Albany, N.Y., March 21, 2013—Sixteen lobby teams met with over 70 New York State legislators last week at American Farmland Trust’s fourth annual No Farms No Food® Rally to urge them to protect farmland from development, aid the next generation of farmers in accessing land, and encourage state institutions—such as colleges, hospitals, and emergency food providers—to buy food that is grown in New York.
“Buying food grown in New York is good for our economy, the health of New Yorkers and the environment,” said American Farmland Trust New York State Director David Haight. “Yet food comes from farmland, and we have lost far too many farms to real estate development in New York. As we say, ‘No Farms, No Food.’”
New York’s farmland forms the backbone of its growing farm and food economy, yet the state has lost a significant amount of farmland to real estate development. According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, between 1982 and 2007, nearly half a million acres of New York farmland or roughly 4,500 median-sized farms were paved over.
Darrel Aubertine, New York’s commissioner of Agriculture spoke at the No Farms No Food® Rally in support of farmland conservation. “One thing they are not making any more of is farmland,” Aubertine said. “Too often farmland’s final crop is a house. And once farmland is developed, it is out of production forever.”
Assemblyman Bill Magee, chair of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture, told Rally participants that he is working with American Farmland Trust and its partners to draft a new bill aimed at identifying state-owned land suitable for agriculture, making it available to the next generation of farmers through leases, protecting it with conservation easements if it is to be sold, and keeping the land available for future generations to farm.
“The focus needs to be on the next generation of farmers,” Magee said. “Whether they are farmers who have grown up on a farm or new farmers who are starting out fresh, we all need to work together to get more people into farming and make sure farms get passed down to the next generation.”
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes spoke about expanding the market for New York State grown food by encouraging state institutions to buy more food from New York farmers through passage of bill S. 4061 (Ritchie)/A. 5102 (Peoples-Stokes).
“Don’t buy fruit and vegetables from Mexico. We grow them right here in New York State,” said Peoples-Stokes. “We need individual consumers to seek out New York-grown food but we need state institutions to seek it out too. At the end of the day farmers can only be successful if they are making money. This bill provides farmers with the opportunity to make money while feeding New Yorkers at state institutions good food. Our farms will be stronger. Our lives will be stronger. We will all be better off.”
“What better way to grow families and communities than to support New York farmers who are growing healthy food while conserving farmland and protecting open space and watersheds,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy.
“Farming is one of New York State’s most important and enduring industries, putting food on our tables and generating billions of dollars in economic activity each year,” said First Deputy Comptroller Pete Grannis, who spoke to the group during lunch.
“Generations of New York growers have played an important role in producing the food we eat and as crucial shepherds of our environment and open spaces,” Grannis continued. “Agriculture is steeped in our history and its well-being has to be high on policymakers’ agenda.”
Each year, the No Farms No Food Rally brings together farmers, local foods advocates, land trusts and community leaders from across New York to support farms and access to locally grown food. More information is available at http://newyork.farmland.org/no-farms-no-food.