NY has $1.5 million available for farms to join ‘New York State Grown & Certified’ program

Posted 15 November 2016 at 7:20 am
Photo by Tom Rivers: A farmer works a field by an orchard on Route 31 in Ridgeway in May.

Photo by Tom Rivers: A farmer works a field by an orchard on Route 31 in Ridgeway in May.

Press Release, Gov. Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $1.5 million is available to help New York fruit and vegetable farmers join the New York State Grown & Certified program.

The $1.5 million comes from the Environmental Protection Fund to help farms implement an Agricultural Environmental Management plan, and a reimbursement of up to $1,000 is available for growers who participate in a third party audit of safe food handling practices.

Farmers must participate in programs supporting good agricultural practices and environmental management to be eligible for New York State Grown & Certified, and this funding will help more farms join the certification program.

“New York farms produce world-renowned, high-quality food, and the New York State Grown & Certified program strengthens the link between producers and consumers and promotes environmentally sustainable and safe practices,” Governor Cuomo said. “This funding will help more farmers certify their products to these higher standards and access the many opportunities offered by New York State Grown & Certified.”

Launched in August, the New York State Grown & Certified program assures consumers that the food they are buying is local and produced to a higher standard by requiring participating producers to adopt good agricultural practices and enroll in an environmental management program.

Reimbursement for Good Agricultural Practices Audits

Administered through the United States Department of Agriculture, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Good Agricultural Practices program verifies that safe food handling practices are being used on farms, from growing and harvesting to packaging and handling. The Good Agricultural Practices program certifies the fresh fruit and vegetable farms that have implemented the necessary steps in their operations to minimize the possibility of product contamination and food-borne illness in accordance with USDA regulations.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, through a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant, is providing up to $1,000 to reimburse farms for Good Agricultural Practices audits. The Department has conducted 234 audits in 2016 so far, already exceeding last year’s total number of audits.

Cornell University is a key partner in training and education for farmers as part of the program. The university holds online courses and in-person training throughout the year to help producers learn about the program and write their own safe food handling farm plan prior to the third-party audit.

Funding for Agricultural Environmental Management Plans

The Governor on Monday also announced $1.5 million is available for the implementation of an Agricultural Environmental Management plan to assist fruit, vegetable and other specialty crop growers in producing their products in an environmentally responsible manner.

Funding for the implementation of the Agricultural Environmental Management plan is provided through the Environmental Protection Fund. Assisting specialty crop farms to produce foods with the highest environmental standards will protect and improve New York’s natural resources, including water and soil quality.

New York’s County Soil and Water Conservation Districts are eligible to apply for the program on behalf of farmers. Maximum award amounts for projects are $50,000. Applications are due January 20, 2017.

Benefits for Growers, Buyers and Consumers

For growers, participation in Agricultural Environmental Management and Good Agricultural Practices certification allows for greater access to programs, especially New York State Grown & Certified, which includes a major marketing campaign to promote New York producers who meet the program standards. This includes on-product labels and promotional materials, such as a website, video and sales materials, to encourage program participation among producers and to educate retail, wholesale and institutional buyers on the value of the program. Consumer advertising and retail promotion will begin this fall.

The Good Agricultural Practices certification also provides producers access to the Farm to School procurement pilot program, which requires growers selling to school districts to be certified. The program also helps farms prepare for potential regulation from the Food Safety Modernization Act.

In addition, the Good Agricultural Practices program is significant for buyers. By purchasing products from a farm that is certified, there is a reduction in the potential for future food safety recalls, which can be costly to buyers and also impact consumer confidence and loyalty. Many consumers are looking for reassurance that the items they purchase in the supermarket have been properly handled on the farm.

Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau President, said, “New York’s farmers value the quality and safety that goes into everything they produce. This includes taking part in AEM and GAP programs that work with farmers to be good stewards of the environment and have additional safe food handling protocols in place. The additional steps the state is taking to increase access to these valuable programs will not only benefit farmers but consumers as well who are looking to New York’s family farms for fresh, local food.”

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