New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $30 million initiative that would support conservation easement projects on dairy farms.
On July 5, Cuomo enabled funding through the state's Farmland Protection Implementation Grants Program to go towards dairy farms to ensure that land remains in agriculture. The announcement comes at a time when dairy farms in New York and across the country are dealing with low milk prices and dairy processors closing, forcing some farms to go out of business.
“New York's dairy industry is critical to local economies across the state and we must ensure that our dairy farmers have the resources they need to thrive among the challenges of the current marketplace,” Cuomo says. “This funding will help to protect dairy farmers by providing them with additional options to upgrade their operations and keep them running and prosperous for generations to come.”
The state is issuing a Request for Applications for farmland protection grants of up to $2 million from eligible entities, such as land trusts, municipalities, county agricultural and farmland protection boards, and State Soil and Water Conservation Districts. There is no application deadline.
Conservation easement projects will be awarded to eligible dairy farms that are:
- Transitioning to the next ownership of a continuing dairy, but whose operation has been modified to ensure greater financial sustainability;
- Continuing dairy, but diversifying the overall farm operation; or
- Converting to a non-dairy farm operation.
All farmland protection project proposals must be submitted electronically through the New York State Grants Gateway. For more information regarding the Grants Gateway, please visit https://grantsgateway.ny.gov. Additional information and the RFA can be found on the Department's website at https://www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.
A number of politicians from New York and members of the farm organizations in the area are in support of the program. Here is what they had to say:
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul says, “Dairy farms are a critical component of our upstate agricultural economy. We understand the struggle facing so many dairy farmers in communities across upstate New York. By investing state funding to support farmland protection, we are laying the groundwork for more jobs and increased stability for family farms. Today's announcement is just the latest in our efforts to promote New York's world-class farm products.”
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball says, “New York's dairy farms are faced with increasing economic pressures as milk prices remain at historic lows. While prices are set at the federal level, the State is working on numerous initiatives to help our dairy farms, including new marketing efforts, increased promotion, and investment in dairy facilities to increase processing capacity around the State. The Farmland Protection program for dairy will provide additional options for our dairy farmers to secure the future of their farm with the next generation or add an additional cash crop into their business plan, all while protecting valuable and at-risk farmland from non-agricultural development.”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Patty Ritchie says, “Preserving farmland is essential to ensuring our hardworking dairy farmers can overcome the challenges they face and continue to help provide the farm-fresh products New Yorkers demand. I was pleased to advocate for this funding, and am eager to see how it helps to protect farmland, support dairy farmers and ensure the success of New York's leading industry for many years to come."
Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee says, “As todays hard working farmers face on-going challenges in the industry, we have an obligation to protect the farmland of the state by preserving it for agricultural usage. The Farmland Protection Program is a resource they can draw on to preserve and protect their livelihood and their homes."
David Haight, New York State Director for American Farmland Trust, says, “Dairy farms are the foundation of New York's farm economy, but continued low milk prices have deeply hurt our state's dairy farmers. We applaud Governor Cuomo for continuing to invest in the future of New York agriculture by helping dairy farmers permanently protect their land. These dollars will help dairy farm families make greatly needed investments in their long-term financial viability, while also ensuring a stronger future for farming in New York for generations to come."
David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President, says, “New York Farm Bureau appreciates the continued investment into farmland preservation, which would open the door to different options for dairy farmers who are still dealing with low milk prices. The projects will not only support on farm investment and potential diversification, but also give dairy farmers some flexibility to manage their resources in this challenging time."
Dr. Tom Overton, Director of the Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY program, says, “Continued support by New York State for our dairy farmers is critical at this time. Governor Cuomo's and Commissioner Ball's strong support for this program complements efforts such as the Dairy Acceleration Program which promotes long term viability of our New York State farms.”
Tom Cosgrove, Farm Credit East Senior Vice President, says, “Dairy farms and the dairy industry are important contributors to New York's economy. New York has been a leader in farmland protection and Farm Credit East looks forward to working with the Department of Agriculture and Markets and dairy farms that are looking to improve and transition their businesses.”