Jessica A. Chittenden|
January 10, 2008
Commissioner Gives Annual State of Agriculture Address
The Importance of Agriculture Remains Strong in New York
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker today gave the 9th annual State of New York Agriculture address at the 176th Annual Meeting of the New York State Agricultural Society in Liverpool. The Commissioner noted that although there have been remarkable changes since the New York State Agricultural Society was formed in 1832, the importance of agriculture to the State and the essential role of the Society have both remained strong.
Reflecting on last year’s meeting when he was first nominated to serve as Commissioner, he said, "I arrived here that morning committed to improving the economic condition of opportunities available to our State’s farmers, supported by the strong belief that New York agriculture can and will always do better. I left that evening with the same belief and commitment to our industry, and I can assure you that Governor Spitzer is equally committed to improving the State’s agricultural economy and the Upstate economy as a whole."
Over the course of the year, the Department of Agriculture and Markets has worked to enhance the State’s agricultural economy, while protecting consumers who are increasingly aware of what they eat and where their food comes from. The Department strengthened existing programs such as farmland protection and imported food inspections, and created new ones, including the State’s first organic program and the Wine Grape Task Force.
The extreme plunge in milk prices early in the year prompted the Governor and State Legislature to provide an unprecedented $30 million in dairy assistance. While that program provided temporary relief, the New York Center for Dairy Excellence was established to improve dairy farm profitability, and the Department worked towards a long-term regional approach in the 2007 Farm Bill.
"A Farm Bill that is good for New York dairy farmers is good for New York consumers," the Commissioner said. "A stable supply of locally-produced milk is the best way to assure New York consumers can purchase fresh and wholesome dairy products at affordable prices."
The State also advanced numerous economic development projects including a 200-acre food processing and agricultural manufacturing industrial park in Batavia, Great Lakes Cheese in Adams, the new FAGE yogurt plant in Johnstown, Cornell’s Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory, as well as the new Animal Health Diagnostic Center at Cornell. In addition, the Department also continues to play a lead role in establishing a New York City Wholesale Farmers’ Market, along with getting two cellulosic ethanol pilot facilities started in Upstate New York.
Looking to the future, the Commissioner focused on two issues – growing the dairy industry and immigration reform. To grow the dairy industry, the Department is working on a number of proposals to encourage producers to expand their production and increase profitability, as well as additional ways to reduce the cost of environmental compliance and doing business in New York.
"The state of immigration reform as it relates to New York agriculture is nothing short of a crisis situation," the Commissioner noted, "and heavy-handed enforcement-only policies along with the ill-conceived no-match proposal do nothing to solve the problem." Even though the farm labor crisis is wrapped up in the larger national immigration debate, the Department will continue to work with Congress in hopes it will take up a few smaller measures to provide some relief and assurance to farmers seeking an adequate and legal labor supply.
The Commissioner closed by committing to the members of the New York State Agricultural Society to grow New York agriculture, "making farming more profitable, our food safer and our water cleaner."
To request a complete copy of the Commissioner’s State of New York Agriculture Address, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2008 Press Releases