Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jessica A. Chittenden

January 08, 2009

Commissioner Gives Annual State Of Agriculture Address

“I believe farming and agriculture in New York has a promising future.”

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker today gave the 10th annual State of New York Agriculture address at the 177th Annual Forum of the New York State Agricultural Society in Liverpool. The Commissioner recognized the more than 300 agricultural leaders in attendance, acknowledging their personal resolve to seek solutions to issues that not only confront agriculture, but the entire State of New York.

The topic of this year’s Annual Forum was planning for the future, and provided attendees with insight on how to plan for both expected and unexpected changes. During the Commissioner’s remarks, he mentioned that "With all the changes impacting the State and its farms – the economy, technology, weather, energy costs and more – New York is still a very powerful state with capable and motivated workers, a diverse economy, and extraordinary entrepreneurs, educators and research facilities…Together we can face the toughest challenge and solve any problem."

The Commissioner described 2008 as "the year of the good, bad and ugly" with record commodity prices, record oil prices, a new Farm Bill, ongoing anxieties over labor issues and a harvest that capped a growing season of extremes. Food safety issues also made the headlines in 2008 with the largest recall in U.S. history and worldwide concern for melamine tainted milk products from China that killed at least six children.

While Congress finally passed a new Farm Bill in 2008 that provided good news for New York farmers with support for New York’s specialty crops, increased funding for farmland protection, new incentives for cellulosic ethanol, and a stronger safety net for dairy farmers, the Commissioner predicted "2009 will be a lot tougher than last year."

"Despite a number of factors that are conspiring to make 2009 more challenging than 2008, I am optimistic," the Commissioner said. "I do believe farming and agriculture in New York has a promising future."

New York State currently faces the largest budget deficit in history, forcing state agencies like the Department of Agriculture and Markets to focus on its core mission. "As Governor Paterson has told us, the need for a course correction for New York State is long overdue. The current path is not sustainable. We cannot spend more. We must spend smarter."

Over the past couple of months, the Governor and Commissioner identified programs that are essential to the continued viability of all types of agricultural production and made sure that funding for those programs remained at strong levels. Some of those programs include the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell, Integrated Pest Management, migrant child care, agricultural education, as well as environmental protection programs like nonpoint funding and farmland protection. The Governor has also proposed new programs that will further strengthen the industry such as allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores and the Bigger Better Bottle Bill, which would allow more money for environmental programs.

The Commissioner said, "While some of the proposed spending cuts will be challenging to manage, these actions are no less necessary than those a farm operation takes during a time of low prices and high input costs. As Commissioner, I do not want the future of agriculture in New York to be one of mere survival; rather I want the future of New York agriculture to be a source of pride and prosperity for our entire state."

The Commissioner challenged the group to share a common vision that could be not only accepted, but embraced by local communities and governments at all levels. That vision is to make a better New York by valuing agriculture, allowing farmers to remain stewards of the land and to make a living from the land by working more efficiently with fellow producers, suppliers, processors, communities and governments.

The Commissioner closed by asking the group to look around the room at their peers who are dedicated to New York’s agricultural industry and assured the crowd, "I know we can do it."

2009 Press Releases