Emerging economic opportunities in New York – such as food hubs, Greek yogurt or farm-based beer, wine and spirits production – are closely tied with food and agriculture. Yet, the foundation of this robust industry is at risk as farmland is lost to real estate development. 450,000 acres of farmland – the equivalent of almost 5,000 farms – have been paved over by subdivisions and strip malls in New York since the early 1980s.
To address this threat, New York State established the Farmland Protection Program in 1996. The program has provided more than $100 million to permanently protect more than 200 farms across New York while enabling more than 50 counties and 75 towns to develop local strategies for protecting farmland and expanding economic opportunities for farmers.
But, when funding for the Farmland Protection Program was slashed during the economic meltdown of 2008, the state was faced with funding commitments of more than $70 million to 61 farm families to aid them in protecting their land. Since then, no new funding applications have been sought by the Department of Agriculture and Markets. That was five years ago.
Today, things are much better. The State of New York, in partnership with local governments, land trusts and farmers, have completed most of these outstanding farmland protection projects. At the same time, growing numbers of farmers across New York are interested in permanently protecting their farmland from development with conservation easements. Many of these families who want to protect their farms plan to use these funds to reinvest in their agricultural operations by upgrading equipment, constructing new buildings, purchasing additional farmland and bringing a new generation into the farm business.
The future for protecting farmland in New York will be a primary focus of the upcoming Harvesting Opportunities in New York, conference that will be held on November 20 in Albany. The conference focuses on growing local food economies and protecting farmland. Register Now!
Workshops will address key topics such as strategies to keep farmland affordable for next generation farmers, funding and program priorities for local, state and federal farmland protection programs, community planning for wine, beer and spirits, engaging the public in saving farmland and new research about the efforts of the federal government and land trusts to permanently protect farmland across America.
To learn more about growing local food economies and protecting farmland in New York register now for Harvesting Opportunities in New York, November 20.
Remember: No Farms No Food!