Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that a record $35 million has been awarded to 40 farms across the state to protect 13,000 acres of land.
That's a step in the right direction.
The governor says the grants mark a historic level of funding awarded in a single round of the state's Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program, which provides local governments, soil and water conservation districts and land trusts with grants to offset the cost of conservation easements to keep farmland from being converted to non-agricultural use.
More than $283 million has been awarded to farmland protection projects since 1996. Nearly 289 projects have protected more than 73,000 acres of New York farmland.
That's critical. Our farms are threatened on many fronts, ranging from declining milk prices and tariffs on agricultural products to federal policies relating to visas and other immigration programs that have placed restrictions on the migrant workers they depend on for a workforce. That affects a lot of people. According to the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, New York state lost 937 dairy farms in the past five years; in 2012, there were 5,427 farms, compared to 4,490 in 2017.
Today, there are more than 35,000 farms in New York state, covering 7.3 million acres, nearly one quarter of the state’s land area. They produce a wide variety of crops, 15 of which boast high national rankings, including cottage cheese, sour cream, yogurt, apples and grapes.
Anything we can do to protect our valuable farms will eventually benefit all of us.