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New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo Signs Working Farm Protection Act into Law
Bill A.10301-B, S.8362-A strengthens New York’s farmland protection program by making working farm easements permanently eligible for funding
Albany, NY (August 2, 2018) – The National Young Farmers Coalition, together with its five New York chapters, New York Farm Bureau, American Farmland Trust, and land trusts from around the state, celebrates Governor Andrew Cuomo for signing the Working Farm Protection Act into law. The Act recently passed the New York State Legislature unanimously with support from lead sponsors Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106) and Senator Patty Ritchie (R-48), along with 63 co-sponsors in the Assembly and Senate. The Act helps address farmland access by making working farm easements permanently eligible for funding through the State’s Farmland Protection Implementation Grant (FPIG) program. Working farm easements include farmer ownership and affordability provisions such as preemptive purchase rights, which help keep protected farmland affordable and in the hands of farmers.
Agriculture is an integral part of New York’s economy, culture, and landscape. The state’s 35,500 farms keep over 7 million acres of land in agricultural production, support more than 160,000 jobs, and generate more than $39 billion annually. The State has protected more than 61,000 acres of agricultural land through the FPIG program since 1996, a legacy that Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets have built on by allocating historic levels of funding—including targeted funds for farmland protection in the Hudson Valley and on dairy farms in the state—and improving project implementation. By signing the Working Farm Protection Act into law, the Governor is taking a major step forward in protecting the future of New York’s valuable agricultural lands and the people who steward them.
“The Working Farm Protection Act is about one thing—standing with farmers. We can no longer assume that protecting farmland will also protect the people who work it,” says Lindsey Lusher Shute, Executive Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition and co-owner of Hearty Roots Community Farm in Clermont. “This bill is an important step towards making New York State farmland affordable for working farmers. We are grateful for the Governor’s support, and the leadership of Assemblymember Barrett and Senator Ritchie.”
The Governor’s action this week makes New York State a leader in farmland protection policy by ensuring preemptive purchase rights are permanently eligible for funding, making room for land trusts to develop new farmer ownership and affordability tools, and clearly highlighting the challenge of access to affordable farmland in statute. This action builds on recent progress made by the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball in making preemptive purchase rights an eligible cost in the State’s current round of funding for the FPIG program. The National Young Farmers Coalition looks forward to working with the Governor and the Department to continue to keep farmers on the land in New York and at the heart of the State’s farmland protection efforts as the Working Farm Protection Act is implemented.
“Ensuring working farms pass from one generation to the next is one of the best ways to maintain our state’s proud agricultural heritage. With the enactment of the Working Farm Protection Act (A10301-B), state assistance payments toward this goal are now a permanent option and have strengthened our existing farmland protection laws. As the Assembly sponsor of this legislation, I want to thank the National Young Farmers Coalition and all our farming advocates for their great support of this bill. I am proud to be part of our state’s ongoing commitment to investing in working farms in every corner of our state.” —Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106).
“The inclusion of a preemptive purchase right in the easement protecting our farm made farm ownership a reality for us. Without that added layer of affordability protection, our farm dream would have remained out of reach. Thanks to farmland conservation and preemptive purchase rights, our farm business is a healthy, growing reality. The Working Farm Protection Act makes this successful model more widely available to farmers across New York.” —Annie & Zack Metzger, Laughing Earth Farm, Cropseyville, New York
“The Working Farm Protection Act gives us hope that we as well as our peers have a viable future farming here in New York. Right now, we’re all struggling to secure land in order to build our farming businesses, and this bill goes a long way toward addressing fundamental problems in accessing good farmland in New York.” —Bryn Roshong & Wes Hannah, Solid Ground Farm, Kingston, New York
“The Working Farm Protection Act is important for farmers young and old. Farms in some areas of the state, like the Hudson Valley and Long Island, are facing major development pressure, which is driving up land prices. In turn, this makes it more difficult for new farmers to purchase affordable farmland. With the Governor’s signature, farmers have an additional tool to keep farmland in production for the next generation while also receiving fair compensation for their property through the voluntary easements.”—David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President
Governor Cuomo has taken an important step forward to help farmers access land in New York State by signing the Working Farm Protection Act into law. New York’s Farmland Protection Program has been instrumental in helping over 260 farm families protect their land and transfer farms to a new generation, and with the recent announcement of $68 million available to protect farms across New York, the program is poised to help many more. But in areas with very high development pressure, we need new ways to ensure that land stays available to farmers. This act, the first of its kind in the nation, increases access to the tools that will keep New York farmland affordable for farmers to purchase forever.” —Samantha Levy, New York Policy Manager, American Farmland Trust
“The experience of the Hudson Valley is punctuated strongly by productive agricultural landscapes that provide many benefits to the region—beautiful natural lands, agricultural jobs, and fresh local food that is essential to our well-being. Our future depends in part on the viability of these working farms and the people who make them successful. The Working Farm Protection Act achieves both of these goals and creates a path forward for young farmers to secure land at an affordable rate, keep land under active agriculture, and continue to nourish the region’s residents and visitors.”—Andy Bicking, Director of Public Policy for Scenic Hudson
“The Columbia Land Conservancy is committed to helping ensure that farmers can secure long-term access to affordable farmland. The Working Farm Protection Act is a significant step forward for New York in achieving this goal, and we are very pleased to join our partners in supporting the effort.” —Peter Paden, Executive Director of Columbia Land Conservancy
“On Long Island, we have witnessed firsthand the need to have multiple tools available to communities to protect their important agricultural resources for the next generation. This legislation is an important addition to New York State’s impactful farmland protection programs. It helps both existing and future generations of farmers to have affordable access to prime agricultural soils that provide a wide-variety of agricultural products to New York families, including fresh, locally grown food.” —John v.H. Halsey, President, Peconic Land Trust
“Protecting affordable farms is critical for ensuring farmers have access to land and ensuring that protected farms remain in active agriculture. For a number of farm protection projects in the Hudson Valley, Equity Trust has provided private funding to pay for preemptive purchase rights and other protections designed to keep farms in the hands of farmers. These projects demonstrate the value of tools that keep farms affordable and the enthusiasm they have generated within the farming community. Private resources can and should continue to be brought to the table, but they need to be supplemented by public dollars if we are to bring the protection of affordable working farms to scale.” —Jim Oldham, Executive Director, Equity Trust, Inc.
The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) is a national advocacy network of young farmers fighting for the future of agriculture. Visit NYFC on the web at www.youngfarmers.org, and on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.