Orange County Land Trust Advocates for Restoration of Funding From New York State for Farmland Preservation
Orange County Land Trust Executive Director Jim Delaune meets with New York Times Columnist Peter Applebome and members of the Lain family to discuss the state’s cuts to the EPF’s Farmland Protection Fund and its impact on farmers. Pictured, left to righ
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Caroline Hamling
(845) 343-0840, x14
Orange County Land Trust Advocates for Restoration of Funding From
New York State for Farmland Preservation
Middletown, NY -- The Orange County Land Trust has taken an active role in advocating for farmland protection, asking New York State to honor its contracts with local farmers and restore funding for the protection of farmland in the state budget.
Over the last several years, the State of New York has entered into agreements to purchase the development rights to 64 farms in the state, three located in Orange County. The three local farms are the historic, eight generation Lain farm in Minisink in operation since 1775, and the Buckbee family’s Iron Forge Farm and the Bollenbach Farm, both in Warwick. Now, those deals are threatened as funding from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund’s (EPF) Farmland Protection Program has been reduced from $22 million last year to an initial amount of $10.7 million this year. However, with $5 million taken out of the fund this year to keep New York’s state parks and historic sites open, the fund for farmland protection is now further reduced to just $5.2 million.
“Farm families promised state funding to protect their farmland for future generations have been left in financial limbo,” said Orange County Land Trust Executive Director Jim Delaune. “Many of these farmers have put thousands of dollars of their own money into complying with New York’s rigorous application requirements, requirements such as updating surveys and getting appraisals, leaving many of our farm families scrambling to save their farms and their way of life.”
Delaune said that farm families often build their business plan around farmland protection funding, reinvesting the money into buying equipment and building barns. These funds also enable future generations to remain farming. “Without this economic investment in our farms, many will fail to make the transition from one generation to the next, and risk being bought up for development,” he said.
According to Ethan Winter, New York Conservation Manager for the Land Trust Alliance, New York State’s farmland protection program saves farm jobs and keeps valuable farmland in production. He said the program also enables farmers to reinvest in their enterprise and reduce debt, as well as provide healthy, locally produced foods.
“It is irresponsible to pull the rug on the farm families who have made commitments to conserving some of the most productive agricultural lands in New York State. As well, it is unfair to leave not-for-profit land trusts in the lurch after their significant investments and good faith efforts to partner with local farmers, municipalities, and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.”
Winter added “New York is falling farther and farther behind other states, like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont- states that have made voluntary farmland protection and robust state funding a central part of their economic development strategy.”
Town of Warwick Supervisor Michael Sweeton said the state budget cuts to farmland protection will definitely impact the pace at which his town will be able to protect farmland in the future. Warwick is one of the few municipalities in the state that has a voter approved real estate transfer tax to help purchase the development rights to its farms. Funding for development rights, however, is often a combination of state, county and local funds and sometimes private and nonprofit organization funds as well. “We will still have our program,” said Sweeton, “but this just sets it all back”. He said there are 12 farms in the pipeline for protection in Warwick, five of which are ready to close. He said it is unfortunate if the State reneges on its portion of the funding to protect farmland, because he feels people really understand now the importance of locally grown food and preserving open space.
For the Lain family of Minisink, selling the development rights to their 170-acre farm meant that a ninth generation of Lains would be able to continue to farm. The farm has gone through many changes over the years to remain viable. Originally a dairy farm, the farm now raises certified organic, grass fed beef and is host to a nature camp for children during the summer months. According to Deborah Lain, only four farms remain in the Town of Minisink, a traditional farming community. She called Orange County “the breadbasket of New York City”.
Said Deborah’s brother Marty Lain “Fertile farmland that is close to the population provides fresh, nutritious food crucial for our health, for strong communities, and in the most basic way, for our local and national security. If our local farmland is lost to development, we will have to depend on food from thousands of miles away and from other countries. What will we do if that’s not available?”
Here is what you can do to help protect Orange County farms:
- Contact your elected officials and tell them that protecting the farms in New York state is important to you and to restore funding for the EPF’s Farmland Protection Program so that the 64 farms the State has already entered into contracts with can be protected:
New York State Senate: http://www.nysenate.gov/senators
William J. Larkin: email@example.com
John J. Bonacic: firstname.lastname@example.org
Office of Thomas P. Morahan: email@example.com
New York State Assembly: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/
Nancy Calhoun: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?ad=096&sh=contact
Aileen M. Gunther: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?ad=098&sh=contact
Frank K. Skartados: SkartadosF@assembly.state.ny.us
Annie Rabbitt: http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?ad=097&sh=contact
- Visit your local farmers market to buy local produce and farm fresh products. A full listing of farmers markets in Orange County can be found at www.orangetourism.org or by calling (845) 615-3860. Most markets continue through October 31. Buying locally lets farmers know their work is valuable and vital to sustaining our communities.