10/15/2012 7:00 AM
By Darrel J. Aubertine New York Agriculture Commissioner
The first thing I notice when I travel the state in my day-to-day duties as commissioner of agriculture for New York is that this state has one of the most beautiful landscapes anywhere in the country. We have beautiful mountain ranges, pristine beaches and picturesque landscapes in virtually every region.
The other thing that stands out is that agriculture is everywhere. If you take a moment to look around, you can see why. We have an abundance of natural resources: rich vegetation, good soil, plenty of water and, of course, plenty of farmland — 7 million acres to be exact.
I may be a little biased when I make this statement, but I truly believe it: New York is first and foremost an agricultural state. I’m extremely proud of the role we at the Department of Agriculture and Markets have to further enhance our state’s standing as a national leader in agriculture.
Take the boom in yogurt that’s happening in New York state, for example. The number of processing plants in New York has more than doubled since 2000, which in turn has greatly helped our dairy farmers and the economies of local communities.
Governor Andrew Cuomo sees what’s going on in this industry right now and is trying to capitalize on its growing momentum. In August, he convened the first-ever Yogurt Summit in New York state, bringing stakeholders from government, industry and agriculture together to come up with ways to keep this momentum going.
This was an important first step, and much was accomplished on Day 1. At the governor’s direction, the state is proposing to increase the CAFO cap from 200 to 300 milking cows, which will be huge for the dairy industry. I know this is only the beginning.
As for right now, fall is upon us and the harvest is in full swing. At this time of year, the most important thing I can do as commissioner is advocate for all New Yorkers to support local agriculture. This in turn supports local economies and feeds local communities.
There are 36,000 farms across New York state. No two are the same, and the variety of foods they produce is unmatched.
Did you know that New York ranked first nationally in pumpkin sales in 2011? But pumpkins are just the tip of the iceberg. In 2011, New York ranked second nationally in maple syrup production, second in cabbage production, third in wine and grape juice production, fourth in milk and pear production, and fifth in fresh market sweet corn production.
We are also proud of the role that we play in marketing local agriculture to consumers. Since 1996, the Department of Agriculture and Markets has overseen the Pride of New York program, which currently has more than 3,200 members statewide. Its concept is simple: to promote and support local businesses who sell local products.
Our staff work with member businesses to help improve their sales and profits by employing the Pride of New York campaign in their own marketing efforts. When businesses carry the Pride of New York label, consumers know they are getting a high-quality New York state product.
Businesses interested in signing up for the Pride of New York program can call 1-800-554-4501 or visit the program’s website at www.prideofny.com.
Many other states, when New York is mentioned, think that New York City and its millions of people are all that this state has to offer. That too is just the tip of the iceberg.
Drive through wine country in the Finger Lakes region or a dairy farm in the North Country region, where I proudly make my home. You’ll see very quickly the effect of agriculture on our state’s landscape, economy and people.
It’s clearer now than ever before that under Governor Cuomo, the new New York works for agriculture. Reach out to us at www.agriculture.ny.gov and let us help you today.
Darrel J. Aubertine is commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.