(Hauppauge, NY-January 14, 2014) – Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced the release of The State of the Suffolk County Agriculture Industry report today. This report summarizes the expressed attitudes and challenges identified by 143 agricultural producers who completed an agricultural survey in 2013 as part of the County’s efforts to develop a new Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan.
The Suffolk County Department of Economic Development & Planning was awarded $50,000 by New York State Agriculture & Markets to update their 1996 Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan in September 2012. This report marks an important first step in the process of completing the overall plan by August 2014.
“I would like to thank our Suffolk County farmers for their enthusiastic participation in this agricultural survey sponsored by our partners at the Peconic Land Trust, the Long Island Community Foundation, the Long Island Farm Bureau, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets,” said County Executive Bellone. “As we know, farmers are innovative entrepreneurs who will continue to drive economic activity and improve our overall quality of life. The report marks an important first step in our efforts to create an informed Agriculture & Farmland Protection Plan that will address the concerns of our heritage agriculture industry in a considered and comprehensive manner.”
Important highlights of the report include:
• Fifty-nine percent of farmers are very concerned about the future profitability of farming, 42% are very concerned about access to affordable land, and 60% are very concerned about the overall loss of farming in Suffolk County.
• The five most cited challenges to continued agricultural success in Suffolk County were 1) High Production Costs 2) High Fuel Costs 3) Availability of Farm Labor 4) Property Taxes 5) Extreme Weather Events/Climate Change. Environmental regulations, the prevalence of pests (deer, insects, birds, etc.), residential encroachment, and land use regulations (zoning) were also frequently cited.
• Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Suffolk County farmers say they have recovered from the recession and have revenues the same or higher than five years ago.
• Farmers expect to increase, rather than decrease the size of their farming operation, by a more than 2 to 1 margin.
• Seventy-nine percent of respondents said that current farmland protection plans are “very” or “somewhat” important to the success of their farm operation.
• Almost three-quarters (74%) said that agricultural stewardship programs, such as those offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension, were “very” or “somewhat” important to the success of their farm operation.
• The Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program, conservation easements, and modifications of Chapter 8 were overwhelmingly cited by respondents as the most important strategy to maintain agricultural viability in Suffolk County.
Recent changes to Chapter 8, the code that governs Suffolk County’s PDR program, the development of this Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan, and the appointment of a Farmlands Administrator in 2012, mark Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s continued dedication to the economic development of Long Island’s heritage agricultural industry.
“These survey results are an important barometer for the Suffolk County agriculture industry,” stated Joe Gergela, Executive Director of the Long Island Farm Bureau. “This report identifies the very real challenges faced by Suffolk County farmers and it will help us prioritize the programs and public policies that are needed to represent the best interests of Long Island farmers.”
"We at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County look forward to working with Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning, the agriculture partners and the farming community in developing an Agriculture & Farmland Protection Plan to support and maintain a strong viable agriculture industry in Suffolk County,” stated Dale Moyer, Associate Executive Director and Agricultural Program Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.”
"The Long Island Community Foundation (LICF) is proud to have provided support for the development of this vital report about one of Long Island’s most valuable sectors," said LICF program officer, Sol Marie Alfonso-Jones. "Suffolk County’s farms not only provide the region with a healthy economic boost, they also define much of the unique character of Long Island. It is essential that we all do our part to preserve our agricultural industry."
“Changing times bring new challenges to all areas of our economy, and agriculture is no exception in Suffolk County, especially on the East End of Long Island where land values are so high,” stated John v.H. Halsey, President, Peconic Land Trust. “Several of these challenges have been identified in the study conducted in partnership with the Suffolk County Division of Planning and Environment, the Peconic Land Trust, the NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets, the Long Island Farm Bureau, the Long Island Community Foundation, and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Our hope is that the update to the 1996 Suffolk County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan will not only shed light on these challenges but will initiate a Plan of Action to ensure the viability of Long Island’s working farms and heritage for our communities now and in the future.”