Saratoga Springs, NY, April 1, 2011—Early Thursday morning, the New York State Legislature voted to pass a state budget that maintained key funding for programs to strengthen farm and food businesses, expand the availability of local food to more New Yorkers, and protect farmland from development.
“American Farmland Trust applauds Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Silver and Senate Majority Leader Skelos for adopting an on-time budget that holds the line on funding for programs that support agriculture, the environment, and healthy, local food,” said David Haight, New York State director for American Farmland Trust.
Assemblyman Bill Magee, chair of the Assembly Agricultural Committee, and Senator Patty Ritchie, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee led budget negotiations that were successful in sustaining key funding for farm programs in the final state budget.
“This year there were many tough cuts. We had to close a $10 billion deficit,” said Senator Ritchie, speaking at American Farmland Trust’s No Farms No Food® Rally & Lobby Day held on Wednesday at the Empire State Plaza and Capitol in Albany. “One bright spot in the budget is that we were able, working together with Assemblyman Magee, to restore $3.5 million to critical agricultural programs, such as the New York Farm Viability Institute, Pro Dairy, and Integrated Pest Management.”
On Wednesday, nearly 200 farmers, local foods advocates, land trusts, hunger relief volunteers, community gardeners, chefs, and local officials came to the Capitol from across the state—including New York City—to meet with more than 120 state legislators. Farm and food advocates engaged elected officials and their staff in productive dialog about the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy and food security.
“Some people make negative comments about the division between upstate and downstate,” said Assemblyman Magee during his address at the No Farms No Food® Rally. “But believe me, downstate members of the legislature care very much about agriculture in New York State because they know that is their food. They understand the ‘No Farms No Food®’ message.”
The approved budget also maintains funding of $134 million for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), including $12 million for the Farmland Protection Program. Since 2008, the EPF has been cut by 47 percent from $255 million to $134 Million in 2010. Included in these cuts was an 83 percent funding reduction for the Farmland Protection Program.
“We give a lot of credit to Governor Cuomo, as well as Environmental Conservation Committee Chairs Assemblyman Robert Sweeney and Senator Mark Grisanti for sustaining funding for the EPF, the Farmland Protection Program and other programs within the EPF that help New York farmers protect farmland and water quality,” said Haight.
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