SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food®, and the Alliance for New York’s Farmland applaud Governor Cuomo and leaders in the state Senate and Assembly for working diligently through difficult circumstances to adopt a New York State Budget that offers hope for a new generation of farmers looking for farmland, as well as for farmers seeking to protect their land for future generations.
New York’s nearly 7 million acres of farmland serve as the foundation of the state’s farm and food economy, and our farmers fulfill an essential role in our society providing fresh, healthy food, even in this time of crisis. Investing in permanently protecting farmland in New York and in keeping land available and affordable for future farmers is the critical first step to supporting stability and resilience in our food supply. Farmers often use farmland protection funds to invest in their businesses, pay off debt, or transfer their farm to the next generation. With challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, keeping these funds flowing to farmers is essential.
What’s more, nearly one in three farmers in New York is over 65 and they collectively own or operate almost 2 million acres of land. As these senior farmers retire, this farmland will become vulnerable to being forever lost to development. For this reason, and because finding affordable and suitable farmland is a major barrier for those trying to start new farm businesses, facilitating land transfer is essential. The Farmland for a New Generation program provides the resources needed to address these issues through a statewide Resource Center (www.nyfarmlandfinder.org), including a website and expert staff, and an on-the-ground network of Regional Navigators, or organizations available to help farmers find land to farm across New York.
“We have been so grateful for the leadership of Governor Cuomo and his team during this difficult time. In addition, our governor, state legislators, and their staff have shown great courage in working to negotiate and pass a timely state budget amidst extraordinary and difficult circumstances. That they did this while continuing to provide strong funding to support a resilient future for farms and food in New York is really just amazing,” said Samantha Levy, New York policy manager at American Farmland Trust. “Even now, as essential workers, our farmers and farmworkers are out in the field planting to ensure that we have food to eat—and this crisis underlies our need to plan for disruptions and support a more resilient future for farmers and eaters in our state. These investments continue us on the path to do just that. Thank you to Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Richard Ball, Senator Jen Metzger, Senator Rachel May, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner for their hard work, foresight, and unwavering support.”
State Senator Jen Metzger, 42nd district and chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee said, “New York farms are an integral and essential part of our economy, providing food security that is critical during a public health crisis like COVID-19. Despite facing extraordinary circumstances passing this year’s state budget, I was very glad to work with my colleagues in the Legislature and the Governor’s office to invest in protecting New York’s farmland through the EPF and the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, and to continue supporting the next generation of farmers in getting onto the land through Farmland for a New Generation New York. These programs will help to ensure that our agricultural lands remain in production in New York, that farmers will be there to grow food on that land, and that our agricultural economy remains vibrant and resilient.”
State Senator Rachel May, 53rd district and chair of Legislative Commission on Rural Resources said, “American Farmland Trust (AFT) leads New York State, as well as the nation in protecting agricultural land, promoting environmentally sound farming practices, and keeping farmers on the land. I have continued to fight in the Senate to allocate funding for AFT’s Farmland for a New Generation New York to keep our farmland in production. This budget also maintains funding for Farm to School, an initiative that AFT spearheads. It is crucial that our children receive healthy, local foods and that our farmers are able to secure markets for their products. I continue to push for increased procurement of New York food products to all New York public institutions.”
State Assembly Member Donna Lupardo, 123rd district and chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee said, “The COVID -19 pandemic has provided a stark reminder of how critically important our entire food system is. Workers, from farmers to grocery store employees, are working tirelessly to replenish empty store shelves so families can continue to have access to fresh food. While this year’s budget was arguably one of the most difficult in our state’s history, it was more important than ever that we preserve farmland and sustain our agricultural economy. I’d like to sincerely thank American Farmland Trust for their effective advocacy.”
State Assembly Member Carrie Woerner, 113th district said, “I was pleased to see that funding for the Farmland for a New Generation program was once again included in the final version of the state budget. I want to thank American Farmland Trust for their leadership in implementing this program, and commend them on its success. American Farmland Trust is doing the crucially important work of ensuring that viable agricultural land stays in the hands of farmers, and that work is critical to maintaining the strength of our agricultural industry. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to advocate on behalf of our farm families to ensure the continued success of this program, and the agricultural industry as a whole.”
The state budget includes $18 million for permanent Farmland Protection as part of a $300 million Environmental Protection Fund and $400,000 in funding for Farmland for a New Generation New York. This budget also includes a landmark $3 billion “Restore Mother Nature” Bond Act to address climate change that, if adopted by voters in November, would provide at least $100 million for permanent farmland protection and funding for other projects that contribute to necessary climate change mitigation and resilience to extreme weather on farms and elsewhere.
Together, these programs offer critical support and pathways to keep land in farming and keep farmers on the land in the face of a changing world.
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
For more news from New York, click here.