By Senator Patty Ritchie
When you think of the word “industry” what comes to mind? For most people it’s big factories, busy assembly lines and fast-moving machinery. When I think “industry,” I also think of New York’s biggest, which to the surprise of many, is agriculture.
New York’s hardworking farmers have been putting food on the world’s tables for more than 380 years, since the first European settlers arrived here and planted the crops that would be sent back to their homelands. Since then, we’ve come a long way. Today, agriculture is our state’s leading industry and new technology and products are helping our state’s more than 36,000 farmers grow.
As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, it’s my priority to support farmers. That’s why I’m happy to announce that the new state budget restores cuts to key agriculture programs, while adding new funding and a new marking initiative to help our farmers grow.
Some of the key components, many of which were included in my “Grown in New York” legislative plan to boost agriculture, include:
· $1.5 million for the New York Farm Viability Institute, a farmer-led nonprofit that sponsors dozens of agricultural research and other programs across Central, Northern and Upstate New York to help bolster farmers’ bottom lines;
· $584,000 for Cornell University’s FarmNet program—an increase of $200,000—to help struggling farmers with services, counseling and assistance;
· $500,000 restoration for Northern New York Agricultural development;
· $40,000 for research aimed at helping farmers who want to take advantage of the state’s growing microbrewing niche, under provisions of a new law I sponsored;
· $1 million each to state apple growers to help ward off invasive pests, and for expanded marketing of New York wine and grape products;
· $125,000 for promotion of New York maple products;
· $100,000 restoration to continue the state’s highly successful tractor rollover prevention program. Tractor accidents are a leading cause of on-the-farm injuries and fatalities.
· $200,000 in new funding to help berry growers combat invasive species that are destroying their crops;
· $150,000 restored to turf growers, and $100,000 in new funding for Christmas tree farmers. New York ranks seventh for Christmas tree production in the US;
· Increased funding for prevention of rabies, following growing incidences of the disease on farms and among wildlife, and the mosquito-borne EEE virus.
As you can see, New York State is stepping up to the plate and making sure our farmers have the means to grow our already thriving agriculture economy.
But, it doesn’t stop there. Just recently, the Senate gave its approval to a budget bill that encourages state agencies to buy more local food. The measure gives them the expanded authority to spend up to $200,000 for goods that are grown, produced and harvested in our state.
Building upon this initiative, I’ll continue to work towards many of the components contained in my “Grown in New York” plan including the establishing of Farm Savings Accounts and the repeal of the Estate Tax for most farms.
Along with continuing my efforts to slash red tape, these will be top priorities as the legislative session continues.
Agriculture is the backbone of our economy, and as your state senator, and chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I pledge to continue to do all I can to support the farming industry, with an eye towards making our entire state stronger and more prosperous.