By Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine
A recurring theme in our discussions over the last few months with farmers and others in the agricultural industry is the need to educate consumers, label foods properly to empower consumers, and teach our children about the value of our farms and how food gets to the grocery store. This came up frequently in the most recent roundtable I hosted in Granby.
Too often we hear stories about the disconnect the general public has with our farming communities. Fewer and fewer families are farm families and some of what might seem to be the most basic knowledge about food seems to have been forgotten. With todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s modern lifestyles and the variety offered in grocery stores with food brought in from all over the world, for many it becomes too easy to think that food comes from the grocery store.
The reality is that here in New York agriculture is our number one industry and the simplest choice a consumer can make to support our economy, help our environment and get the freshest foods is to buy local. This past weekend in Syracuse was the Pride of New York Harvest Fest, a showcase of New York State agriculture and food products from wines to fruits and vegetables, and meats and cheeses to barbecue sauces. This is a tremendous event but we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to go to an annual event to choose New York first.
In our grocery stores the Pride of New York is on many food items and we have some great local brands for things like Gianelli sausages or North Country Farms muffin and pancake mixes. Though more needs to be done in the way of country of origin labeling and other aids to consumers, taking a few seconds to check the packaging on our produce and foods, then selecting a New York-based company will go a long way toward ensuring that your food is grown and prepared with the highest standards and that dollar you spend bolsters our economy and helps our state emerge from the fiscal crisis.
Of course, as we grow our economy and continue working to create jobs to rebound from the economic downturn stronger, we have a budget deficit to manage. In writing this before we go back to session on Monday and Tuesday, I realize that much of the work may be done by the time you are reading this. However, I think it is important to emphasize that we are facing difficult choices in the state Legislature. Certainly, cuts will have to be made, but in doing so we must spread them evenly across the state and protect Upstate New York.
To that end, I have joined up with my colleagues in Upstate New York and members from Long Island to protect our schools and property taxpayers. There is no doubt that we all recognize the need to make cuts and the severity of this fiscal crisis. However, we are committed to protecting the interests of our constituents, which means guarding against cuts that are disproportionate to the areas we represent and would force local governments to raise property taxes. This fiscal crisis is real and everything must be on the table, but in the end, we need to share the sacrifice evenly across this state because in emerging from this crisis, we will need a strong Upstate economy to ensure we avoid repeating this scenario.