New highs for New York agriculture

Julie Sherwood

The agriculture industry is booming in New York.

Thank the growing wine and craft beer industry, the craze for New York-made yogurt, a cap on agricultural land assessments and new marketing through the Taste NY program: All this and more, sparked by a slew of initiatives to produce and market more farm commodities ranging from hogs to rice, resulted in record-breaking sales and a number of accolades for the Empire State.

Wine Enthusiast Magazine named New York its “Wine Region of the Year,” citing the quality of wines, industry growth and improved business climate. And, this fall, the first-ever Farm to Table Upstate-Downstate Agriculture Summit brought together upstate producers with downstate consumers. The result? A new Buy NY initiative and a Regional Food Wholesale Farmers’ Market to boost sales of New York agriculture products in urban areas, among other projects.

“Things have been pretty good,” said New York Farm Bureau’s Skip Jensen, bureau field advisor for Cayuga, Ontario, Seneca, Tompkins, Wayne and Yates counties. While work still needs to be done to ease government regulations that he said unnecessarily burden businesses — including farms — statewide, gains in the past few years have made a big difference, Jensen said.

“We look to a good 2015,” Jensen said.

The proof is in the pudding. Latest federal statistics show a sales increase of New York agriculture commodities of more than $1 billion over three years, the highest on record. Farmers logged $5.68 billion in sales in 2013, up from $4.64 billion in 2010. The data was based on cash receipts, which are defined as gross income from sales of crops, livestock, and other products.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo attributed the success to the quality of New York farm products and his commitment to the industry.

“New York produces some of the best produce and agricultural products in the world and this administration has made it a priority to help promote this industry, cut red tape and lower costs to help it grow,” Cuomo stated in a release. “The proof of this success is in the numbers and I congratulate the farmers and producers for their hard work day in and day out and for making New York proud.”

Bloomfield dairy farmer John Lincoln, a former president of New York Farm Bureau, said while the success of each individual farm rides on multiple factors, overall most of the state’s agricultural sectors are doing well. The wine and dairy industries have done particularly well, he said: “I am personally pleased about that.”

The governor’s efforts have helped boost wineries in New York, said Lincoln, who also commended the push to buy locally grown products. Lincoln added that milk prices rose in the past year, fruits and vegetables did well and “last year happened to be a good year for most all commodities.”

In the state’s wine and grape sector, New York Wine and Grape Foundation President Jim Trezise said “2013 turned out to be a banner year … in terms of product, productivity, and profits.

“Throughout the state and regardless of the grape variety, the quality was superb and the quantity was unprecedented, so both grape growers and wineries were smiling,” Trezise said. “The wines have also received lots of gold medals and high scores, with many more to come.”

In his release, Cuomo also cited how agriculture influences the state’s overall economy. According to a study by Todd Schmit — a Cornell University associate professor whose areas of expertise include agribusiness management, agricultural marketing and economic development — New York’s agricultural sector has a strong multiplier effect: For every dollar spent in agricultural output, an additional 43 cents is generated for non-agricultural industries, according to Cuomo.

“In addition, every new job created within agriculture leads to the creation of nearly one (.80) non-agricultural jobs,” the governor stated.