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

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