State's Farmland Protection Implementation Grants Will Be Awarded for Conservation Easement Projects on Dairy Farms
Funding Will Allow Dairy Farms to Diversify or Transition Operations to the Next Generation, and Ensure Land Remains Used for Agricultural Purposes
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $30 million is available statewide to support conservation easement projects on dairy farms. New York's dairy farmers have been challenged with prolonged low milk prices, increasing the threat of the conversion of viable agricultural land to non-farm development. Funding through the state's Farmland Protection Implementation Grants Program will ensure dairy farms the opportunity to diversify their operations or transition their farm to the next generation at a more affordable cost while ensuring the land forever remains used for agricultural purposes.
"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," Governor Cuomo said. "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."
"Dairy farms are a critical component of our upstate agricultural economy," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "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."
Ensuring that the viable agricultural land base of an operating dairy farm is protected from conversion to non-farm uses is essential to the long-term viability and sustainability of New York's agricultural industry. The largest sector of the agricultural industry, New York's dairy industry is a critical component of State's economy, accounting for approximately one-half of its on-farm production, support services and value-added products. New York State is home to approximately 4,500 dairy farms with 620,000 cows, producing 14.9 billion pounds of milk. New York ranks third in the production of milk and is first in the nation in the production of other dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese.
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.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "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 said, "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 said, "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, said, "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, said, "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, said, "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, said, "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."
The Farmland Protection Program for dairy builds on New York State's continued land preservation efforts. In May, the State announced nearly $38 million is available through the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program to help farmers across New York protect valuable and at-risk farmland. The application deadline is August 31, 2018 and the Request for Proposals is available at www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.
Earlier this year, the Department announced $5.5 million is also available through two new grant opportunities, first announced in the Governor's 2017 State of the State address, to help keep farmland in agricultural production. The funding will help applicants cover costs associated with obtaining and administering an Option Agreement Project. It will also help farmers identify available land through the development of local land inventories, inform landowners of programs and opportunities to protect their properties from conversion to non-farm uses, and expand outreach efforts to better connect willing landowners with farmers interested in leasing or buying their properties for agricultural production. Since the Governor took office in 2011, the state has invested more than $62 million in 82 farmland protection projects statewide.