Suffolk County, NY – (January 9, 2017) On Friday, January 6, 2017 County Executive Steve Bellone was joined by Legislators Al Krupski and Bridget Fleming, Suffolk officials, farming advocates and over 20 representatives of the farming community to discuss newly introduced County legislation which will allow the County’s historic and highly successful Farmland Preservation program to continue and allow sound agricultural practices to be permitted under the Suffolk County Farmland Preservation Program.
In September 2016, the NYS Supreme Court ruling, rendered by Judge Whalen, overturned provisions of Chapter 8 of the Suffolk County Code which allowed for hardship exemptions and special permits for certain structures on preserved farmland. Particularly, the ruling indicates that, the Suffolk County Farmland Committee shall no longer have the authority to review or issue agricultural development permits, permits for farm stands and processing facilities, or special event permits, nor may the Committee waive maximum lot coverage requirements.
“We believe that the findings in this lawsuit strike at the very heart of future agricultural success in Suffolk County and that the findings fail to recognize that support structures on agricultural lands have always been an essential and inherent component of agricultural production,” said County Executive Steve Bellone. We have already filed an appeal on the State level. “While we are appealing on the State level, I, along with Legislator Krupski and Legislator Fleming, have introduced County legislation which ensures that standard agricultural practices that are reasonable, necessary and appropriate for a farm operation and agricultural production continue to be allowed on preserved farmland in Suffolk County.”
“Land preservation not only benefits this generation, but future generations, said Legislator Al Krupski. “As food security becomes an increasingly important issue to more people, it is vital we preserve productive farms in Suffolk County.”
“Our goal is not to allow development on farmland,” stated Legislator Bridgett Fleming. “On the contrary, the goal is to prevent overdevelopment by preserving and supporting our working farms. Our critically important agricultural industry will only survive if farmers can undertake the basic practices that make a farm work and turn a profit. Row crops must be watered, protected from wildlife, and supported by machinery that needs to be stored. Our preservation program must allow for these basic practices, our legislation confirms.”
In 1974, Suffolk County created the Farmland Preservation program, the oldest farmland protection program in the nation. Since its creation, over 10,750 acres have been preserved in in the program.
Farmland protection programs across the State and across the nation all recognize that farming requires accessory support structures, including greenhouses, barns, fences, animal pens, and farm stands to maintain the economic viability of the agricultural operation. Accessory structures have always been essential to the art and science of agriculture. They are inherent and necessary components of agricultural production and working agricultural lands.
‘The Long Island Farm Bureau supports temporary changes to the County’s Farmland Preservation program that will clarify the ability of farmers to continue their operations for the immediate future,” stated Rob Carpenter. “Just to clarify some misinformation that has been circulated among the public---commercial solar farms, wedding and catering halls have never been permitted, nor do any currently exist on County preserved land. We would like to thank County Executive Bellone, Legislators Fleming and Krupski, and the full County Legislature for their continued support if the agriculture industry on Long Island.”
“We are very pleased and completely supportive of the County Executive’s decision to take two actions – a proposed local law to address the recent court ruling and a legal challenge to the judge’s decision, stated Vito Minei Executive Director – Cornell Cooperative Extension – Suffolk County. “The leadership of County Executive Bellone, Legislator Krupski, and Legislator Fleming will hopefully prove successful in undoing the potentially devastating effects on agriculture that could result from the judgment.
Failure to act on the recent court ruling may result in a huge loss of agricultural properties in Suffolk County. Structures are inherent to the agricultural process. In Suffolk County, the economic success of an agricultural operation is tied to its ability to innovate, market, and process its crop. In order to preserve the essential character of Long Island’s East End, the County must support a farmland preservation program that gives farmers the ability to succeed. This recently introduced legislation is an important step to reaffirm the economic viability of this important industry and protect the future of farming in Suffolk County.