The Pride of New York website is a great place to find a variety of products such as locally grown produce, syrups, cheese, honey, meats and other goods – all produced in New York State. The Pride of New York program was created as a medium to promote our local products. The program has proved to be largely successful and membership to the program continues to increase.
I encourage you to take a look at the Pride of New York’s website. It contains information on members, local products, Pride of New York restaurants, harvest dates, Pride of New York Gift Packages and more. http://www.agmkt.state.ny.us/ ap/prideofny/pride_index.html
Farm to School & Farm to You Fest
Local school districts are making the grade in their efforts to incorporate local foods in school lunches. Programs like the Farm to School connect local farmers, food processors with schools in their communities. Locally, we have several schools that currently participate in the program. Oswego City School District, Hannibal Central School District, SUNY Oswego and other schools work with an area business to get local fruits and vegetables from the farm to the tray. Local apples, plums, pears, salt potatoes, and cabbage are some of the items included in student’s lunches.
Another great source of educating our students about agriculture is right in our classrooms. The Farm to You Fest is a weeklong celebration of local food and agriculture during fall harvest time. During this week, many school districts feature local foods, classes offer food tasting and other farming activities. Locally, teachers at APW School District have participated in the Farm to You Fest.
So next time you look at the schools’ lunch menu, there’s a good chance that your child will be eating local, fresh food.
To help our existing farms and bring new opportunities for farmers, I am a sponsor of the following legislation:
A.1088A, Allowing farmers to receive the investment tax credit as a fully refundable tax credit.
A. 5205, “New York Farmer Recruitment and Retention Act.” Proposals to recruit the next generation of farmers and help the existing farms in New York.
A.10103, An act to reduce farm-based taxes, fees and excessive regulation.
A.4176, An act establishing a fresh fruit and vegetable program in schools by providing school districts a direct payment from the state to purchase fresh produce. Often cost is the deciding factor to not purchase local fresh foods. This would provide an ongoing incentive to purchase fresh, minimally processed foods.
The enacted budget places agricultural funding back on the chopping block. This comes on the heels of last year’s cuts. Programs, such as the Integrated Pest Management program, are being reduced. Farms depend on this research to protect their crops from invasive species and pests. The Farm Viability Institute, which has proved successful in providing services for agribusiness, has been severely reduced in funding. The farmer-driven organization provides grants to farm-based projects that lead to better business practices.
Other programs eliminated under the enacted budget include:
Agricultural Economic Development
Center for Dairy Excellence
Maple Producers Association
Empire State Potato Grower golden nematode control
New York Apple Growers Association
Agriculture turned alternative energy. Research suggests that biomass crops have the potential to be a viable energy source. Whether it is switchgrass, willow trees or waste from logging operations, these sources may be our new energy source for fuel in Central New York. The vast amount of farmland in Upstate New York makes our region a prime location to grow switchgrass and willow trees. Currently, there are more than 100,000 unused acres in the area. This will be a new cash crop for farmers.
SUNY ESF and other area colleges have been actively involved in this research and development. There already is movement on this technology. Colgate University already uses wood chips for most of its energy needs and there are plans to build plants in the area. Once this technology moves forward, farmers and our area stand to benefit.
Agriculture is a leading industry in New York. According to the National Agriculture Statistics Services, in the last decade, there were 675 farms in Oswego County and 720 farms in Onondaga County. In 2002, the combined market value of all agricultural products sold from both counties was $113.7 million. Clearly, the agriculture industry is an economic driver in our region.
In the Assembly and Senate, there is legislation that would place more burden on farmers. The Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act would not only hurt farmers, but customers of local produce and farmworkers. If made law, it would require farmers to provide an 8-hour work day for farm laborers during peak harvest times; require overtime at one-and-a-half times the normal rate; require the farmer to provide workers’ compensation; and allow the unemployment insurance law to be applied to farmworkers.
Anyone with a sense of how the farm calendar works would realize this bill is a terrible idea. Sometimes a harvest only lasts two weeks. Farmers not only have to consider who they can get on their farms to commit to such a short stint, but they also must consider the weather and crop conditions. Any number of conditions can lead to crop damage or disease and harvesting at a certain hour is essential to their livelihood.
Also, farmers today have to compete in a global food market. At local supermarkets, people have a choice to buy produce from Mexico, Canada, and Peru just to name a few countries. If farm labor costs increase, farmers will have to raise their prices, which will put many small farmers out of business because retailers will likely purchase the least expensive produce.