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Columbia County gets behind its agriculture

Jan 12, 2011 5:58 am
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Columbia County's biggest industry is agriculture, as seen in this image from the Columbia Land Conservancy."][/caption]Columbia County government has formed a coalition to craft a plan to support and promote local agriculture. The success of the 18-month process will depend upon broad public input, especially from the farm community, according to a press release sent out on January 11. Five public meetings are planned over the next three months, starting Saturday, January 22 in Chatham, and a survey is being mailed to agricultural producers in order to assess the state of local agriculture and design a county-wide farmland protection plan. The press release from the Columbia Land Conservancy goes on to note that Columbia County is taking advantage of the Farmland Protection Program created by the NY State Legislature. Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation is working with the Columbia Land Conservancy to facilitate the Program with the County’s Ag and Farmland Protection Board. The Program establishes a methodology for local governments to assess the status and potential of farming in every community. Economic value, open space value, and consequences of conversion will be analyzed. A survey has been developed to be distributed to the County’s producers to compliment dialog produced through the five public meetings. The farmland protection plan is expected to be finalized by mid-2012. The process is lead by the County Farmland Protection Board, and a working committee headed by Todd Erling, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation. Other organizations represented on the committee are the Columbia County Department of Planning, Columbia County Soil & Water Conservation District , Columbia Land Conservancy, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Farm Credit East (formerly First Pioneer Farm Credit).

“Farming is an important engine of economic activity and with strategic planning it could play a larger, more beneficial role in our economy,” says Ken Flood, the Columbia County Commissioner of Planning and Economic Development

Agriculture is one of the most important sectors for Columbia County’s economy. As of 2007, there were 554 farms in Columbia County which generated $66,000,000 in annual revenue. As the demand for local and healthy food increases, a smart farming plan will ensure that the County’s economy grows along with it. Over the past 10 years, New York farmers had a 57% increase in annual direct market sales.

Working farmland nets greater revenue for county and municipal budgets than industrial or residential properties. Working land produces the most tax revenue for the services needed.

Farming is beneficial to the economy, but money isn’t the only reason to think about farming. Peter Paden, executive director of the Columbia Land Conservancy points out, “Supporting a flourishing farm sector is one of the best ways to conserve our wildlife habitats, landscapes, and our rural quality of life.”

Everyone involved or concerned about farming is encouraged to attend one of the public meetings that will shape the farmland protection plan. Residents can attend the meeting closest to them, or choose to attend any or all other meetings. The schedule is:

• Saturday, January 22nd, 10 to Noon. North Chatham Fire House, 653 County Route 32, North Chatham. Snow date: Monday, January 24th, 7 to 9 p.m.

• Thursday, February 3rd, 7 to 9 p.m. Cornell Cooperative Extension, 479 Route 66, Hudson. Snow date: Saturday, February 5th, 10 to Noon.

• Saturday, February 19th, 10 to Noon. Copake Town Hall, 230 Mountain View Road, Copake. Snow date: Tuesday, February 22nd, 7 to 9 p.m.

• Thursday, March 3rd, 7 to 9 p.m. Kellner Activities Bldg. 54 Palatine Park Road, Germantown. Snow date: Saturday, March 5th, 10 to Noon.

• Saturday, March 19th, 10 to Noon. Stuyvesant Town Hall , 5 Sunset Drive, Stuyvesant. Snow date: Monday, March 21st, 7 to 9 p.m.

For more information contact, Ellen Jouret-Epstein, Columbia Land Conservancy’s Land Protection Manager, at 518.392.5252, ext. 208 or ellen@clctrust.org.

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