SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y., May 29, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- American Farmland Trust and representatives of agriculture, conservation and communities throughout New York today applauded the announcement by Governor Andrew Cuomo that New York is restarting its Farmland Protection Program with $20.5 million in state funding.
"AFT could not be more pleased that Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature answered the call more than 225 members of the agriculture community made at our conference last November in Albany to restart the Farmland Protection Program," said Andrew McElwaine, President and CEO of American Farmland Trust. "New York is taking important steps forward with a major commitment of state funds for this critical program."
"For the first time since 2008, farmers in New York can again apply to permanently protect their farms for future generations as a result of the leadership of Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature," said David Haight, New York State Director for American Farmland Trust. "This program not only makes it easier for the next generation of New York farmers to secure land, it protects the farmland that is critical to local food security and the continued growth of our farm and food economy."
In 2008, funding for the state's Farmland Protection Program, and other programs funded through New York's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), were cut by more than 50 percent. Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature have now started to rebuild funding for the EPF, including the Farmland Protection Program. The 2014-15 State Budget includes $14 million for the Farmland Protection Program from an appropriation of $162 million for the EPF.
"The Governor's announcement that he is restarting the State's Farmland Protection Program is great news for farmers and for the supporters of New York State agriculture," said Robert Morgenthau, Former Manhattan District Attorney, Of Counsel to the Law Firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz and Co-chair of American Farmland Trust's New York Council.
"We commend Governor Cuomo for bringing the state's Farmland Protection Program back to life," said Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro. "Historically state funding for the purchase of permanent conservation easements on farmland has been a driving force behind farmland conservation in the Hudson Valley and across New York State. Protecting our irreplaceable farmland from real estate development has always been a high priority for Dutchess County and we are very pleased to have New York State back as a partner in farmland conservation."
"This is great news for New York's young farmers," says Lindsey Lusher Shute, Executive Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition. Shute and her husband Ben own and operate Hearty Roots Community Farm, a CSA in Columbia County. "Land access is one of the most difficult obstacles in starting a farm, and conservation can be a powerful tool to help them overcome it."
The Department of Agriculture and Markets anticipates the number of applications submitted this year will be even greater than in the past because the grant has not been offered by New York State for five years.
In addition, revisions to state law have increased the state's contribution to a maximum of 87.5 percent (up from 75 percent) and also expanded the number of entities now eligible to apply directly for these funds to include land trusts and state Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
"We've taken a good hard look at this program—what works well and how we could improve," said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball. "We've listened to program participants and as a result we have taken a number of steps to streamline the process and ensure projects are completed more quickly and effectively."
"I am very pleased to hear about the release of this badly needed request for proposals and the announcement of newly available funds to protect farmland in New York State," said Elizabeth Ryan of Breezy Hill Orchard and Stone Ridge Orchard. "I am a long-time Hudson Valley fruit grower. Without protection, the land I farm would no longer be in agriculture. Protecting my orchard has allowed me to continue farming."
"We were relieved to hear Governor Cuomo's announcement of new funding and the request for proposals for the state Farmland Protection Program," said Sean Quinn, of Sunset View Farm, which raises dairy heifers in Washington County. Quinn is also a member of the Agricultural Stewardship Association's board of directors. "To accomplish great things, we must not only act but we also need to believe. With this funding the Governor is showing that he believes in the importance of keeping farmland available to feed an ever growing population for many generations to come."
"We appreciate the Governor's recognition of the importance of protecting New York's farmland through his recent announcement of funds available for farmland preservation," said Dan Henry of W. D. Henry & Sons Farms, which grows vegetables and nursery plants south of Buffalo in the Town of Eden. "Our family is encouraged by this announcement and hopes the program will help keep agriculture viable in New York State."
"We are extremely pleased that the state is back in the game of protecting farmland from development," said Nancy Smith, Executive Director of the Western New York Land Conservancy, based in Erie County. "Upon hearing of the release of the new request for proposals last week farmers are already contacting us about applying for state funding to permanently protect their land. Not only do farmers see the value of farmland conservation as a means toward ensuring a secure land base for agriculture, farmers aim to put funds they receive in exchange for placing a conservation easement on their land to use in expanding their farm businesses."
"Scenic Hudson applauds Governor Cuomo for releasing this request for project proposals and for immediately enhancing a crucial program that puts cash in the hands of working farm families to permanently protect the land which is the foundation of our agricultural economy," said Steve Rosenberg, executive director of The Scenic Hudson Land Trust. "This is very positive news for farmers and for everyone in New York. Permanently protecting Hudson Valley farmland now will help farmers, consumers and New York City residents who rely upon the region as the source of fresh, local food."
New York State began funding the purchase of permanent agricultural conservation easements on farmland in 1996. To date the state has spent a total of $130 million to purchase permanent conservation easements on 221 farms, permanently protecting 53,073 acres of irreplaceable farmland across the state.
The American Farmland Trust is the nation's leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land.
American Farmland Trust will host the Farmland, Food and Livable Communities national conference in Lexington, Kentucky on October 20-22. Visit www.farmland.org/nationalconference for more information.
David Haight, New York State Director, American Farmland Trust
Laura Trivers, Director of Communications, American Farmland Trust
SOURCE American Farmland Trust