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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
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 http://www.andrewcuomo.com/farmny), 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
“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,”
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: http://www.agmkt.state.ny.us/AP/CommunityFarmersMarkets.asp
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
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
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869