Hein, left, listens as Ball explains the program
KINGSTON – State Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Richard
Ball was joined by Ulster County Executive Michael Hein, at Tech City
in Kingston on Friday to announce $20 million in state funding earmarked
to preserve Hudson Valley farms. An additional $14 million from the Environmental
Protection Fund will be made available statewide.
The money represents a continuation of the New York Farmland Protection Program, which was launched in 1996, but fell behind following the 2008 financial crisis, and has now been revived. It helps fund conservation easements and provides short-term loans, said Ball.
“In New York State we rank in the top five in a number of very special, vegetable, fruit, and dairy commodities and now we rank in the top five in terms of preserving farmland so that we can keep doing that, so that the next generation can find it’s a viable way to make a living,” Ball said. “The notion of agriculture as economic development is being understood.”
New York has lost roughly 4,500 farms to real estate development since the early 1980s, turning productive farm fields into subdivisions and strip malls, and that has been highly concentrated in places like the Hudson Valley,” noted David Haight, state director for the American Farmland Trust.
Processing and distribution infrastructure also benefit from the program, Haight added, citing three million school kids statewide, 1.2 million college students, plus other institutions which purchase locally grown produce.
“It begins by preserving the soil, but doesn’t end there,” said Todd Erling, executive director of Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development. “The products here are not just serving New York City, this location right here is actually a pin point, that access 60 million mouths within a five-hour radius.”
“Good things are happening in this Valley,” observed Commissioner Ball. “New York is a gateway to the United States for the world, and the Hudson Valley is our front door; we need to take care of it.”