October 29, 2010
DiNapoli: Farmers Struggle While More Than Half of Farmland Protection Dollars Languish
More than half the money appropriated for New York’s Farmland Protection Program remains undisbursed while the state’s farmers face mounting economic pressures, according to a report released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. DiNapoli said it is critical that these dedicated funds get into the hands of the farmers who need them.
“Farms in New York operate on very tight profit margins while they struggle to stay afloat,” DiNapoli said. “The state has allocated the resources to help save family farms but those resources are languishing. Our farmers contribute billions of dollars to the state’s economy. It’s crucial to get this money to where it is needed to ensure that farmers – and all New Yorkers – reap the economic benefits of preserving and protecting the state’s farmland.”
The money allocated to the Farmland Protection Program is used to purchase development rights from the farmers so that farmland is preserved for agricultural purposes in the future. This provides the farmer with money to reinvest in the farm and offers additional benefits that accompany farmland including storm water retention, filtration of surface water, and replenishment of ground water.
DiNapoli’s report found that while the state has allocated $205.6 million in funding to the Farmland Protection Program, just $95.5 million has been disbursed on farmland protection. Nearly 54 percent, or $110.1 million, of the money set aside for the program remains unused.
The unused portion of the program includes 113 approved contracts, with a total value of $55.4 million that are pending between the Dept. of Agriculture and Markets and municipalities for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements. Forty-eight percent of these contracts are more than three years old. The remaining $54.7 million is available for new farmland protection projects.
In addition, farmers in the state face low product prices, price variability, lack of equity and high debt load. A report released in February 2010 by DiNapoli’s office found profit margins for New York’s farmers are tight, with less than 20 percent of farms generating more than $100,000 in farm income.
DiNapoli’s report also found all five states bordering New York have farmland protection programs. However, while they have all lost farmland over the last ten years, only New York and Vermont have experienced a net loss of the number of farms. Furthermore, New York has lost a larger percentage of farms than Vermont.
DiNapoli’s report recommends that the Division of the Budget and the Dept. of Agriculture and Markets work together to address the backlog in this program to maximize the return on dollars invested by the state to preserve farmland in New York.
DiNapoli’s February 2010 report also noted that in 2007 there were 36,350 farms in New York state with total sales of $4.4 billion. To view this report, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/reports/other/agriculture21-2010.pdf.
To view DiNapoli’s report on the Farmland Protection Program, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/oct10/bet_the_farm_report1010.pdf.