State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today hosted a press conference at Farm to Table Co-Packers in Kingston to promote $20 million in farmland protection funding for the Hudson Valley Region included in Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2015-16 Executive Budget. More than 5,300 farms are spread across 730,000 acres in the Hudson Valley and 18 percent of the land is dedicated to agriculture.

“Over the past ten years, New York State has provided $22 million to protect more than 7,000 acres of farmland in the Hudson Valley Region,” said Commissioner Ball. “In his proposed state budget, Governor Cuomo is recommending $20 million for farmland protection here in the Hudson Valley, essentially doubling these efforts in just one year’s time. This is an unprecedented commitment to farmland protection for a very important agricultural region here in New York.”

A number of individuals and organizations are also touting the importance of these farmland protection funds for the region:

David Clearwater, President of Jones Farm, Inc. in Cornwall, NY, said, “I’m the proud owner of one of the last family farms in the Cornwall area. This is our 101st year farming in the Hudson Valley and we think it’s incredibly important to preserve farmland here. The Governor’s proposal makes sense and is vital to keeping New York agriculture strong here in this region.”

Kim Elliman, Open Space Institute President and CEO, said, “A special investment in the protection of Hudson Valley farmland makes so much sense—it recognizes the enormous development pressure in the valley and the need to protect the food supply for southeastern New York. Farmland protection and strong agricultural production is not only critical to the state’s vitality, it also preserves local landscapes, our natural resources and the state’s scenic beauty. We commend Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Ball on their ingenuity and their commitment to land conservation in New York State.”

Scenic Hudson Director of Public Policy Andy Bicking said, “The success of Farm to Table Co-Packers underscores the power and potential of Hudson Valley agriculture. Businesses like this do well when our farms do well. And, our farms do well when they operate from a stable land base. Scenic Hudson’s Foodshed Conservation Plan provides a data-driven blueprint for protecting the valley’s prime farmland and helping our family farms and related businesses grow to meet steadily rising demand here and in New York City for farm-fresh food. Governor Cuomo’s plan to commit $20 million to preserving Hudson Valley farmland deserves support. By strengthening our family farms, we enhance the region’s beauty, heritage, economy and supply of healthy, local food. Every dollar dedicated to farmland conservation generates a $4 return to local economies—creating jobs and commerce in our communities.”

Teri Ptacek, Executive Director, Agricultural Stewardship Association, said, “Investing $20M to protect farmland in the Hudson Valley is good for our farms, for jobs and guarantees the land will always be there to produce food for New Yorkers for generations to come. You can’t get a better investment than that! We applaud Governor Cuomo’s foresight.”

David Haight, New York State Director, American Farmland Trust, said, “New York has lost roughly 4,500 farms to real estate development since the early 1980s – particularly in places like the Hudson Valley. We strongly support Governor Cuomo’s proposed record levels of funding for protecting workings farms in the Hudson Valley and elsewhere across New York. Such funding is a critical step towards making New York a national leader in protecting the land that is the foundation of our farm economy.”

Andrew T. Chmar, Executive Director, Hudson Highlands Land Trust, said, “The Hudson Highlands Land Trust applauds the $20 million in additional farmland protection funding, specifically for the Hudson Valley, proposed in the Governor’s budget. Working with our partners Scenic Hudson, Dutchess Land Conservancy and Orange County Land Trust to preserve the remaining working farms in and around our Hudson Highlands mission area, we’re certain the funds will not only be a much needed investment in these farms, but as importantly will promote healthy communities and benefit New Yorkers throughout the State.”

Becky Thornton, President, Dutchess Land Conservancy, said, “Governor Cuomo’s proposed $20 million for farmland preservation in the Hudson Valley is like a dream come true for Dutchess Land Conservancy and land trusts across the region. We feel it’s an exciting time for agriculture. Increased funding provides so many new opportunities to protect the farms that are key to our local communities, economy, and way of life. Over 40 active Dutchess County farms have been protected to date; but with more than 670 working farms in existence today, the need for additional funding is genuine. Just picture rural New York without farms; I see this as a key investment in our agricultural economy and heritage.”

Peter R. Paden, Executive Director, Columbia Land Conservancy, said, “The Governor’s proposal is good news for us in Columbia County who value our farms and our farmers, our working landscape and the rural quality of life that make the county such a special place. This new funding will allow more county farm families to stabilize their land security and enhance the financial health of their businesses.”

Jim Delaune, Executive Director, Orange County Land Trust, said, “Just last Fall, the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets made it possible for us to pursue a farmland preservation project in the Town of Hamptonburgh in Orange County. With the Governor’s farmland protection initiative, the Hudson Valley’s land trust community will have the ability to protect more critical farmland ensuring that they stay as productive as ever.”