Albany, NY Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) Chair of the Assembly Taskforce on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy, today announced that Governor Cuomo has signed in to law her bill (A8026/S6360) Chap. 463, An Act to Amend the Agriculture and Markets Law, in Relation to Agricultural Districts. The bill sponsored in the Senate by David Valesky (D-Oneida) reduces the current required acreage to form an Agricultural District from 500 to 250 acres.
Reducing the minimum acreage in creating Agricultural Districts is critical to preserving and restoring farmland and reviving the farming traditions of Rockland, Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk counties as well as creating additional Agricultural Districts Upstate. A Suburban Agricultural District would also protect farms, as the bill states, from "overly restrictive local laws, government funded acquisition or construction projects, and private nuisance suits involving agricultural practices in the districts."
"I am thrilled the Governor has signed this legislation into law, Jaffee said. Protecting farmland in suburban communities increases property values, sprouts new businesses, creates jobs and educational opportunities, preserves open space and the environment, while providing a supply stream of locally grown produce to the community and improving the health and quality of life for all.
Senator Valesky said, This new law will protect farmland from future development and encourage the growth of new farms, which is critical to the state's economy. I am pleased that Governor Cuomo recognized the importance of this legislation, and I look forward to seeing its positive effects statewide.
The legislation was inspired by Rockland farmers and advocates who have been trying for years to remove barriers to farming in suburban communities as well as a policy forum Jaffee held in July 2013 to discuss how to protect farmland in suburban areas like Rockland and meet the increasing demand for local food by consumers, restaurants and schools.
John McDowell, Rockland Farm Alliance President, said, "The Suburban Agriculture Bill is a significant step in protecting local farms in Rockland County, and it will positively affect agriculture throughout the state. Thanks to Ellen Jaffees bill, we are moving toward a future in which local farming is becoming easier and more sustainable in New York."
Linda Concklin Hill, owner Orchards of Concklin and Rockland Farm Bureau President said, Hurray to all who eat in Rockland! Rockland County farming will have the opportunity to change and grow with the amending of the Agriculture and Markets Law to allow smaller Agricultural Districts. Thanks to the support of Ellen Jaffee and her Food, Farm and Nutrition Task Force, Rocklanders will have access to locally grown food in the future. New and old farmers will benefit from this change as it will afford the local farmers with protections allowing farming to coexist with suburban neighbors.
Joan Gussow whose pioneering work changed the way we look at where we get our food said, "The suburban farming bill Ellen Jaffee has successfully brought through the legislature is nothing short of revolutionary. It offers the best kind of support to those trying to bring food production back to the suburbs."
The law will take effect in 60 days.