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Ag is a big business in NY with nearly $40B impact

Staff Reports Posted 3 March 2015 at 12:00 am

File photos by Tom Rivers – An operator at Root Brothers Farm works the ground at the corner of Long Bridge Road and Route 31 in the Town of Albion in this photo from last May.

Agricultural is a very big business in New York State – nearly a $40 billion impact in the state’s economy, according to a report released today by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

The comptroller’s report counted agriculture’s impact at $37.6 billion to New York’s economy in 2012, an increase of more than 22 percent from 2007, according to DiNapoli.

The $37.6 billion is far more than the $5.5 billion in direct farm revenue counted in the 2012 Agriculture Census. (Orleans County ranks 13th out of 62 counties at $150.3 million in direct farm sales, according to the Ag Census in 2012. Click here to see “Ag revenues soar in latest census.”)

The state ranks in the top 10 nationwide for milk and other dairy production, as well as wine, apples, maple syrup and other products. New York is the second-leading apple producer behind only Washington State and Orleans County is NY’s second-leading apple producer behind Wayne County.

Orleans County is a big grain producer, with a lot of the crop going to the ethanol plant in Medina. This picture shows a grain facility in Shelby.

“New York’s economy is still fueled by agricultural activity and the production of food,” DiNapoli said in a news release. “Farms in New York are 98 percent family-owned, yet compete on a national level, diversifying our economy and keeping our local communities strong. It makes economic sense for the state to retain and promote our farms to feed our residents and preserve our land.”

Milk is the state’s largest commodity, with $2.4 billion in sales, followed by grains, peas and beans at $856 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 census.

New York also ranked first nationwide in the production of yogurt, cottage cheese and sour cream, and was the second-largest wine producer in 2013, with 34 million gallons. The state also ranked second nationally in maple syrup production.

“Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s report calls attention to the significant economic impact agriculture has in New York state,” said Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau. “This in-depth look highlights the dedication of farmers, the diversity of products and the unmistakable conclusion that agriculture is a cornerstone of our rural economy both upstate and on Long Island. New York Farm Bureau thanks the Comptroller for the report and his continued interest in our state’s agricultural strength.”

A cow bellows at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds in Knowlesville in this photo from July 2013. Dairy is the biggest sector of agriculture in NY.

As of 2012, roughly 56,000 New Yorkers operated farms, with an additional 61,000 people hired as farm laborers. Both the total value of agricultural commodity sales and farm acreage increased from 2007 to 2012, while the number of New York farms and farmers declined modestly.

With an average farmer’s age of 55 years old – reflecting the national average – fewer younger adults are entering the farming profession. In 2012, more than half of New York farms had sales below $10,000.

New York state has established a number of policy initiatives to promote its agricultural sector, including:

The Farmland Protection Program, which can pay 75 percent of purchase costs for conservation easements to municipalities;

The New Farmers Grant Fund to encourage young people to take up farming with grants for equipment purchases, supplies or construction;

The Fresh Connect and Fresh Fruit and Vegetable programs, which bring farm food to communities and fund school purchases of fresh produce; and

The Food Metrics Law, which encourages state agencies to purchase food produced by New York farmers.

As farmers continue to address the challenges driven by factors at the local, national and even international levels, close attention to the most effective mix of state policies to support agriculture will remain essential, DiNapoli said.

In addition to providing a big economic benefit, the comptroller said agriculture has other quality of life contributions, including preservation of open spaces.

To see DiNapoli’s report, click here.