$1.5 Million Available to Help Farms Implement Environmental Plans $1,000 Reimbursement Offered for Required Audit of Food Handling Practices
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced funding to help New York fruit and vegetable farmers join the New York State Grown & Certified program. $1.5 million is available through the Environmental Protection Fund to help farms implement an Agricultural Environmental Management plan, and a reimbursement of up to $1,000 is available for growers who participate in a third party audit of safe food handling practices. Farmers must participate in programs supporting good agricultural practices and environmental management to be eligible for New York State Grown & Certified, and this funding will help more farms join the certification program.
"New York farms produce world-renowned, high-quality food, and the New York State Grown & Certified program strengthens the link between producers and consumers and promotes environmentally sustainable and safe practices," Governor Cuomo said. "This funding will help more farmers certify their products to these higher standards and access the many opportunities offered by New York State Grown & Certified."
Launched in August, the New York State Grown & Certified program assures consumers that the food they are buying is local and produced to a higher standard by requiring participating producers to adopt good agricultural practices and enroll in an environmental management program.
Reimbursement for Good Agricultural Practices Audits
Administered through the United States Department of Agriculture, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Good Agricultural Practices program verifies that safe food handling practices are being used on farms, from growing and harvesting to packaging and handling. The Good Agricultural Practices program certifies the fresh fruit and vegetable farms that have implemented the necessary steps in their operations to minimize the possibility of product contamination and food-borne illness in accordance with USDA regulations.
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, through a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant, is providing up to $1,000 to reimburse farms for Good Agricultural Practices audits. More information about the Good Agricultural Practices certification process and how to apply for the grant is available on the new website. The Department has conducted 234 audits in 2016 so far, already exceeding last year’s total number of audits.
Cornell University is a key partner in training and education for farmers as part of the program. The university holds online courses and in-person training throughout the year to help producers learn about the program and write their own safe food handling farm plan prior to the third-party audit. More information on Cornell University’s training opportunities and how to sign up is available here.
Funding for Agricultural Environmental Management Plans
The Governor today also announced $1.5 million is available for the implementation of an Agricultural Environmental Management plan to assist fruit, vegetable and other specialty crop growers in producing their products in an environmentally responsible manner.
Funding for the implementation of the Agricultural Environmental Management plan is provided through the Environmental Protection Fund. Assisting specialty crop farms to produce foods with the highest environmental standards will protect and improve New York’s natural resources, including water and soil quality.
New York’s County Soil and Water Conservation Districts are eligible to apply for the program on behalf of farmers. Maximum award amounts for projects are $50,000. Project eligibility information and the Request for Proposals are available here. Applications are due January 20, 2017.
Benefits for Growers, Buyers and Consumers
For growers, participation in Agricultural Environmental Management and Good Agricultural Practices certification allows for greater access to programs, especially New York State Grown & Certified, which includes a major marketing campaign to promote New York producers who meet the program standards. This includes on-product labels and promotional materials, such as a website, video and sales materials, to encourage program participation among producers and to educate retail, wholesale and institutional buyers on the value of the program. Consumer advertising and retail promotion will begin this fall.
The Good Agricultural Practices certification also provides producers access to the Farm to School procurement pilot program, which requires growers selling to school districts to be certified. The program also helps farms prepare for potential regulation from the Food Safety Modernization Act.
In addition, the Good Agricultural Practices program is significant for buyers. By purchasing products from a farm that is certified, there is a reduction in the potential for future food safety recalls, which can be costly to buyers and also impact consumer confidence and loyalty. Many consumers are looking for reassurance that the items they purchase in the supermarket have been properly handled on the farm.
State Agriculture Commissioner Ball said, “The GAP program ensures that our growers are focused on standardized safe food handling practices in their daily operations. These standards will be recognizable at every point in the food supply chain and ultimately to the consumer. What’s more, the AEM program helps our growers produce products in a manner that reduces risk to our State’s precious natural resources. Being GAP certified and an AEM participant, our growers are eligible for the New York State Grown & Certified program as well. Thanks to Governor Cuomo, this program will help market our producers who are meeting the growing consumer demand for food that is safely handled and grown in an environmentally sustainable way.”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Senator Patty Ritchie said, “More and more frequently, consumers are looking to buy food that is locally grown and produced. I have been proud to support these programs, which expand markets for our hardworking farmers and help make it easier for people to eat local, high quality foods. I would like to thank the Governor and Commissioner for recognizing the importance of investing in this important effort, which will help to further bolster New York's leading industry.”
Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Assemblyman Bill Magee said, “Training in AEM concepts and GAP certification will help New York farms produce quality products using good agricultural and environmental practices. The New York State Grown & Certified label will help to increase consumer confidence in New York grown products, and I encourage our farmers to make their applications through their County Soil and Water Conservation Districts for the enrichment of their farms, and to encourage and promote the NY buy local movement.”
Kathryn J. Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as Cornell University, said, "As home to the National Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Program and the School of Integrative Plant Science, which develops 'better plants, sustainably grown,’ I applaud Governor Cuomo’s allocation of resources to fruit and vegetable growers currently participating in the New York State Grown & Certified program and to those who wish to be certified. Training is a critically important part of a GAP program, and the college is pleased to offer an online produce safety course as well as in-person trainings to help Empire State farmers meet their goals."
Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau President, said, "New York’s farmers value the quality and safety that goes into everything they produce. This includes taking part in AEM and GAP programs that work with farmers to be good stewards of the environment and have additional safe food handling protocols in place. The additional steps the state is taking to increase access to these valuable programs will not only benefit farmers but consumers as well who are looking to New York’s family farms for fresh, local food."
Chairman of the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee Dale Stein said, "The AEM program is the base program for all farms in New York State to identify environmental concerns on their farms and to develop a plan to address those concerns. With $1.5 million available to create AEM plans for their farms, hundreds of farms will become more environmentally sustainable. Along with the GAP program, consumers will know that the food they are buying is not only from New York State but also grown by farmers interested in managing their farms in an environmentally sound manner."