ALBANY — Governor Kathy Hochul today announced several major proposals to provide an economic boost to farmers and strengthen New York’s food supply chain as part of the 2023 State of the State. New York’s agricultural industry has faced a number of challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which also brought to light vulnerabilities across the local food system. The Governor unveiled plans to bolster demand for New York State foods and dramatically increase the purchasing of local farm products, encourage investments to modernize New York’s farms, and build an agricultural workforce pipeline for the future.
“New York’s agricultural industry is essential to our economy, our communities, and our way of life, and we are taking a whole-of government-approach, to support New York’s agricultural community,” Governor Hochul said. “These initiatives will take critical steps to help the agricultural community prosper – providing an economic boost to New York farmers and securing the State’s food supply chain.”
Use State Purchasing Power to Bolster Demand for New York Agriculture
As part of the 2023 State of the State, the Governor has proposed launching a new initiative to boost demand for New York’s agricultural products and significantly increase the amount of food purchased by New York State agencies. Using hugely successful programs, such as the State’s Farm-to-School program, its 30 percent New York school food initiative, and the Nourish New York program as a benchmark, the Governor has set a bold goal to increase state agency purchasing of local food products to 30 percent. She will issue an Executive Order directing New York State agencies and related institutional entities to increase the percentage of food they source from New York producers, with a target of 30 percent. This will provide farmers with not only access to new markets and stimulate further economic investments in farm production and food processing in New York, but it will also provide a direct economic boost to the agricultural community. New York State currently spends almost $4 million on New York food; through this effort, New York would procure and purchase nearly $400 million worth of farm products from local producers. County and municipal governments, as well as local school districts, will also be encouraged and provided tools to meet this goal.
In addition, the Governor has proposed providing $50 million over five years to local school districts to support cooking facilities that will facilitate the use of fresh New York State farm products in meal preparation for K-12 school children. The School Food Infrastructure Grant Program will provide the resources schools need to aggregate, store, process, and prepare farm products, and make cooking homemade meals that are prepared on-site for school children possible.
Make the Investment Tax Credit Refundable
Governor Hochul is proposing to build on her recently adopted 20 percent Investment Tax Credit for farmers by making the tax credit refundable for five years. This refundable tax credit will provide an incentive for additional on-farm production investment, such as the purchase of equipment, including state-of-the-art anaerobic biodigesters that can decrease emissions. Following a period where New York farms faced many challenges, including supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic, uncertainties in the marketplace, and increased labor costs, this proposal will help New York’s producers modernize their farms and better compete in the future.
Create a Farm Workforce Pipeline
Understanding that labor is a critical component of the supply chain, the Governor has pledged to build a strong agricultural workforce pipeline and address the food supply workforce shortage by ensuring training and educational programs are readily available for current employees and for future generations. The Governor is proposing to have the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (AGM) work with key stakeholders to identify internships and apprenticeships for young people and those interested in a second career in the areas of horticulture, dairy management, crop production, food manufacturing, food distribution, and other related industries. AGM will also collaborate with educational institutions across the State to ensure that the necessary programs that will help students meet agricultural industry requirements for employment are being offered. In addition, connections will be made with workforce development entities to match and place the new workforce directly with industry opportunities.
The initiative will also focus on connecting migrant individuals and asylum seekers with agricultural and food industry jobs, including proposing to increase funding for legal services, which will support these individuals in achieving legal work status. The Governor is also proposing that AGM partner with agricultural organizations to assist migrant workers with employment services, such as screening, language education, basic skill development, and placement.
Increase Food Manufacturing
The Governor recognizes the need for additional agricultural processing capacity to help alleviate the gaps in the supply chain. She will direct Empire State Development (ESD) and AGM to ensure New York’s food manufacturing sector continues to grow and expand. ESD and AGM will assemble an interagency team that will work with new and expanding food manufacturers to ensure that obstacles and solutions are identified during project development, evaluate existing incentives and make recommendations for new programs to spur further investment in food manufacturing in the State.
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “We have truly doubled down on our work to fill the gaps in the food system, and I am proud of the collaboration that has been taking place across the industry as we work together on this. In this new year, we have new opportunity and I want to thank Governor Hochul for moving this work forward, and proposing bold initiatives that will have a real impact, strengthening our food system from the agricultural community to the consumer.”
The Governor has also proposed a number of additional programs in the 2023 State of the State address to impact agriculture, including enhancing New York’s community garden programming and a $10 million grant program to support the establishment of farm markets, supermarkets, food cooperatives, and other similar retail food stores, along with supporting infrastructure in underserved communities and regions of the State. The program will improve food access opportunities in traditionally underserved communities.
–NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets