Tell New York Governor Cuomo To Act Now on Land Access for Young Farmers

A photo of the Beacon State Correctional Facility from the Empire State Development's Request for Proposals, 2014.

A photo of the Beacon State Correctional Facility from the Empire State Development’s Request for Proposals, 2014. The Beacon facility is one of many decommissioned prisons across the State with farmland, greenhouses, and other infrastructure resources on site. Bill A07002 would help ensure beginning farmers have access to this land and resources.

In August, we wrote a blog post about New York State legislation that would help beginning farmers across the state get access to viable agricultural land. The bill is now on the Governor’s desk – we are asking him to take action and sign it into law.

If passed, this bill could provide access to state-owned farmland for new and beginning farmers; spur the creation of further state policies and programs to support beginning farmers; and reduce the likelihood of state-owned farmland being developed.

 

The Challenge

In New York, the average cost of farm real estate, which takes into account land and buildings, has been steadily rising. It is now $2,700 an acre – up 3.8% from last year and 12.5% from 2010 [1]. For beginning farmers who must compete with developers for this land, these prices mean that buying a farm of their own is often out of reach. Few farms are available for under $300,000, and many more are listed for sale at well over $1 million [2].

New York State’s farm and food sector is worth $47 billion. As the average age of the state’s farmers continues to rise, however, this strong economic engine is at risk of disappearing. We must do more to help our next generation of agricultural businesses succeed. Governor Cuomo has an opportunity to help ensure the future of our farm and food economy in the State by signing this legislation into law.

 

What This Bill Would Do

The key features of this legislation are:

  • Inventorying of state lands. The bill would require state agencies to inventory and publicize their landholdings and assess the suitability of the land for farming.
  • Farmland conservation. Viable agricultural lands would be considered for conservation through the state farmland protection program and made available to famers for lease or purchase.
  • Beginning farmer land access. The bill requires the state to enhance beginning farmers’ access to this land and to support the successful transfer of viable farmland from retiring owners to the next generation of farmers.
  • Beginning farmer assistance. The bill requires the Agricultural Advisory Council to provide guidance to the Department of Agriculture on taxes, financial assistance, and other policies and programs that could address the needs of beginning farmers

By inventorying state landholdings that are viable for agriculture and making them available to beginning farmers, the State could put thousands of acres of land currently sitting vacant on decommissioned prison farms, mental health facilities, and state parks to work for our state’s agricultural economy. This legislation is an opportunity for the Governor to demonstrate his commitment to two of the state’s most valuable agricultural resources – its land and the farmers who work it.

 

What You Can Do

Call Governor Cuomo’s office today! He needs to hear from you. Governor Cuomo was elected to serve the citizens of New York, and now is the time to make your voice heard.

1. Call the Governor’s office1-518-474-8390 PRESS 3 to speak with an assistant or PRESS 2 to leave a message

2. Tell him,“I am a ____________ (young farmer/advocate/New York State resident) who is ____________ (experiencing/concerned about) the challenge that our beginning farmers face getting started in New York State. Through Governor Cuomo’s policies and actions, he has demonstrated an awareness that agriculture is a strong economic engine in the State of New York, and we appreciate that. As our current population of farmers ages, however, we need to do more to support the next generation of farmers getting started or we risk losing this incredible state resource. The Governor has an opportunity to help beginning farmers access land and successfully start their farm businesses by signing Bill A07002 into law. This bill, which is currently on his desk, would make state lands available to young farmers and help direct resources towards ensuring those farmers’ success. I urge him to sign the bill into law today.”

Feel free to use this template as a starting point, or tell a personal story about why access to farmland is an important issue to you.

3. Talk to your friends! Tell other farmers and farm supporters you know to call the Governor’s office and make their voices heard as well.

THANK YOU! Together, we are ensuring the voice of the next generation of farmers is a powerful part of the public conversation.

Gov. Cuomo speaking on a farm in Middleburgh, NY in 2011. Photo: Office of Gov. Cuomo

Gov. Cuomo speaking on a farm in Middleburgh, NY in 2011. Photo: Office of Gov. Cuomo

[1] www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Todays_Reports/reports/land0814.pdf

[2] www.nytimes.com/2013/10/01/opinion/keep-farmland-for-farmers.html?_r=0

Water Tour brings farmers together from across Southwest

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Farmers of Southwest CO Young Farmers Chapter gather for a potluck and photo shoot for NYFC film “Resilient”

Below average precipitation combined with warm and dry summers make it difficult for producers to grow enough to make a profit and forecasts of low precipitation patterns suggests this may be a new normal.  With water being a critical resource for managing a successful farm, drought resiliency is an important skill. This week the National Young Farmers Coalition, in partnerships with the Family Farm Alliance, brought together a diverse group of more than 50 farming and ranching professionals  to discuss the question: “What are farmers and ranchers doing to be more resilient in times of drought?”

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NYFC launches “RESILIENT,” new film on water conservation in the West

The National Young Farmers Coalition proudly announces the release of its short film “RESILIENT: Soil, Water and The New Stewards of The American West.” Resilient Play image

Within the context of historic drought and increasing urban demand, “Resilient” highlights the work of innovative farmers and ranchers across western Colorado who are adapting to a drier climate. They are building soil, enhancing irrigation efficiency, and saving water, all while forging resilience in the face of great change.

Watch. Share. Host a screening. Get involved today!

The film launch follows a farm tour and symposium in Southwest Colorado co-hosted by NYFC and the Family Farm Alliance, which brought together over 50 farmers, ranchers and service providers for three days of collaboration around these issues. We also offered a sneak-peak of “RESILIENT” to the Durango community the second night of the tour. Read more about that event in High Country News.

Stay tuned for more from the farm tour. And be sure to share the video!

New Reports Outline Steps Needed to Build an Inclusive Food System

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One of the new reports from the Center for Social Inclusion

In U.S. agriculture, there is a long history of discrimination against minority populations and women. For many years, these groups were purposefully excluded from Farm Service Agency (FSA) programs in their own communities. A series of class action lawsuits, most notably Pigford v. Glickman, brought these practices to an end. (more…)

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Last Call for Submissions to the New Farmer’s Almanac

almanacOur friends at the Greenhorns seek your agrarian essays, flowcharts, manifestos, cartoons, illustrations, policy briefs and sonnets for their 2015 New Farmer’s Almanac.

In case this last call is the first you’ve heard, here’s a bit of background:
The New Farmer’s Almanac is a radical continuation of a thousands-year old almanac tradition. Self-published by the Greenhorns, it is an anthology of contemporary writing and illustrations from farmers and food-eaters from around the world, presented alongside historical content from back through the centuries. It is a broad forum for conversation about the constellation of issues surrounding farming, food and community, and an effort to open our collective ears to voices from the past as we stride into the future. This year’s theme is agrarian technology. Engage!
 
They’ve rolled the 2014 almanac into 2015 to synch up their publishing schedule with the farming calendar, so if you’ve already submitted no further action is required.
Submit by February 15th to be considered for the 2015 edition.
 
They’re trying to keep text submissions under 900 words. Scanned images should have a minimum resolution of 600 dpi.
 
List of chapters/themes is copied below. Send questions and submissions to almanac@thegreenhorns.net  
 

SOIL: What do we know about healing from roundup?

SERVITUDE: Political economies across time

OPPORTUNITY: The Commons; Entrepreneurship.

QUALITY OF LIFE: Duty. Joy.

URBANIZATION: Geo-constraints; Digital culture’s expectations; Ag-literacy; Rooftops, Brownfields.

LOGIC & CONTEXT:  Thinking in terms of the system.

STARTUP & STEADYSTATE: Cooperative dynamics.

TECHNOLOGY: Criticism & Evaluation; Increasing mechanical literacy among female farmers.

DEMOCRACY: Microcosms & Macrocosms.

SPIRIT & DOMINATION: Sir Francis Bacon, where’s the eggs?

INDIGENOUS: Pre-agricultural and agro-ecological kinds of knowing.  Are there any young shaman voices?

SHIFTING: Deliberate strategies for straddling and transitioning the systems we live inside of.

Young farmers, ranchers get inspired at 12th annual Quivira Conference

Inspiring Adaptation_QuiviraConference2013Last week 500 ranchers, farmers, scientists and advocates convened in Albuquerque, NM for the 12th annual Quivira Conference “Inspiring Adaptation.” The theme was apt following yet another year of extreme drought in the West and unprecedented floods in Colorado’s Front Range. It would be easy, given all this, to be all doom-and-gloom. But one of the many ways in which the Quivira Coalition excels is in its ability to offer tangible solutions to seemingly-unsolvable problems.

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Field Art From Wilder Quarterly

Our dear friends at Wilder Quarterly are launching a project, Wilder Field Art: An Art subscription service for those enthralled with the natural world.

Wilder is a beautiful print magazine where you’ll find rooftop gardeners, scientists and artists, hobby farmers, horticulturists, nature’s innovators, amateurs, experts and outdoor enthusiasts. The Field Art project goes beyond print to deliver subscribers 4 art works a year in tandem with the seasons.

Wilder will be visiting one city a season in which they will select 3 artists who are working across various media – from photography to print to sound. Each artist will create a work based on their season and their interpretation of the environment that surrounds them. In each city, they’ll partner with a gallery to host the opening event. At the end of the year will culminate with a group show featuring all the Field Artworks in New York City.

Click here to help Wilder to kickstart the project! Just 8 more days to go!

And don’t forget: Wilder offers 40% off magazine subscriptions to NYFC members!

PRESS ADVISORY: National Day of Action to Save Local Farms

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 18th, 2013

PRESS ADVISORY: National Day of Action to Save Local Farms will bring together farmers, consumers to change proposed FDA food safety rules that threaten farm viability

HUDSON, NY – On Sunday, October 20th farmers and consumers from across the country will take action to change the FDA’s draft food safety rules. Activists will gather at farms, schools and grange halls to educate each other on the impact of the proposed rules and write comments to the agency. Dozens of events are happening in 28 states between now and early November. The Day of Action is sponsored by the National Young Farmers Coalition and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. 

Select Events and Organizer Quotes:

Action in Eyota, Minnesota at private home (10/21/13)

“We’re always looking to make sure our food is healthy and safe, and we believe that small farms are part of the solution to healthy, safe food–not part of the problem!” – Hannah Breckbill, Organizer and Farmer at Humble Hands Harvest

Action in Paonia, Colorado at Downtown Public Library (10/20/13)

“Because food safety issues are uniquely different for small farms, FSMA’s current one size fits all approach poses a threat to small-scale agriculture,” says Kacey Kropp, Farmer at First Fruits Organic Farms and Organizer. “The goal of writing these letters to the FDA is to illuminate the worth of sustainable, already safe and locally sourced foods from small farms.”

Action in Albuquerque, NM at the Rio Grande Community Farm (10/24/13)

“As an economically challenged state, with a number of exceptional challenges to farmers like erratic and limited water supplies, writing to the FDA to comment on FSMA is particularly important to the Rio Grande Farmers Coalition. What may seem like a financial drop in the bucket for large, industrial farm and food operations can sink a small family farm, an artisan food producer, or a food hub.” - Sarah Wentzel-Fisher, Organizer

Action in Lansing, Michigan at private home (10/25/13)

“I’m utilizing my birthday to entice friends with food and drink to have them write comment letters to the FDA on how it will affect their farming operations or farms that they patron regularly,” says Alex Bryan, Farmer at Food Field and Organizer.

“FSMA has the potential, as written, to derail most everything I’ve spent the last 5 years of my life working for…Not only will this impact my livelihood and way of life, but it threatens the very nature of regional food sovereignty. I care about my community’s future and cannot sit idly by while these rules are put in place. I just hope that the FDA will continue listening, adapting and changing to the needs of smaller, younger, beginning farmers.”

Action in East Berlin, Pennsylvania at Everblossom Farm (10/26/13)

“These proposed rules stand to change how we farm and run our businesses, so it is imperative that we make time to tell our stories to the FDA. I hope this Day of Action will rally together farmers and consumers to make change with our collective voices!” –Emily Best, Farmer at New Morning Farm and Organizer

Action in Sonoma, California at the Sonoma Valley Grange Hall (10/27/13)

“The issues facing young farmers today are too daunting to grapple with alone, so we’re uniting our communities to inform and empower them to take a stance with us on these rules that could gravely effect their future success doing what most needs done: feeding us.” –Evan Wiig, Farmer at True Grass Farms and Organizer

Action in Peterborough, New Hampshire at Wells School (11/9/13) 

“By submitting comments to the FDA we take a proactive stance toward shaping the landscape that we will have to work within down the road,” says Ray Connor of Evandale Farm and Organizer. “If we miss this opportunity to take action now, we will spend the rest of our careers reacting to whatever rules are imposed on us.”

Background

In 2011, President Obama signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) — mandating the first overhaul to U.S. food safety laws since 1938. The USDA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released 3,500 page of rules in the spring, covering all aspects of a produce farm operation – everything from water testing to soil amendments and worker training. In the words of former U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, the new rules have the potential to “destroy some operations.” In fact, for many diversified farms, the average annual cost to comply with the proposed rules is about half or more of what many farmers might, in a good year, expect in profits.

For more information, map with actions nationwide and details: youngfarmers.org/fsma  

PRESS CONTACT:

Lindsey Lusher Shute, lindsey[at]youngfarmers[dot]org

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Mayors, farmers across the west stand together for Colorado River Day

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Brad Webb, farmer and owner of Mesa Park Vineyards, Palisade, CO

“Essentially if we didn’t have this river and this water, we wouldn’t have agriculture in this state [of Colorado],” says Brad Webb, a local farmer and business owner of Mesa Park Vineyards in western Colorado. Brad spoke on behalf of beginning farmers for Colorado River Day in Grand Junction, one of five events held yesterday across the west.

July 25th marked the 2nd annual Colorado River Day, the day 92 years ago the Colorado River was renamed from the “Grand”. National Young Farmers Coalition teamed up with Nuestro Rio and Save the Colorado to host events in Denver, Grand Junction, Santa Fe, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. Urban and rural elected officials joined local farmers in support of urban and agricultural conservation as the first and best option to reducing the growing gap between water supply and demand in the west.

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Farmers, elected officials, and reporters listen to remarks for Colorado River Day

Catch NYFC on KKCO here

In addition, we launched a month-long campaign to recruit elected officials west-wide to sign a support letter encouraging state and federal leaders to develop and implement actionable proposals through conservation to help reduce dwindling water supply. The pledge comes on the heels of the Bureau of Reclamation Colorado River Basin study which shows that we can generate 3 million acre feet of water through urban and agricultural conservation and reuse alone. That’s enough to supply 3 million households for a year.

Signing onto this support letter so far are  Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Paonia Mayor Neal Schwieterman, Santa Fe Mayor David Cross, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, and San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria, among others.

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Mayor Neal Schwieterman of Paonia, CO gives remarks on the vital importance of the Colorado River

“If we work together we can solve a lot of these problems,” said Mayor Neal Schwieterman of Paonia at the Grand Junction event. Mayor Schwieterman represents one of the most diverse and thriving agricultural valleys in Colorado and knows the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy and way of life. The Mayor also represents recreational interests on the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, a group of leaders who meet regularly to tackle regional water issues.

In addition Councilmembers Boeschenstien and Doody of Grand Junction spoke on the importance of riparian health and water quality to the overall health of the river.

“Conservation is the lowest hanging fruit,” said Mayor Schwieterman. As young and beginning farmers, we are working to ensure we do everything possible with conservation first. If we do nothing, we will surely see our farms and our rivers continue to run dry.

For more coverage of the event in other states see Public News Service Santa Fe, the New Mexican, Public News Service CA, among more to come.