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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Farm stories behind the numbers"
ALBANY, March 26 -- If we’re talking jobs -- and the future of jobs -- in New York State, then we better be talking agriculture and farming too. That gets overlooked too frequently in Albany, where year after year the corps of state legislators who understand (and represent) the challenges facing New York’s farmers and agribusinesses get lost under an ever-growing shadow of big city needs and concerns.
we better pay attention. According to the National Agricultural Statistics
Service (NASS), the number of farms in New York State fell from 36,300
in 2010 to 36,000 last year -- a decrease that falls in line with a similarly
declining number of farms across the United States. America had
For me, one way to read the numbers is that, despite the enormous challenges,
New York remains an agricultural state and we can’t ever afford
to forget it. Seven million acres of land in farming. More than $4 billion
worth of agricultural products sold annually. A Top 10 producer of
In short, New York boasts of a proud, a highly diverse and a productive agricultural industry, the state’s largest. And then there are the individual stories behind the statewide story. Right here at home, in the legislative district I represent, are the life stories of farmers and agribusiness people in Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tompkins and Yates counties who are state leaders in the production of a broad-based inventory of crops, livestock and other commodities.
Like most other state businesses and industries, the agricultural industry today must find ways to cope with high costs, unpredictable and volatile weather, and so many other pressures. So the importance of agriculture as a mainstay of upstate’s culture and economy demands the Legislature’s attention each and every session to enhance the ability of our farmers to stay competitive and to keep their land in farming. Toward this end, in recent weeks we’ve seen:
-- the expansion of New York’s “FreshConnect” program, a competitive grant initiative started last year to create new farmers’ markets and support existing markets to provide fresh produce to high-needs areas, both rural and urban;
-- the introduction of legislation to promote the growth of New York
State’s craft breweries, encourage opportunities to New York farmers
to restore our state as a premier producer of hops, and further remove
state-imposed regulations hindering the success of our farm wineries and
-- the state Senate’s approval of the “Buy From the Backyard Act” to require state agencies with food contracts to buy at least 20 percent of their food from locally grown New York sources.
Add in ongoing efforts in the arenas of property tax relief, state spending
restraint and other fiscal reforms -- all of which, if you ask the New
York Farm Bureau, are high on the list of farm family priorities –
and you get a taste of the attention agriculture’s receiving at
the Capitol, and rightly so. Agriculture remains one of the strongest
economic foundations on which New York can build long-term, sustainable
economic growth. If we can do that effectively, it’s going to have
State investment in the future of agriculture is significant, it’s smart, and it will produce valuable economic benefits and opportunities for years to come. It’s an economic development priority that will secure and retain quality livelihoods and vibrant communities, as well as strengthen the competitive position of wineries, grape growers, dairy farms, organic farms and growers, tourism, food processors and the overall economy of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes region.
To say nothing, as the final word, of preserving a cultural anchor and a way of life that’s meaningful, worthwhile and essential to the pride we can take in ourselves as the Empire State.
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