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HVADC Policy Activities

Sep 2, 2023

Farm Bill, Food Supply and Farming Technology Discussions

This summer, HVADC leadership and peers were meeting directly with state and federal officials to advocate for increased funding and resources for farms and food businesses in the Hudson Valley. Of great interest is the federal Farm Bill which expired on September 30, and is projected to remain un-passed by Congress until at least December. While the delay is unfortunate, critical issues supported by HVADC are being championed by local representatives from both sides of the aisle.


At a Growing America (US Farm Bill Gathering), hosted by Stone Ridge Orchard, September 7, U.S. Representatives Marcus Molinaro (R) and Pat Ryan (D) demonstrated that Washington can put partisanship aside to address some of the most pressing issues facing American farmers today. Flanked by local officials and stakeholders, including HVADC Executive Director Todd Erling and Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan, Ryan and Molinaro spoke in support of a Farm Bill that will meet the needs of hard-working local farms.


“Having our congressmen speak together at an event like this highlights that the needs of our local farmers are more important than politics. It sends a powerful message to congress and our community that these guys might disagree on some things, but always want what’s best for our farmers,” Erling said. “It’s always frustrating when Washington drags its feet passing bills that are vital to the agricultural sector, but this event should give us hope for a Farm Bill that reflects what we need most.”


Additional participants in the event included farmers and other agricultural stakeholders from across the region. Host farmer Elizabeth Ryan conducted a tour highlighting climate-friendly agricultural practices utilized at the orchard. The event was held in collaboration with Scenic Hudson, the Northeast Carbon Alliance, and the NY League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.

"As capable and dedicated as our farmers and farm families are, they cannot do this alone." said Representative Molinaro, a member of the House Agriculture Committee. "Our work is focused now on listening and learning from farmers in Upstate New York so we can craft a Farm Bill that makes sure they have the resources and flexibility to have ecomomic opportunities, preserve our natural resources, and reduce our impact on the enviorment."


Ryan concurred. Both representatives highlighted their support of four initiatives in the farm bill they are championing:


1. Increased Technical Service Provider Access Act - Technical Service Providers (TSPs), also known as Business Technical BTA) assistance providers (such as HVADC) help farmers access USDA conservation programs through hands-on, individualized assistance.

2. Naturally Offsetting Emissions by Managing and Implementing Tillage Strategies Act (NO EMITS)  - The NO EMITS Act assists farmers with transitioning cropping systems to methods that achieve environmental goals while also addressing the economic risk posed by the transition.

3. Flooding Prevention Assessment, and Restoration Act -  This legislation creates flexibility within the USDA that will help communities restore flooded areas to pre-disaster levels, including the restoration of natural land, and enable them to manage the impacts of climate change.

4. Peer Learning for Agriculture Conservation Education Act (PLACE) - This bill prioritizes on-farm activities that manage soil health and other natural resources and broadens the type of activities that are eligible for federal support.


“We need to embrace the farm community and make sure there is a path forward for their continued viability, as well as help usher in the next generation of farmers who will build on and improve farming practices that benefit everyone,” Ryan said. “I join my like-minded colleagues from every walk of life in supporting and advancing sound investments in agriculture that provide real, positive results for our farms and communities, in the Hudson Valley and across America.”


Earlier in the summer, on August 19, Congressman Ryan went on a listening tour around his district to make sure he fully understood the needs of the local farm community. On that journey he visited HVADC Farm and Food Funding Accelerator participant Minkus Family Farms. The Goshen farm’s Director of Operations Dylan Dembeck said he appreciated the time Ryan took to meet with them.


“Congressman Ryan understands the importance of protecting our country’s food supply and how crucial it is to keep US farms operating, especially after COVID,” he said. “Federal support is needed to get through these challenges, and I know Pat Ryan has our back.”


Ryan also visited HVADC peer, the Chester Agricultural Center and spoke with staff and farmers using the property to incubate their future farm businesses on the affordable shared acreage. He met with farmers who highlighted the specific difficulties faced by farmers of color, as well as young farmers trying to get started in an industry that is increasingly cost prohibitive.


 “We left this visit feeling reassured that we can count on the support of Representative Pat Ryan to advance the center’s mission of contributing to an equitable and inclusive regional food system.” said Maria Caicedo, Community Relations and Store Manager at the Chester Agricultural Center. “He wasn’t at a podium talking, he was sitting at a table listening.”


Caicedo said they spoke at length about the Center’s housing program. The regional housing affordability crisis is hitting area farm workers hard and the Center has completed the feasibility process for a plan that would see 29 mixed-use housing units built in Chester to support agricultural workers. While funding will likely come through state channels, Ryan supports the project which highlights the fact that aiding farms in the 21st century is about people as much as crops.


21st century needs were also at issue at another event held September 8, at a SUNY New Paltz hosted Future of Farming Technology Conference. The round table was chaired by New York State Senator Michelle Hinchey (D, Saugerties) and SUNY Chancellor John King. In attendance, along with many SUNY School presidents, farmers and other agriculture organization leaders were HVADC Board Member Eric Ooms of A. Ooms and Son’s Dairy Farm and HVADC CDFI Advisory Group member Tamika Dunkley, Executive Director of Seasoned Gives.


“We have great programs in agriculture at SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Morrisville and our community colleges. We have to grow those programs, and we have to adapt programs to match emerging technologies,” said King.


While Dunkley said she appreciated conversation abut the need for the college system to better coordinate its resources and programing to service the agricultural entrepreneurs and workers of tomorrow, she did feel that discussions of how to incorporate drone technology into farming while farmers, especially those of color can barely hold on to what they have, was putting the cart before the horse. As one of the few faces of color in the room Dunkley said she felt an obligation to make sure the leaders present discussed the racial inequity still inherent in the system.


“Most black and brown farmers can’t afford the land they cultivate, so they can’t get to the point of even considering technological upgrades,” Dunkley said. “There are inherent barriers and we can’t just do what we’ve always been doing. There was a lot of discussion at the conference about what the needs truly are.”


While the discussion moved from visions of the future to the immediate needs of the now, Hinchey concluded that the state has the tools available to help future farming and that people, technologies and learning institutions need to come together to find solutions for the years to come.


“(Our goal) is to connect the dots and bring people together, to figure out the gaps we need to fill, the funding mechanisms from the state that we need to increase, grow or create,” She said. “And how we can get our pre-eminent learning system, SUNY, the best in the world, how can we work together to build the jobs of the future.”


At these summer events and others, HVADC has been a part of the industry’s most vital and formative conversations.


“One of the keys to HVADC’s success is to be in the room. Whether it’s our staff  and board members directly, or our network of collaborators, clients and peers, we strive to be a part of the most important conversations shaping agriculture policy,” said Erling. “I’m proud of the work all our friends have done this summer to fight for farmers and advance the issues that are most important to them.”

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