ALBANY, N.Y. — Issues faced by farming and food related industries was the topic of a multi-committee Assembly budget hearing on December 2nd. Members of the Assembly Agriculture, Economic Development, Small Businesses Committees, along with the Task Force on Food, Farm, and Nutrition Policy, are reviewing investments in agriculture and related businesses down the supply chain in light of the COVID pandemic. Key stakeholders provided testimony in order to examine ways to assist these businesses in a changing, competitive marketplace.
“This is the first hearing I can recall that brought together multiple Assembly committees to discuss food and farming exclusively. The pandemic has brought to light the important role played by our farmers, producers, processors, distributors, and retailers,” said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture. “Earlier this year, a number of weaknesses were exposed in our food supply chain as we witnessed food shortages, while at the same time food was discarded because of processing and other issues. Addressing these challenges will be a top priority, so that we can support a more resilient and sustainable food system.”
Testimony was provided virtually by the NYS Farm Bureau, Farm Credit East, Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market, Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, Cornell University, Northeast Dairy Producers Association, NY Vegetable Growers Association, and many others. Witnesses discussed the effects they and their respective industries faced during the pandemic, as well as the continuing challenges that lie ahead in its wake.
“There will be urgent budget needs for agriculture as we look ahead to the 2021 legislative session. The Assembly Budget Oversight hearing provided a good opportunity for stakeholders to come together with our representatives to discuss funding for critical programs that support things like research, marketing, animal care and conservation efforts, especially with the challenges of the pandemic. New York Farm Bureau will continue to partner with Assembly Member Donna Lupardo and her committee to benefit New York’s farms and the people who depend on them,” said Jeff Williams, New York Farm Bureau’s Public Policy Director who testified at last week’s hearing.
“The pandemic has shown that New York’s farms are essential businesses. Farm Credit East’s recent report, Northeast Economic Engine also shows agriculture is an important contributor to the state’s economy, generating about $37 billion in economic activity and supporting over 160,000 jobs,” said Tom Cosgrove, Executive Vice President for Knowledge Exchange, Public Relations and Marketing for Farm Credit East. “The state is an important partner in supporting this economic engine and continued support for this essential industry is more important than ever to maintain a resilient food supply chain and a business and regulatory environment that allows New York’s farms and food businesses to innovate and remain competitive.”
“If we learned anything from this pandemic, it is the importance Hunts Point Produce Market plays in distributing safe produce to the New York region,” said Phillip Grant, General Manager of Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market. “We are proud to have continued to provide produce to the public amidst the strict CDC guidelines and thankful for our essential employees who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. Hunts Point Produce Market strives to enhance the partnership with the State in future budgets with the contractual ability for the market to provide produce to its institutions.”
“The Long Island Commercial Fishing Association is extremely grateful to the Assembly Chairs and Committee members for bringing to light how seafood economies and food security have been affected by the COVID pandemic in New York,” said Bonnie Brady, of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association. “With meaningful discussions of how to fix a broken system, Chairwoman Lupardo’s leadership has shown there is a conceptual pathway forward, our food pathways to-do list, and Long Island’s fishermen are all hands on deck to help New York State feed its people.”
Testimony gathered at Wednesday’s hearing will be used by Assembly members as they work on the 2020-21 State Budget. The process will begin in earnest when legislators return to session in January and promises to be one of the most difficult budget years as the state grapples with a multi-billion budget deficit.
–Chris Whalen, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo