AFT’s Statement on Governor Hochul’s Proposed Executive Budget for Programs to Support New York Farmers
This statement can be attributed to Erica Goodman, American Farmland Trust’s New York regional director
American Farmland Trust (AFT) appreciates Governor Hochul’s strong leadership in her FY23 executive budget proposal to retain and expand critical programs that support New York farmers and address pressing challenges for the future of agriculture.
AFT was encouraged by Governor Hochul’s focus on agriculture as part of the climate solution. On the heels of signing the Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act, the governor proposed a remarkable $17.5 million, a $13 million increase, to fund a new Climate Resilient Farms Pilot Program. AFT is pleased to see the governor propose to grow the state’s Environmental Protection Fund to $400 million, and within it, increased funding for the farmland protection program. Hundreds of farmers across New York are waiting to permanently protect their land through this critical state program, which keeps land in farming while enabling farmers to invest in their business or transfer their farm. AFT also applauds the proposed $1 billion dollar increase to the Environmental Bond Act. If these proposals are strengthened and passed through the legislative process, these programs will keep more land in farming, help more farmers adopt sound farming practices, support farm viability and bolster water quality and soil health while advancing the state closer to meeting its climate goals.
AFT looks forward to working with Governor Hochul and the legislature to continue supporting proven programs like Farmland for a New Generation New York, which has been working since 2018 to support senior farmers in transitioning their operation, and to bring a new generation of farmers onto the land. This is a pressing issue as a third of the states’ farmers are over 65, 92 percent without a farmer poised to take over, and these senior farmers own or operate nearly 2 million acres of land. At the same time, BIPOC and other historically resilient farmers make up a small proportion of farmers in New York state, underscoring the critical need to support a diverse new generation of farmers in accessing land. AFT was pleased to see direct commitments in the proposed budget to support emerging leaders of color in agriculture and conservation.
In just three years, Farmland for a New Generation New York– coordinated by AFT in partnership with the State of New York, agricultural organizations, land trusts, Cornell Cooperative Extension teams and other Regional Navigator partners – has provided one-on-one services to over 5,200 farmers and landowners, resulting in more than 90 farmers gaining access to a combined 4,340 acres of farmland. This work must continue to grow together as millions of acres of irreplaceable farmland in the state are set to be lost if they do not change hands to a new generation in the coming years. Funding from Farmland for a New Generation New York will support the program’s efforts to continue to ensure a new generation of farmers also includes farmers of color, and other historically resilient farmers, and increasing equity in land tenure in our state.
American Farmland Trust was also pleased to see the governor’s continued commitment to New York’s nation-leading farm to school incentive and grants programs, which work hand in hand to enable schools to purchase and serve more farm-fresh food to students. These programs are poised to help New York rebuild and renew by strengthening resilient local food supply chains and contributing to public health outcomes while also building bridges between BIPOC farmers and institutional markets, specifically schools, connections that AFT has been working to advance in recent years.
AFT’s “Growing Resilience” report revealed that, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, schools have remained committed to farm to school. With continued state support, these programs can help schools spend $250 million on food from New York farms, generating $360 million in economic activity statewide and collectively increasing access to healthy, farm-fresh food for 900,000 students across New York by 2025. At a time when many children live with food insecurity and schools are increasingly stretched thin, growing and adapting these programs to make it easier for schools and farmers to participate is an important way to support children’s health and success. AFT looks forward to working with the governor and legislature to incorporate all school meals into the incentive and grow the farm to school grants program to help more schools support New York farmers as well as farm viability and increase access to this fresh, local food throughout the school day.
If enacted, these actions and investments will help farmers access more local market opportunities, increase diversity and equity in farming, build on-farm resilience to the impacts of extreme weather while supporting farmers to play a key role to mitigate climate change, and offer a pathway to protect more of New York’s valuable farmland resources.
American Farmland Trust is the only national conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting environmentally sound farming practices, and keeping farmers on the land. Since 1980, AFT’s innovative work has helped to permanently protect more than 6.5 million acres of farmland and ranchland and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more. No Farms, No Food. Learn more at www.farmland.org.