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Save the Date: No Farms No Food Rally 2011, March 30th, Albany

Cuomo and DiNapoli Highlight Importance of Protecting Farms to the State’s Economy, Environment and Public Health

Controller's ReportLast weekend was an exciting one for New York farms. Three major policy documents were released making a strong case for the need to invest in protecting New York’s farms and farmland. On Friday, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report on the importance of farmland protection entitled Bet the Farm: Farmland Protection as a Strategy for Economic Growth [PDF]. Also on Friday, Governor Elect Andrew Cuomo announced his agricultural policy platform, Farm NY: Growth Through Innovation [PDF]. On Saturday, Cuomo released his environmental platform, A Cleaner Greener NY. All three documents identify the protection of farms as a crucial step toward a healthy economy and environment and long-term food security for New York’s families.

Cuomo ReportCiting New York’s $4.4 billion agricultural industry as a connector of multiple important and interrelated priorities, including the economy, the environment and public health, Cuomo’s agricultural platform Farm NY asserts, “Land is the lifeblood of the agricultural industry and the protection of New York State’s long term food supply, the environment and the health of the public are directly related to the preservation of this land.”

Comptroller DiNapoli’s report, Bet on the Farm: Farmland Protection as a Strategy for Economic Growth and Renewal, similarly found that “the economic benefits from the agriculture industry warrant action by New York State to prevent the unnecessary loss of farms and productive farmland” 

Bet the Farm notes that between 1997 and 2007, New York State lost 613,500 acres, leaving us with approximately seven million acres of farmland in our state. During that time, the state’s Farmland Protection Program permanently protected just under 79,000 acres, or less than two percent of the land lost. 

New York’s Farmland Protection Program was established in 1996 to assist local efforts to protect farms and strengthen the future for agriculture. The program’s principal purpose is to provide funding to pay farmers to permanently protect their land for agriculture. Farmers commonly reinvest these funds into their businesses by constructing new farm buildings, buying more farmland, upgrading equipment or preparing to transfer the farm to future generations. The Farmland Protection Program receives funding through the Environmental Protection Fund.

Vermont, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania have all protected at least twice as much farmland as New York—with Maryland and Pennsylvania protecting four and five times as much respectively. “Pennsylvania has invested over $700 million in protecting farms—eight times more than New York State, which has a comparable amount of farmland,” points out American Farmland Trust’s New York Director David Haight. “We must act quickly to catch up if we want to help our farmers adjust to a competitive global economy and ensure long-term food security for New York families.”

Increasing the availability of nutritious, locally produced food for all New Yorkers is essential to public health and the fight against childhood obesity,” stressed Haight. “Cuomo’s emphasis on exploring innovative means for expanding New Yorkers access to nutritious foods grown in New York is exciting. As the Cuomo platform outlined, producing and selling healthy food grown in the state creates thousands of jobs on farms and throughout a chain of food processing, distribution and marketing businesses while helping address some of the most pressing public health challenges facing our society.”

Governor Paterson Issues Executive Order to Sustain Farms and Protect Farmland

Support for Farmland Protection Continues to Grow

New Partnership with Association of Counties Going Strong
The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC), has added an important new voice to the list of organizations weigh in in on the critical role agriculture and farmland protection play in New York’s economy. NYSAC’s Fall 2010 edition of their magazine NYSAC News, entitled the Future of Farms in New York State contains an article by our New York State Director David Haight, “Our Farms are Link to Better Health and Land Stewardship.” page 20 Earlier this year NYSAC created a Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Future of Farming in New York.

New York State Association of Counties report and resolution:

The Story Behind the Farmland Protection Crisis

NYCapitol New York State’s recently passed budget cut appropriations for farmland protection by 51 percent to $10.75 million. And now it looks like this year’s actual state cash allocation for the Farmland Protection Program may be as little as $5 million.

Confused? That’s easy to understand. Here’s the history:

Since 1996, New York’s Farmland Protection Program has awarded $173 million to protect 303 farms across New York. However, just 59 percent of these farm families have been paid and their farms protected. 

According to a recent report from the Office of the Comptroller on the Environmental Protection Fund, which funds the Farmland Protection Program, delays in the expenditure of money in the fund have resulted in an accumulation of unspent money in the fund that the state has “swept” into the state’s general fund to be used for other purposes. A total of $854 million, or 39 percent, has been swept into the state’s general fund. To date only $347 million of this has been paid back.

As a result of the sweeps there is not currently enough cash available in the Environmental Protection Fund, to make good on the $71.5 million that is owed to farm families for the purchase of development rights on their farms, let alone make new grants to the many farm families who are interested in working with the state to protect their farmland. In 2008 alone $159 million in funding was requested from the state to purchase development rights from a program for which only $22 million was budgeted.

New York Farmland Protection DistributionNow, the Governor has communicated that the state will only provide $5 million this year to honor these state commitments from between 1 and 5 years ago. At this rate, it would take 15 years for the state to honor its commitments to these families alone and no new farms could be protected. Should this happen, we estimate that over 1,800 more New York farms would be lost to development during that time period.  

To shed light on this funding crisis and its impact on farmers, the state’s farm and food economy as well as consumers who rely on farms to provide nutritious locally grown food for their tables, American Farmland Trust brought a series of groups to Albany to meet with key policy makers.  The groups included farmers, local officials, land trust representatives and others from across the state. The groups met with Commissioner of Agriculture, Patrick Hooker, New York’s Budget Director, Bob Megna and key legislators and shared personal stories of how families were being pushed towards tremendous financial hardship because of the state’s failure to make good on its commitments.

Unfortunately it looks like the state’s fiscal crisis will not allow restoration of the additional cut to the Farmland Protection Program this year.  American Farmland Trust is now working with partners to ensure that the Farmland Protection Program is a strong component of the new administration’s economic development plan - keeping New York’s farmers in the fields working and driving the agricultural economic engine for our state and to advocate for more funding. If you would like to participate in these efforts please email our New York office newyork@farmland.org or call us at (518) 581-0078.

Enacted Budget



Environmental Protection Fund




Farmland Protection Program



Agricultural Non-Point Source Program



Soil and Water Conservation Districts






Conservation Partnership Program



New York Farm Viability Institute



Marketing Farm Products Grown in New York



Organic Agriculture



Integrated Pest Management



Farmers Market Grants Program



Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Access Program



New York Fresh Checks Program



Smart Growth Bill Signed into Law

On August 30th, Governor David Paterson signed the Public Infrastructure Priority Act into law. We joined with other members of Empire State Future, a Smart Growth advocacy group, in supporting this innovative legislation that will help position New York State to make the best possible use of limited infrastructure money. The new law, which was sponsored by Assemblyman Sam Hoyt and Senator Suzi Oppenheimer instructs state entities to consider 10 categories of smart growth criteria when determining how to spend infrastructure dollars. Protection, preservation and enhancement of the state’s natural resources, including agricultural land, forests, surface and groundwater, open space and scenic areas is included as one of the 10 criteria. We look forward to working with our partners and state leaders to determine how to best use this new law to support thoughtful planning and investment, particularly when it comes to our state’s rural communities.

Read State Director David Haight's letter to the Governor's office in support of signing the bill.

Read the Bill: A. 8011B and S. 5560B.

New State Law Makes Land Trusts Eligible to Apply for State Funding

On May 25th, a bill amendment we’ve supported, cutting red tape for farmers participating in the state’s Farmland Protection Program, became law. The new legislation makes land trusts eligible to apply directly for funding to permanently protect working farms from development through purchase of development rights.

Clark Family

The Clark Family is currently in the process of protecting their farmland with the help of the Agricultural Stewardship Association through the New York State Farmland Protection Fund. The Clark Family farm is located in the Town of White Creek, Washington County and the Town of Hoosick, Rensselaer County. The Agricultural Stewardship a non-profit land trust founded in 1990 by local farmers and conservationists to protect land for agriculture and forestry uses in Washington and Rensselaer Counties. 
Photo Credit: Clifford Oliver

Until now only municipalities and counties have been eligible to apply for this funding. In 75 percent of these projects, towns and counties have chosen to partner with private, not-for-profit land trusts to complete the projects and ensure that participating farms remain permanently protected.

“This law, that was recently signed by the Governor, will no doubt improve the time and process necessary to complete farmland protection projects,” said Assemblyman William Magee, who is chairman of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and sponsored the bill in the Assembly. “For years I have been actively working towards keeping our farmlands vital in New York State and continuing to develop new ways to protect our farmlands.”

“Farmland preservation protects our open spaces from development, provides revenue for farmers, and keeps our land producing food for New York families,” said Senator Darrel J. Aubertine, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, sponsor of the legislation in the Senate and longtime supporter of American Farmland Trust. “This will expand the opportunities for farmers throughout the state by enabling land trusts to help farmers apply for preservation grants.”

As of 2009, more than $173 million has been awarded by the Farmland Protection Program to protect over 73,000 acres of farmland on more than 300 farms. The program receives its funding from New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund, a dedicated fund for more than 30 programs that protect the state’s air, water and land resources. But more work needs to be done. “We’ve got to complete the roughly 70 projects that have already been committed and make further reforms so that working farms are protected faster,” said American Farmland Trust’s New York State Director David Haight.

Read the Bill: A. 6687 and S. 4476.

Purchase of Development Rights Project Cost Share Bill Becomes Law

A bill American Farmland Trust supported to increase the maximum percentage of state funding for purchase of development rights to farmland was signed into law on July 30th and will take effect immediately. The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman William Magee who represents portions of Madison, Oneida and Otsego counties and serves as Chair of the Agriculture Committee and Senator David Valesky, Senate Agriculture Committee member and strong supporter of farmers and agriculture. Senator Valesky represents parts of Cayuga, Madison, Oneida and Onondaga counties.

The new law will help preserve farmland by increasing the state's cost share for purchase of development rights from 75 percent of the total project cost to a maximum of 87.5 percent when the match is being provided by the farmer protecting his or her land. This smaller match requirement will make it more financially feasible for farmers to protect their land.  American Farmland Trust is pleased that the Governor signed this important bill and will continue to work with his administration to identify ways to provide more resources to farmers for farmland protection.

Read the Bill: A. 6686 and S. 5414.

Farmland Protection Report

The New York Farmland Protection Study 2009, prepared in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Markets, American Farmland Trust and the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, was conducted with roughly 150 farmers and landowners who have participated in the state’s Farmland Protection Program.

According to a report, by the New State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the state’s Farmland Protection Program has successfully helped farmers keep farming in New York and help pass the family farm down to the next generation. The survey found:

  • 99% of farmers were generally satisfied with the program;
  • Most farmers participate in the program to protect land for farming and future generations.
  • More than half of participating farms would have likely been developed without the option of participating in the Farmland Protection Program.

Read an article by our Senior Policy and Program Advisor Bob Wagner: "Farmers See Benefits in Protecting their Land."

New York State Council on Food Policy Considers Farmland Protection

New York State Director David Haight spoke to the state’s Council on Food Policy about the critical importance of farmland protection to the state’s food security at the Council’s summer meeting in Harlem. The Council makes policy recommendations to the Governor that ensure both the availability of fresh, nutritious and affordable food for all New Yorkers and a strong farm and food economy for New York State.

The Council’s recent meeting on the “New York Food System: Supply, Demand and Delivery,” [PDF] was one of the first times the Council heard directly about the critical importance of farmland protection to the long-term security of the state’s food supply.

New York City Calls for Farmland Protectionnew york skyline

The report FoodNYC: A Blueprint for a Sustainable Food System, released by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in February 2010, highlights the tremendous importance of farm and food issues to all New Yorkers. Specifically the report calls for a state strategy for farmland and food production; accelerating protection of New York’s farmland; modernizing Hunts Point; strengthening farmers markets, food processing and distribution capacity; and mandating regional procurement of food by city agencies. New Yorkers need a stronger, healthier, economically viable farm and food system.


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Fresh ideas and alliances emerged during our Farmland Policy Summit

The Farmland Policy Summit brought together over 60 representatives from land trusts, local governments and environmental groups. Download materials located in the left column above to learn more. 

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