New York’s Local Growers and Organic Farmers to Receive Federal Funding
It will be a boost for New York’s small local farmers. I’m talking about the $1 million in federal funds awarded New York State to assist growers of “specialty crops” — the everyday fruits and vegetables like apples and pears that we all take for granted. The funding, part of a block grant program under the 2008 Farm Bill, represents a break from past policy, which focused almost entirely on corn, soybeans and a handful of other industrial or commodity crops.
New York’s specialty crops, which in addition to fruits and vegetables include specialties such as maple syrup and honey, generate $1.34 billion annually and make up about one-third of the state’s agricultural receipts.
The funding comes on the heels of an award to encourage organic agriculture in the state. On May 12, New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker announced that nearly $845,000 would be available to existing organic farmers and those transitioning to organic agricultural practices. Under the USDA’s funding program, organic farmers would be eligible for a maximum of $80,000 over a six-year period.
The funding for organic agriculture comes at a critical time, as organic farms struggle to survive. Dairies have been especially hard hit. The drop in the demand for organic milk, coupled with higher feed costs, has put many organic dairy farmers at risk of losing their farms, according to this article in the New York Times. The reporter notes that 32 dairies in Vermont have closed and that 10 of Maine’s 65 organic dairies were unable to renew contracts with their distributors.
New York has nearly 400 organic dairies, representing roughly 40% of the state’s 1,027 organic farms. Hopefully the recent funding will relieve some of the pain for New York’s organic milk producers.