Agriculture Vital to Our Future

By State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine (D-Cape Vincent)

As this summer draws to a close, the New York State fair is in full swing and this year I will again be meeting with agricultural interests on Dairy Day to discuss the future of our state’s number one industry. While major music attractions, rides and entertainment tend to grab the headlines, this fair, like all of our great county fairs, is another opportunity to bring agriculture up close and personal.

Agriculture is the foundation of our economy. It’s on our farms, where wealth is generated and economic viability begins. It’s on our farms where we see hard work produces a commodity that is sold to feed our families. No other industry can make a dollar invested multiply as many times over in a community as agriculture. Still, farmers are asked to produce more food with less every day—less land, less resources and less money.

Over the past 40 years, the number of people on this planet has doubled, but the amount of farmland in production has not changed. In New York State, where the population has grown by several million over the past 30 years, the number of farms in this state has declined steadily by more than one farm per day. In 1970, the average farmer produced food for around 70 people. Today, each farm is asked to produce for more than 150 people.

As population and the demand for food continues to increase, we are looking at the possibility of very real food shortages in the next 20 to 40 years, which will have serious negative consequences for not only our quality of life, but all sectors of our economy. Yet, farmers rise to the occasion time and time again, whether or not they get the credit deserve or even get paid. Despite the low prices they receive, farmers continue to find new and better ways to produce more food and have actually reduced their impact on our environment.

Farmers will continue to drive the economy, preserve open spaces, and feed our families. This is why I have been working to raise the profile of agriculture in New York State, promoting the “buy local” movements whenever possible and fighting to ensure our farms can remain viable as the small businesses they are. In this state, family farming is still the norm—about 99 percent of our farms are family owned.

So when you eat breakfast today, or share lunch and dinner with friends and family, keep in mind the farm families that are working just down the road in our rural towns to feed us, protect our economy and sustain our economy, providing the opportunity for job creation in every sector, from service to high tech industry.

If you happen to meet someone at a fair who is showing their prized animal or produce, or if you see a neighbor who is helping to bring food to your table, take the time to say “Thank You.” Our futures depend on a strong agriculture industry.