AFT’s Statement on Governor Hochul’s FY24 Proposed Executive Budget Impacting Farmers and Farmland in New York State
This statement can be attributed to Mikaela Perry, American Farmland Trust’s New York policy manager
(Albany, NY) American Farmland Trust (AFT) is grateful for Gov. Kathy Hochul’s leadership in the proposed FY24 executive budget to fund programs that support New York farmers and keep land in agriculture.
AFT applauds the governor’s commitment to protect our state’s farmland through holding funds for farmland protection at $21 million in a $400 million Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). New York has made strides in protecting its agricultural land, yet we have only permanently protected approximately 1 percent of our total farmland. As we lose farmland across the nation at a rate of 2,000 acres every day — an average of two farms in New York each week – protecting our irreplaceable farmland across the state remains a priority. We urge the legislature to raise the amount of funding for farmland protection to $25 million in the EPF, not only to increase the amount of farmland available for a new generation of farmers, but to capitalize on the additional benefits of protected farmland, such as improved soil, air, and water quality, and a more resilient food and fiber system.
AFT strongly believes that keeping farmers on the land is crucial to ensure our farmland remains productive and resilient into the future. We were disappointed that the governor did not include funding for the Farmland for a New Generation Program (FNG-NY). FNG-NY is an AFT program in partnership with the State of New York, which supports 33 Regional Navigators annually who have helped to facilitate 127 matches between retiring farmers and a new, more diverse generation of farmers. AFT is grateful for our legislative champions who continue to fight for this program. We remain hopeful that the legislature and Gov. Hochul will work together to ensure this program is funded at $500,000 so it will continue to positively impact our agricultural systems. This is especially important so we can increase equitable access to farmland, which has proven a true challenge for new, beginning, and historically resilient farmers from BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities.
AFT was encouraged by Gov. Hochul’s continued support for funding the 30 percent Farm to School Reimbursement Incentive Program at $10 million. We recommend the state legislature work with the governor to modify the program language to include an increased reimbursement for local breakfast foods to increase participation and access to this program. By incentivizing local purchasing at an additional $0.11 per breakfast and $0.19 per lunch served, the state could generate over half a billion dollars in economic impact and improve the health and nutrition of 1.7 million children across the state.
AFT encourages the legislature to advocate for an increase in the Farm to School Grants program to $3 million, which has been funded at $1.5 million for 5 years, while demand continues to outweigh available funds. Including $1.5 million in the education budget and $1.5 million in the agriculture budget would create more jobs and ensure that schools have the necessary resources to educate children about their food system, connect them to local farmers, and provide fresh, nourishing meals. AFT applauds the governor’s amendment to the General Municipal Law, which will allow schools to increase the number of foods they can purchase directly from local farmers, growers, and producers through informal processes to $250,000. We encourage the governor to work with the legislature to clarify language and enable schools to better utilize this threshold to purchase more food from New York farms.
AFT also applauds the governor’s proposed Cap-and-Invest program, which will establish statewide greenhouse gas emission limits and create the “climate action fund.” AFT advised the state, during the Climate Action Council’s Scoping Plan in 2019, that New York consider a Cap-and-Invest program to cap greenhouse gas emissions and invest funding from the auction and sale of allowances back into our communities. We support the governor’s decision to ensure that some of the proceeds benefit and support “disadvantaged communities.” We urge the governor and the legislature to use a portion of these funds to further mitigate the climate crisis through agriculture, especially farmland protection, which provides the secure base to enable farmers to continue sequestering carbon, provide ecosystem services, host well-sited renewable energy projects, and practice climate-smart agriculture.
If enacted, these actions and investments will help farmers access more local market opportunities, feed kids healthy, locally grown food, and offer a pathway to protect more of New York’s valuable farmland resources and support a new generation of farmers to steward the land.
American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.8 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on millions of additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.