming rests on the ability to keep land in farming and transition farmland to a new generation of farmers.
“American Farmland Trust is pleased to see the Governor propose to maintain the state’s commitment to a $300 million EPF, and within this, strong funding for farmland protection during this difficult budget year. Hundreds of farmers are waiting to permanently protect their land through this critical state program, which keeps land in farming while enabling farmers to invest in their business or transfer their farm. The State of New York must continue strong funding to meet demand for the farmland protection program, while also continuing to support programs such as Farmland for a New Generation New York that are helping to bring future generations of farmers onto the land. In just two years, Farmland for a New Generation New York, a partnership with the State of New York, has provided one-on-one services to over 5,200 farmers and landowners, resulting in 68 farmers gaining access to a combined 2,613 acres of farmland. This work cannot lose ground as millions of acres of irreplaceable farmland are set to be lost if they do not change hands to a new generation in the coming years.
“AFT was also pleased to see a continued commitment to New York’s innovative Nourish NY program, as well as the Governor’s nation-leading farm to school incentive and grants programs which work hand in hand to enable schools to purchase and serve more healthy, farm-fresh food to students. These programs are poised to help New York rebuild and renew by strengthening resilient local food supply chains and contributing to public health. AFT’s recent “Growing Resilience” report revealed that in spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, schools have remained committed to farm to school, and with continued state support, by 2025 these programs can help schools spend $250 million on food from New York farms, generating $360 million in economic activity statewide. These programs will also increase access to healthy, farm-fresh food for 900,000 kids across the state by 2025. At a time when many children face food insecurity and schools have become a primary source of free meals for many hungry New York families, helping schools to purchase and serve more healthy fresh food to kids is an important way to keep them healthy.
“AFT hopes that the federal government will work in the coming weeks to provide aid to New York during this challenging time, and that the Governor and legislature will be able to work together to appropriate full funding for these programs that keep land in farming and farmers on the land, and which are essential to our continued ability to grow food to feed New Yorkers. We look forward to working together in the coming months on the state budget to help New York reimagine, rebuild, and renew to meet current and future challenges.”
American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on a half million additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.
–American Farmland Trust