FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 11, 2016
ALBANY, NY – American Farmland Trust has released a new report, Cultivate New York: An Agenda for Protecting Farmland for Growing Food and the Economy, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of state funding to protect farmland in New York.
Cultivate New York documents the impact of New York's Farmland Protection Program over the last 20 years, and urges the state to renew its commitment to conserving working farmland by permanently protecting 100,000 acres of threatened farmland over the next 10 years. The report includes 14 comprehensive recommendations to make New York a national leader in protecting farmland to fulfill its critical role in growing local food and supporting the state's farm and food economy.
Since the 1980s, nearly 5,000 farms have been paved over by real estate development in New York. Governor Mario Cuomo and the state legislature responded to this threat by creating New York's Farmland Protection Program in 1992, with the first funding for permanent farmland protection authorized in 1996. The program has since spent $140 million to protect 232 farms on a total 59,000 acres.
Yet, new threats to farmland are emerging. Along with the recovery of the real estate market, more than two million acres of New York farmland are owned by senior farmers and will be changing hands in coming years, and farmers increasingly grapple with severe weather events related to climate change.
"Farmland and fertile soil are vital to growing food and to the farmers who are the foundation of New York's $39 billion farm and food economy," said David Haight, New York State Director for American Farmland Trust. "New York's Farmland Protection Program has made important progress over the last two decades, but the state must redouble its efforts to respond to emerging threats."
The 2015-16 State Budget allocated $35 million for protecting farmland — the most in New York's history and the fourth highest amount of state farmland protection funding in the nation. Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a historic increase in funding for New York's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), a critical source of funding for the Farmland Protection Program, to $300 million.
"This is an important moment. It is critical that the state ensure that New Yorkers have long-term access to healthy local food and the benefits of a robust farm economy," said Haight. "Thanks to Governor Cuomo and the state legislature, New York joined the nation's leading states in investing in protecting working farmland in 2015. And, Governor Cuomo's recent proposal to expand the EPF positions New York to be a singularly progressive national leader in the future. We greatly appreciate these actions and hope they reflect a renewed state commitment to protecting New York's farmland for future generations."
The Cultivate New York report outlines four major goals for future action, including:
- Permanently protect 100,000 acres of high-quality, threatened farmland over the next 10 years
- Consistently complete state-funded farmland protection projects in less than two years
- Help 5,000 new and next-generation farmers find land in New York over the next 10 years
- Develop a long-term plan for protecting the state's food production resources and adopting supporting state policies by 2020
Additional information and the full report is available at www.farmland.org/cultivateNY.
Official hashtag: #CultivateNY
American Farmland Trust is the only national conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land. Since 1980 American Farmland Trust has helped to permanently protect more than five million acres of farm and ranch land.