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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"A blueprint for farming's future "

ALBANY, Oct. 10 -- The late summer storms of 2011 – Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm
Lee – continue to take a heavy toll on so many of our neighbors to the east, on communities across the upstate region and, we simply cannot afford to forget, on New York’s farmers and our agricultural industry overall.

I stress that we can’t forget because the strength of New York’s economic future is (and always has been) enormously dependent on the future of agriculture. At the moment, the first step toward this future means rebuilding and recovery. But there’s an exciting blueprint for growth on tap too.

Let me explain.

The state’s agriculture commissioner recently said, “The recent storms did tremendous damage to New York's farmland and hurt our state's robust agricultural industry. Governor Cuomo created the Agriculture and Community Recovery Fund to help farms rebuild quickly, and together we will continue doing all we can to help New York's farmers get back on their feet."

So the state commitment to assist the needed farm recovery is in place and at work, and that’s critically important and reassuring. As I said, it’s now become the first step. We should also keep in mind that the storms arrived as a cruel addition to an already tough year for farmers – a rainy spring and, for much of the summer, dry, drought-like conditions that took a heavy toll on many crops, like corn and potatoes locally.

Inevitably, with so many farms in crisis, attention turns to this broader question: What’s the future of farming in New York State? Maybe that’s one silver lining in all of this devastation. Because raising that question is especially timely when New York’s 10 regional economic development councils remain hard at work in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and elsewhere, to develop the strategies that will guide future economic growth. So it may be timelier than ever to remember that agriculture remains New York’s No. 1 industry. Today’s farm economy generates more than $4 billion worth of annual economic activity statewide and provides a livelihood for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. As the governor recently noted, New York “ranks first in the nation for the production of cabbage, second for apples and sweet corn, and third for milk, grapes, onions, and maple syrup.”

Earlier this summer, shortly before the onset of the tropical storms, it went somewhat unnoticed that the Cuomo administration launched the “New York Fresh Connects Farmers’ Markets” (FreshConnect) program, an initiative aimed at creating and expanding farmers’ markets statewide. While there’s great value in this initiative in and of itself, it may be even more important to recall that the new program was billed as the first step in a more comprehensive “Farm New York” agenda first unveiled by the Cuomo campaign for governor in 2010.

Looking back at that comprehensive “Farm New York” agenda now (and you can read it for yourself at, it pledges a newfound agricultural agenda focusing on key areas: creating new markets, recognizing emerging technologies, competitiveness and sustainability, addressing tax and regulatory burdens, and attracting the next generation of farmers into the industry. In short, the farmer’s market initiative was launching what many of us hope will continue to be a comprehensive and, frankly, long-overdue focus on agriculture as a mainstay of the upstate economy and culture.

In late 2010, the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) agreed. It published a new report summarizing the findings and recommendations of its Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Future of New York Farming, which was commissioned during Chemung County Executive Tom
Santulli’s tenure as NYSAC’s president.

“We have a major economic engine (agriculture) that contributes to all of our communities. We must continue to invest in this industry as a way to stimulate the economy, put people to work and continue to provide essential food for New Yorkers and those outside New York State,” said
NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario about the report, which you can find at

The recent, devastating natural disasters may have redirected New York’s immediate, short-term focus on agriculture, but it’s hopeful to remember that a long-term blueprint’s in place and, by many indicators, so is the commitment to carry it out.

In the meantime, as we get out and about in the region this fall, we’re hearing that the apple crop is robust and there are opportunities across the region during October to stop at a local farmer’s market. The state Department of Ag and Markets offers a convenient, online interactive map to help locate one near you:

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869