A legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
As many of us gather with family and friends over the holidays, some of those celebrations will include special meals and desserts.
Because we have access to a wide selection of food year-round at local grocery stores, it is sometimes easy to forget where our food comes from but New York’s farmers are agriculture leaders.
They produce an array of commodities including milk, fruits, vegetables, grains and maple syrup. Not only is the variety impressive but Upstate’s nutrient-rich soils give way to world-class, award-winning products which collectively have a tremendous impact on the economy.
Earlier this year, the State Comptroller highlighted the state’s agriculture industry in a report based on data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other sources. Farmers had a gross income of $5.7 billion in 2017 – an increase of more than 23% from 2007. When farm processing plants and food delivery businesses are included in the equation, the total economic impact is nearly $45 billion.
More than 55,000 workers are employed at farms and related activity, such as food production involving New York’s dairy and other agricultural products, adds thousands of additional jobs.
Though gross income is up and economic impact has increased, the total number of farms decreased by 8% and total farm acreage decreased by 4% from 2007. In 2012, the total farm acreage was estimated to be 7.2 million acres and in just five years it decreased to 6.8 million acres.
Still, 33,400 farms are in operation today, 96% of which are family owned.
A growing number of women–more than 37%–are farm producers.
Another sector that is growing is certified organic farms.
In 2012 there were 824 and by 2017 there were 1,340, putting New York third in the nation for the total number of certified organic farms.
Milk is by far the largest ag commodity in the state and represents 47% of the state’s total agricultural sales.
Dairy still remains a leader and New York ranks 3rd in the nation in terms of milk production.
The state has 624,000 milking cows that produced nearly 15 billion pounds of milk.
Because of the strong milk supply and focus on value-added products, New York produces the most cottage cheese, sour cream, and yogurt in the nation.
The market for value-added products helps dairy farmers to offset low milk prices.
New York ranks second among the states for production of apples and maple syrup, and third for both wine and grapes.
New York is the third largest producer of wine behind only California and Washington and produces more than 30 million gallons of wine a year.
Maple syrup production ranked second in the nation and in 2017 produced nearly 18% of the nation’s maple syrup – second only to Vermont.
Our maple producers have worked hard in recent years to capitalize on agri-tourism opportunities and value-added products.
It is great to see the efforts are paying off.
We are fortunate to have all of these products right in our backyards.
Our local farmers work hard to produce these many commodities, provide fresh and locally-grown food, and protect our open spaces.
I will continue to support policies in Albany that assist farmers and remain steadfast against policies that make it difficult for small businesses and farmers to operate.
It is vital we keep our farmers and homegrown produce in this state and help them where we can.
If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office.
My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.