Groups Praise Governor and Legislature for Increasing Farmland Protection Funding in State Budget

Thursday, April 2, 2015 -- Scenic Hudson
Contact: 

Andy Bicking
Director of Public Policy, Scenic Hudson, Inc.
Tel: (845) 473-4440 x232 Cell: (914) 489-1568 Fax: (845) 473-0740
abicking@scenichudson.org

 

HUDSON VALLEY—Scenic Hudson and its farmland protection partners thank Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature for making an unprecedented investment in preserving working family farms in the Hudson Valley and throughout the state in the budget passed today. In addition to earmarking $20 million to protect farmland in 13 valley counties, the budget includes $15 million for statewide farmland protection projects in the Environmental Protection Fund, and a $30-million appropriation for agricultural and related economic development in the Southern Tier.

This one-time boost in farmland protection funding for the Hudson Valley that was proposed by the governor had strong support from a bipartisan majority of the region’s and New York City’s legislative delegations, economic development organizations, farmers, conservation groups and the region’s county executives and chairmen of county boards of supervisors.

Working farms supply fresh, local food and support vibrant valley industries

The state’s goal for this investment is to protect at least 4,600 acres of highly productive agricultural lands within the Hudson Valley/New York City foodshed. The state funding will support ongoing conservation efforts by farmers, nonprofits and local governments to safeguard lands critical for meeting high levels of unmet demand in New York City and the Hudson Valley for locally produced food. Farms in Saratoga, Washington, Albany, Rensselaer, Greene, Columbia, Ulster, Dutchess, Sullivan, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties will be eligible for funding.

Protecting working farmland provides a multitude of benefits. In addition to securing the food supply upon which 11 million New Yorkers depend, this investment supports the state’s fast-growing agricultural and food-related industries, valued at more than $5.7 billion annually. By maintaining scenic working landscapes, rural heritage and quality of life, preserving farmland also helps drive a multibillion-dollar tourism industry and fuel economic growth. Further, conserved farms safeguard wildlife habitat and environmentally sensitive areas, including local aquifers and drinking-water supplies, and they help keep a lid on local property taxes by requiring just 37 cents in municipal services for each $1 of taxes they pay.

Urgent need to ramp up food security, agricultural investments

Over the last 25 years, the state has lost almost 500,000 acres of farmland to subdivisions, strip malls and scattered development. Even more alarming, over 60 percent of New York’s farmers are set to retire in the next decade. Recognizing an urgent need to address these trends, in 2013 Scenic Hudson released its Foodshed Conservation Plan, a data-driven blueprint for conserving agricultural lands essential for meeting growing demands for fresh, local food in the Hudson Valley and New York City, whose counties are experiencing some of the fastest growth in the state. The plan calls for a public-private partnership—bringing together federal, state and local governments (including New York City) as well as land trusts, philanthropies and private investors—to protect the highest-quality farmland in the Hudson Valley/New York City foodshed. The plan has received buy-in from agricultural, economic development and conservation interests and is positioning New York State to become a leader nationwide in food security and farmland preservation initiatives.

Under the plan, land preservation groups will work with farmers to acquire conservation easements on their land—paying the farmers a portion of the land’s value to ensure its permanent availability for agricultural use. Protecting valley farmland through easements enables current farmers to invest in their operations, resulting in increased productivity, and makes it more affordable for the next generation of farmers.

QUOTES FROM VALLEY LEADERS

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan said, “This was a groundbreaking proposal by the governor that has been championed by leading members of the Legislature—particularly Assemblymember Didi Barrett, Senator Bill Larkin and members of the Hudson Valley’s and New York City’s delegation. This funding commitment to protect the valley’s working farmland will provide a major boost for our region’s farmers, Scenic Hudson’s Foodshed Conservation Plan as well as the region’s unique quality of life and opportunities for lasting economic gains. This is a ‘green infrastructure’ strategy that will benefit New Yorkers here and across the state.”

“The governor and the state Legislature are sending a resounding ‘yes’ to all of us working to strengthen agriculture in the Hudson Valley. This important commitment will spur even stronger efforts by organizations like ours to protect farmland and bolster the regional food system on behalf of the entire state,” said Bob Dandrew, director, Local Economies Project of the New World Foundation.

Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. President/CEO and Hudson Valley Food and Beverage Alliance co-founder Laurence Gottlieb said, “We congratulate the governor and Legislature on passing a budget with a strong focus on farmland protection for the Hudson Valley. With an ever-increasing appetite for fresh, locally sourced food by New York City consumers, these funds will help Hudson Valley farmers expand their capacity in order to capture nearly $1 billion in projected additional revenue.”

“The farmland protection funds in the budget reflect a commitment to support farms and local food systems as a key component in New York’s economy” said Todd Erling, executive director of Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corp. “The governor and the legislators have come together to pass a budget with new opportunities for our farms, and we appreciate their efforts and the results.”

“On behalf of the 135,000 residents in the Town of Ramapo, I am thrilled by the new $20-million investment in our farms in the Hudson Valley. Preserving our farms is crucial to the long-term health of our region. Protecting our farms ensures not only the protection of open space but more significantly provides locally grown nutritional food products to all our families in the Hudson Valley,” said Town of Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence.

“Farmland preservation continues to make the Hudson Valley and New York State sustainable for future generations. Farmland preservation continues to provide us with locally grown food and increases our local economy, jobs, tourism and open space as significant ingredients for sustainability,” said Taylor Biomass Energy, LLC, President James W. Taylor, Jr.

“The Hudson Valley Research Laboratory, owned and operated by fruit and vegetable farmers across Eastern New York, would like to thank the governor and Legislature for their support of Hudson Valley farmland protection initiatives. Strengthening Hudson Valley farms IS the fruit of our labor,” stated Peter J. Jentsch, director of the Hudson Valley Research Laboratory.

“We commend Governor Cuomo and the state Legislature for passing a state budget that includes $35 million for protecting working farmland,” said American Farmland Trust New York State Director David Haight. “This record level of funding places New York among the Top 5 States the Nation in annual state funding for conserving the irreplaceable agricultural land that forms the foundation of our farm and food economy.”

Natural Resources Defense Council New York Political and Legislative Director Richard Schrader said, “Cultivating the state’s sustainable farming industry not only provides a much-needed boost to local economies, it can give more New Yorkers access to fresh, healthy food. It is encouraging to see this commitment from Governor Cuomo to protecting New York’s farmland in the Hudson Valley and across the state.”

“The Nature Conservancy applauds Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for growing New York’s investment in farmland. Preservation of open space, including farmland, is important to ensure our communities are resilient to the impacts of extreme weather. Sustainably managed farms also provide important habitat for wildlife, including migratory birds and other species. We applaud this initiative and look forward to seeing the results of its implementation throughout key regions of the state in the coming months,” stated Jessica Ottney Mahar, director of government relations for The Nature Conservancy in New York.

“Rondout Valley Growers Association appreciates the support of the governor and the Legislature to preserve our working agricultural landscapes,” said Deborah DeWan, executive director of the Rondout Valley Growers Association. “These funds will not only protect farmland acreage, they will preserve agriculture and farming as a way of life, provide abundant fresh produce for our region and our New York City neighbors, and will provide permanent protection for agriculture, the centerpiece of our economy.”

“Audubon New York commends Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Dean Skelos, Assemblyman Carl Heastie and the entire New York State Legislature for including important funding to grow the Environmental Protection Fund and provide new resources to protect farmland and the important habitats they support in the Hudson River Valley and Southern Tier,” said Erin Crotty, executive director of Audubon New York. “In addition to being beneficial to New York’s birds and other wildlife, these actions bolster the state’s economy, improve the quality of life of all New Yorkers, and represent bold investments toward cleaner water, public and environmental health protection, and conservation of our natural resources.”

“Kudos to Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for making this groundbreaking investment in New York farms,” said Teri Ptacek, executive director of the Agricultural Stewardship Association. “Protecting this green infrastructure is vital for future food production in the Hudson Valley.”

“Protecting working family farms from development in both the Hudson Valley and Southern Tier is critically important to ensure a secure foodshed and meet the demand for healthy, local foods downstate. I congratulate the governor and the Legislature for their leadership to slow the troubling rate at which these agricultural lands are being converted,” said Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “I look forward to continuing to work together to support New York’s farms, which bolster local economies, public health, and climate change mitigation.”

“Governor Cuomo’s proposed $20 million for farmland preservation in the Hudson Valley is like a dream come true for Dutchess Land Conservancy and land trusts across the region. We feel it’s an exciting time for agriculture. Increased funding provides so many new opportunities to protect the farms that are key to our local communities, economy and way of life. Many farmers would love to go through this program as a way to invest in their farms, and until now, there just hasn’t been enough money to go around. Over 40 active Dutchess County farms have been protected to date; but with more than 670 working farms in existence today, the need for additional funding is genuine. Just picture rural New York without farms; I see this as a key investment in our agricultural economy and heritage,” noted Dutchess Land Conservancy President Becky Thornton.

Westchester Land Trust President Lori J. Ensinger said, “Public awareness of the multiple benefits of working lands has led to greater community appreciation of the importance of keeping land open for fiscal, economic and environmental reasons. Safeguarding working farmland protects our regional food supply, maintaining both a way of life and a treasured landscape. The Westchester Land Trust applauds Governor Cuomo’s Hudson Valley farmland protection initiative in the New York State budget and the Legislature for approving it.”

“The Hudson Highlands Land Trust applauds Governor Cuomo and New York State Legislature’s decision to include a Hudson Valley farmland protection initiative in the 2015-2016 budget. Hudson Valley farms, which are an integral part of the area’s economy and rural character, are under extreme development pressure. This initiative will provide funding to protect working farms forever, thereby strengthening the local food system and the region’s economic stability,” said Andy Chmar, executive director, Hudson Highlands Land Trust.

“This special investment for farmland protection in the Hudson Valley acknowledges the enormous development pressures here and the need to protect the food supply for Eastern New York,” said Kim Elliman, the Open Space Institute’s president and CEO. “We commend Governor Cuomo and members of the state Legislature for recognizing the importance of farmland conservation, not only for its agricultural benefits, but as a tool to preserve local landscapes, natural resources and the land culture so defining of the Hudson Valley.”

“Saratoga County has been the fastest growing county in New York State for over a decade. Additional public funding to secure our most fertile farmlands is crucial for feeding the growing population in the Hudson Valley and for maintaining a viable agricultural and tourism economy,” said Maria Trabka, executive director of Saratoga PLAN. “Offering an alternative to development for landowners will help conserve the land base for agricultural uses and assist communities in accomplishing their planning goals.”

Mohonk Preserve Deputy Executive Director for Strategic Advancement Joe Alfano stated, “Mohonk Preserve is deeply committed to whole-landscape, mixed-use conservation. Integrating sustainable agriculture with open space stewardship and world-class recreation provides a unique and inspiring experience on the land. We applaud Governor Cuomo for his vision and dedication to protecting farmland in our region.”

 “We applaud New York State’s use of bank settlement funds to strengthen farmland protection throughout the Hudson Valley. As public interest in local food continues to grow, this investment will greatly enhance efforts to preserve the most productive—and most at risk—agricultural lands in the New York City foodshed,” said Ethan Winter, New York conservation manager for the Land Trust Alliance.

“We are very grateful to the governor and the Legislature for this far-sighted funding provision. The substantial additional funding made available by this legislation will allow us to begin to address a backlog of farm families in Columbia County who would like to ensure that their land remains available for farming, at a time when the need to protect our agricultural land base has never been more acute. We are grateful as well for the leadership of our partners at Scenic Hudson in advocating for the enhanced funding, and look forward to working with them to realize the tremendous conservation and economic benefits that will ensue,” stated Columbia Land Conservancy Executive Director Peter Paden.

“This monumental plan will keep Hudson Valley’s farms as productive as ever through farmland preservation. Organizations like ours will work closely with farmers to achieve these goals which will undoubtedly benefit the entire region for decades to come,” said Jim Delaune, executive director, Orange County Land Trust.

“WLC applauds Governor Cuomo and the Legislature for this critical investment in our state’s future. Enthusiastic support from those in our community concerned about food and food security helped us initiate our most recent agricultural project, and we hope to do more. Preserving our area’s prime farmland and supporting local agriculture not only benefits longtime family farms, but helps aspiring young farmers, benefits our communities and supports a vibrant, sustainable economy in Ulster County and throughout the Hudson Valley,” said Woodstock Land Conservancy Executive Director Marita Lopez-Mena.

About Scenic Hudson

Scenic Hudson works to protect and restore the Hudson River and its majestic landscape as an irreplaceable national treasure and a vital resource for residents and visitors. A crusader for the valley since 1963, we are credited with saving fabled Storm King Mountain from a destructive industrial project and launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today with more than 25,000 ardent supporters, we are the largest environmental group focused on the Hudson River Valley. Our team of experts combines land acquisition, support for agriculture, citizen-based advocacy and sophisticated planning tools to create environmentally healthy communities, champion smart economic growth, open up riverfronts to the public and preserve the valley’s inspiring beauty and natural resources. To date Scenic Hudson has created or enhanced more than 65 parks, preserves and historic sites up and down the Hudson River and conserved over 35,000 acres. www.scenichudson.org

 

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