What you should know about New York's new Ag chief

Richard Ball delivers the state of agriculture message at the NYS Agricultural Society annual meeting Thursday in Syracuse. Photo: NYS Dept. of Agriculture & Markets

Richard Ball delivers the state of agriculture message at the NYS Agricultural Society annual meeting Thursday in Syracuse. Photo: NYS Dept. of Agriculture & Markets

At the New York State Agricultural Society's annual meeting in Syracuse today, it was announced that Governor Cuomo has chosen lifelong farmer Richard Ball, from Schoharie County, to be the state's new commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets. The position had been vacant since North Country farmer and former legislator Darrel Aubertine stepped down last fall to take a position in the state Comptroller's office.

In a press release, Cuomo said:

"Agriculture is a vital sector of the state’s economy, providing thousands of jobs, food for people around the globe, and a way of life for generations of New Yorkers. Richard embodies the proud tradition of farming here in New York State and will be a superb addition to this Administration."

Ball's nomination still has to be confirmed by the State Senate.

Ball is a vegetable farmer. He's owned Schoharie Valley Farms for 20 years, and operates a very successful roadside stand called the Carrot Barn. Ball also ships his produce to wholesale brokers and restaurants locally and in New York City. You can read his complete bio and lots of positive quotes from officials in the Governor's press release here.

Ball's selection sends a major signal from the Governor's office that diversity and marketing savvy are on the rise in New York agriculture. Several recent Ag commissioners, including Aubertine, had ties to the state's historic and long-struggling dairy industry. It's an industry that's been helped enormousely by the Greek yogurt boom, but still is very dependent on the federally determined price of milk.

This pick says that diverse, "buy local" vegetable farms are increasingly important to New York's economy, and confirms that, at least in the mind of this administration, successful farmers are no longer mere providers of bulk commodities (e.g. – milk), but rather savvy marketers who use things like CSAs, roadside stands, and allegiances with retail businesses to sell their produce.

The nomination of Ball, who sells his produce in New York City, also reinforces Cuomo's announcement yesterday that he will convene a summit this year on making it easier for Upstate farmers to sell to Downstate consumers.

 

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