Is Cuomo reshaping New York agriculture?

Gov. Cuomo announcing aid to farms in the wake of Hurricane Irene in 2011. Photo: Office of Governor Cuomo via Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Gov. Cuomo announcing aid to farms in the wake of Hurricane Irene in 2011. Photo: Office of Governor Cuomo via Flickr. Some rights reserved.

In the last month alone, Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued no fewer than 11 press releases about agriculture in New York State. There was a 72% increase in the number of farm-based alcohol licenses, to produce and sell beer, liquor, cider, and wine. The Taste NY stores that sell New York-made products are expanding. Farmers markets got $330,000 in grants. New York City restaurants are pledging to use more locally produced ingredients.

Cuomo has also organized a Greek Yogurt Summit, a Beer and Wine Summit, and promised a summit to link Upstate farms with New York City consumers in his State of the State speech.

And most recently, Cuomo announced a task force that's intended to break down barriers between state agencies that deal with agriculture:

“This new task force is designed to improve how State agencies interact with farmers, producers, and each other to best expand the agriculture industry in New York,” said Governor Cuomo. “Agriculture is vital to the State’s economy and by using constructive methods to identify and decrease barriers and leverage industry strengths, we can work proactively to promote growth, create jobs and support new economic opportunities statewide.”

So is this a lot of election year hot air? Or is Cuomo leading state agriculture in a new, higher profile direction?

The New York Farm Bureau has called Cuomo "a great partner". State Senator Patty Ritchie, who chairs the Senate Agriculture committee, says Cuomo is "fully engaged".

What I see is that Cuomo appears to be looking beyond the commodity side of agriculture. The initiatives he seems excited about view agriculture as entrepreneurship – business development, marketing efforts, publicity, etc. – not just growing plants. Yes, dairy, apples, grapes, cabbage, and maple syrup make up the lion's share of agriculture's contribution to the state economy. And Cuomo has directed a lot of attention to those crops. But he also talk about new ways to market and add value to New York's traditional farm products.

And he's also shining a lot of love on the new generation of diverse fruit and vegetable farms in the state and played up the "buy local" movement. His selection of Richard Ball – who runs a diverse produce farm and popular roadside stand – as state agriculture commissioner says a lot.

Farmers and foodies – do you see any difference between Cuomo and previous Governors when it comes to agriculture? Is it simply coincidence that Cuomo's at the helm during an unprecedented interest in how and where food is made and where it's sold? Or is Cuomo doing something fresh?


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One Comment

  1. The man makes a lot of noise, that's for sure. As I look over the list of recent projects though, that's what I see…a lot of noise, promises, pledges, oh and some new licencing fees. The only real tangible is the $330,000 for farmers markets, spread out over the entire state…will purchase a new sign and a couple newspaper ads for the average farmers market, and not a dime left over for a farmer anywhere.
    He's a real salesman that's for sure, but he's not hawking fruits and vegetables, he's selling Cuomo.