Second Delivery of Food — 19,000 Pounds — Donated From New York State Farms to Local Food Bank
Trade Partnership Between New York and Puerto Rico to Expand Access to Produce
Cornell University Offering Students Programs for Agriculture and Research
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced additional support to Puerto Rico's agricultural industry and emergency food assistance organizations as the island continues to rebuild following Hurricane Fiona. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has organized, with the assistance of the New York Farm Bureau, a donation of 19,000 pounds of food from New York farms. This builds on a donation provided by Feeding New York State in September of 37,000 pounds of mixed fresh produce. The Governor also announced a new trade partnership between New York and Puerto Rico to expand access to produce, as well as a partnership with Cornell University to offer students at University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez new programs and experiences for agriculture and research.
"The devastation Fiona left behind is no match for the strength and resilience of our friends and family in Puerto Rico," Governor Hochul said. "I thank our New York farmers who have consistently answered the call to support our neighbors in need, and I look forward to a more sustainable pipeline of fresh produce going to and from the Island for years to come."
During her visit, the Governor toured Banco de Alimentos de Puerto Rico (Food Bank of Puerto Rico) to receive the donations and repackage the food for distribution to families in need following the devastation of the hurricane. Hurricane Fiona made landfall along the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico on Sunday, September 18 with sustained 85 mph winds and torrential rain, up to 30 inches in some areas. Catastrophic flooding occurred, especially in the southern and southeastern portions of the island, where sharp rises along rivers combined with storm surge/coastal flooding in addition to the heavy rain. This did extensive damage to crops at near harvest time, exacerbating the need for immediate and future aid.
Working in coordination with AGM, New York Farm Bureau organized the donation of 300 cases of apples from Hudson River Fruit Distributors in Milton, two pallets of pie pumpkins from Reeves Family Farm in Baldwinsville, five pallets of butternut squash, pumpkins, and potatoes, and other fresh vegetables from additional participating farms for a total of 19,000 pounds of food. All donations are going to the Banco de Alimentos de Puerto Rico (Food Bank of Puerto Rico) to be distributed across the island.
The visit also lays the groundwork to revive New York's mutually beneficial trade exchange partnership with Puerto Rico, which included an initial Agriculture Trade Forum that resulted in Puerto Rico purchasing New York State apples, onions and cabbage and New York purchasing Puerto Rican mango, papaya, and seedless watermelon. Plans are underway to expand this trade exchange, which will include the New York Food Hub in the Bronx purchasing fruit from Puerto Rico that will increase food access in underserved areas of New York City. The New York Department of Agriculture and Markets is working with key distribution channels to help facilitate this agricultural trade of produce from Puerto Rico to New York markets, while expanding relationships to increase support and purchases from New York farms. It is important to note that Puerto Rico imports 85 percent of its food, and with natural disasters like Hurricane Maria in 2017 and Fiona in 2022, the remaining 15 percent is in jeopardy in any given year, leading to further food insecurity in the Territory.
Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is supporting these efforts through its work with the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez to create new student experiences and internships in agricultural sciences to support Puerto Rico's food sustainability. This past summer, Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences hosted a summer experiential learning opportunity for five undergraduate students from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez to spend a month at Cornell's field and research labs learning about sustainable agricultural research practices and the development of value added agricultural products. Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will offer this program again in the summer of 2023 for an additional five students to gain summer internship experiences, while the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez will offer an course highlighting the science of farm and food systems to 20 additional University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez students annually, helping to grow food entrepreneurs in Puerto Rico.
New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said, "The farming community has a history of stepping up and supporting each other following a great loss at the hands of mother nature, whether we are separated by a farm fence or an ocean. Our hearts went out to the people of Puerto Rico, and New York Farm Bureau worked quickly with New York State to do what we could to ease the burden. I would especially like to thank our farmers who donated fresh fruits and vegetables to help during a time of great need."
Research Professor of Global Development at Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Maricelis Acevedo said, "There is an urgent need to re-imagine the agricultural sector in Puerto Rico. The collaboration between Cornell and the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez connects students and faculty on efforts to create more sustainable and resilient agricultural systems and forge a community of engaged researchers working on solutions to the major climatic challenges facing food security. Our project funded through a USDA-NIFA Education Grant supports learning pathways for UPRM undergraduate students and faculty to engage with New York State agricultural research and practice and gain research experience in world-leading CALS laboratories and programs. This program helps build a vibrant community of young researchers who will be tackling the growing climatic crisis."