ALBANY — State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced the first two listening sessions of the 2018 Farm Bill Listening Tour. The Farm Bill Listening Tour provides an opportunity to engage with and hear from constituents about the importance of the 2018 Farm Bill to New York State. Hosted jointly by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), the tour will begin in Watertown on Monday, October 2 at 1 p.m. at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.
Commissioner Ball said, “We are looking forward to launching this tour and hearing directly from the community on the 2018 Farm Bill. We will bring all thoughts and concerns directly back to Albany, which will help the State advance its policy goals as we move forward. It is important that we have participation from all sectors impacted by the Farm Bill and encourage stakeholders in these industries to join us either in Watertown or at one of the other stops we’ll be scheduling across the State in October.”
Feedback gathered during the tour will be provided to Governor Cuomo to help develop New York’s Farm Bill priorities for critical funding and policy changes in the areas of agriculture, nutrition, and the environment.
OTDA Commissioner Samuel Roberts, DEC Deputy Commissioner Kathleen Moser, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Patty Ritchie, Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee and Farm Bureau President David Fisher will also be in attendance for this first session. Guests can RSVP for the Watertown listening session here by September 29.
A second listening session will take place on October 16 at 12 p.m. at Morrisville State College, Hospitality Suite, Athletic Stadium, Morrisville, NY 13408. Participants can RSVP for the Morrisville session here. Additional sessions held across the State will be announced in the coming weeks. Written comments can be submitted to FarmBill@agriculture.ny.gov.
OTDA Commissioner Samuel Roberts said, “SNAP is central to reducing poverty and food insecurity across the county, by helping put nutritious food on the tables of individuals and families who may otherwise not be able to afford it. Changes or cuts to funding pose a serious risk to the program, and ultimately to the health and well-being of millions of New York residents. It’s important that we come together as New Yorkers and be part of the discussion so that Governor Cuomo can stand and fight for our priorities in the upcoming Farm Bill.”
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “For more than two decades, DEC has worked with stakeholders to balance environmental, agricultural, and community interests while developing workable protections for New York’s farmers. The federal Farm Bill is a critical tool to enhance New York’s agricultural economy while advancing important habitat conservation and water quality improvement programs. We look forward to hearing from all New Yorkers on our listening tour as we develop our agricultural and environmental policy goals.”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Patty Ritchie said, “There is no better way to help New York’s hardworking farmers than to allow their voices to be heard on agricultural policy. A farmer’s success is critical to not only New York’s agricultural industry, but the entire economy of New York State. I look forward to joining Commissioner Ball on this tour and would like to thank both he and Governor Cuomo for their continued support of agriculture both here in our region and across New York State.”
Assemblyman Bill Magee, Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee said, “These listening tours are important because they will allow our local communities to become engaged with State Agencies on priorities for 2018 Farm Bill policies; I hope to see good attendance so that we can hear the concerns of the participants.”
New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said, “New York Farm Bureau is pleased to be a part of the Farm Bill listening tour. The legislation has a profound impact on agriculture policy, conservation, farm safety nets and nutrition in this country, and it is vital for New York to be engaged in the conversation as the legislation comes together in Washington. We look forward to hearing from farmers and speaking on behalf of our members’ concerns, and would like to thank Commissioner Ball for the invitation.”
The Farm Bill is an omnibus, multi-year law that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. The most recent Farm Bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014, expires at the end of 2018.
With many important programs facing potential cuts once the Farm Bill expires, the listening session will help shape the agricultural policies and programs New York State will support in the 2018 Farm Bill. Key areas impacted by the Farm Bill and to be discussed during the listening sessions include the dairy sector, land conservation, the growth of the industrial hemp industry, state and private forestry programs, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, invasive species, food safety and SNAP, among others.
The nutrition title, which includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), comprises 80 percent of the total amount of funding provided through the Farm Bill, while the remaining 20 percent in funding supports agricultural production and conservation programs.
Nearly 3 million, or 1 in 7, New Yorkers participate in the SNAP program, receiving approximately $4.8 billion in SNAP benefits. Over one million SNAP recipients are children under the age of 18 and nearly 620,000 SNAP recipients are age 60 or older.
Agriculture is a major driver of the New York State economy and about 23 percent of New York State’s land area, or 7 million acres, is farmland. Nearly 36,000 family farms produce some of the world’s best food with the State ranking in the top 10 in 30 different commodities that support its communities. New York is the second largest producer of apples and maple syrup, second in cabbage and snap beans, third in grapes, grape juice and wine. It also ranks third in dairy production, which is the largest segment of the agricultural sector.
New York’s dairy industry generates more than $2.5 billion in farm-gate sales, constituting nearly one-half of the state’s total agricultural receipts. The grape, grape juice and wine industry alone generates more than $5 billion in economic benefits annually to the State of New York.
—NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets
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