New York’s $138 billion budget for fiscal year 2014-2015, passed March 31, includes $14 million for the Farmland Protection Program, a $1 million increase. The $1 million increase will enable the state to leverage funds from the Army Compatible Use Buffer Program to purchase conservation easements on farms in the Greater Watertown-Tug Hill Region, enhancing the buffer around Fort Drum. “The land around Fort Drum is vital to the training of our nation’s military as well as the economy of the North Country which is why we are dedicated to protecting the base,” said Governor Cuomo. This new funding positions the state to jump start the Farmland Protection Program, which has not accepted new projects since 2008. Conservation of farmland buffering Fort Drum demonstrates one of many ways farmland conservation contributes to economic development across New York State.
David Haight, New York State Director for American Farmland Trust (AFT), joined Tanya Fields of BLK Projek to present Healthy Food System, Healthy People, Healthy Economies at the Healthy Community Development Conference in Rochester last month. The conference was hosted by Designing a Strong and Healthy New York (DASH NY), a coalition coordinated by the New York Academy of Medicine. “Increasing the amount of locally grown food purchased by public institutions will improve the bottom line for New York’s farmers as well as put fresh, nutritious food on the plates of the people who need it, such as students, senior citizens, patients and those in need,” said Haight, informing conference participants about Farm to Institution New York State (FINYS), a statewide partnership of agricultural, public health and economic development partners coordinated by AFT to tackle systemic barriers to increasing the volume of food produced in New York that is served in public and private institutions.
The Hudson Valley Farmlink Network (HVFN), a partnership of organizations dedicated to facilitating farm transfers and making farmland accessible to the next generation in the Hudson Valley, launched a series of workshops this spring. On April 8, 45 participants attended a Farm Transfer and Estate Planning workshop in Greenwich co-hosted by the Agricultural Stewardship Association and NY FarmNet/NY FarmLink. “I really appreciated HVFN bringing this workshop to Greenwich,” said John Hand of Hand Melon Farm. “It’s the jump start farmers need to start the planning process.” On May 6 a Farm Leasing for Farmers and Landowners workshop will be held at SUNY Orange in Newburgh. The panel will feature local farmers and landowners with leasing experience as well as legal expertise from Maryanne McGovern, Kenyon, Schwartzberg and Kenyon, PLLC, and George Lithco, Jacobowitz and Gubits, LLP. This workshop is co-hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orange County, GrowNYC, and the Orange County Land Trust.
NO FARMS NO FOOD: THE FIRST SEASON
Farmers and chefs have a lot in common. Farmers grow food. Chefs prepare food. They are vital links in our food chain. American Farmland Trust, the Fabulous Beekman Boys and the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) are screening The First Season, a powerful documentary film about dairy farming, to encourage thoughtful dialogue between CIA students and a panel of dairy farmers, cheese producers and dairy distributors about the future of dairy farming in New York and the role of farmland conservation in protecting the land necessary for the success of the dairy industry. The First Season, directed by Hollywood producer Rudd Simmons tells the story of the struggles of an upstate New York couple, to start their own dairy farm. The screening and panel discussion will be held on March 31 at the CIA in Hyde Park.
American Farmland Trust and a team of farmers and representatives from local government and land trusts met with legislators last week to advocate for funding for the state Farmland Protection Program beyond the $1 million increase proposed by Governor Cuomo in his executive budget. The Farmland Protection Program is part of the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) which the Governor proposed funding at $157 million, a $4 million increase. In the house budgets, which came out last week, the Assembly proposed increasing the EPF to $167 million while the Senate proposed $200 million in funding by putting $47 million from the state’s Superfund into the EPF of which $43 million will go to improve municipal water infrastructure. Unfortunately neither house budget includes any increased funding for farmland protection beyond that proposed by Governor Cuomo. With the April 1st deadline approaching, the Assembly, Senate and the Governor have begun negotiations. We urge the state to increase funding for farmland conservation to $25 million to help farmers and communities protect New York’s irreplaceable farmland.