In New York State a farm is lost to development every three days. This startling reality has helped make the Empire State home to three of the Top Twenty Most Threatened Farming Regions in America. Together with our partners, we have made great strides in reducing the acres of farmland lost but much more work needs to be done.
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to discuss our need to protect farmland from poorly planned development and other farm and food issues as part of a panel presentation at the summer meeting of the New York State Council on Food Policy held in Harlem. The Council on Food Policy makes policy recommendations to the Governor that ensure both the availability of fresh, nutritious and affordable food for all New Yorkers and a strong farm and food economy for New York State.
The Council’s recent meeting on the “New York Food System: Supply, Demand and Delivery,” was one of the first times the Council heard directly about the critical importance of farmland protection to the long-term security of the state’s food supply. More than 70 percent of the fruits, vegetables and dairy products produced in the country are grown in metro areas and are at risk of being lost to unplanned development. A focus on preserving our working lands during food policy discussions is critical as agriculture lies at the heart of a viable food system (No Farms No Food, remember?).
Our presence at the Council on Food Policy meeting is just one example of the many ways in which we are working to integrate farmland protection into New York’s food and nutrition policies. Interest in making locally produced foods available to all, improving nutrition and fighting childhood obesity has never been greater. Through advocacy efforts, such as our No Farms No Food Rally held this spring at New York’s Capitol in Albany, we are working to engage new partners and stakeholders who are concerned about food issues in the fight to protect America’s farmland.
The need for farmland protection in New York State continues to accelerate beyond the funding available. Getting the facts out about food, farming and farmland to our state government is vital to ensuring that the precious dollars available remain committed to protecting our farmland and, in turn, securing a healthy and accessible food system.