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NY farmers feeling the squeeze, especially fruit, vegetable growers

Sep 30, 2019 3:45 pm
Dan Freedman is reporting for the Times Union small family farms, especially those in upstate New York, are still idealized as the backbone of America, but price fluctuations, oversupply, more frequent hurricanes and constant squeezing by middlemen and grocery chains have made it difficult for many farmers to make a living, particularly in the fresh fruit and vegetable sector. In New York alone,  the number of farms declined by six percent between 2012 and 2017, and nearly 11,000 acres of vegetables were taken out of production. Chris Pawelski, of Pawelski Farms outside of Goshen, told a reporter, “I don’t even encourage my own children to go into farming anymore. It eats me up inside. But how do I in good conscience tell them farming is good when I’m a quarter-million dollars in debt, and I’m at the mercy of the market situation and the weather?” Last week, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture calling for a review of the pricing structure of the fresh fruit and vegetable industry. It “poses a risk to our food security as we rely more on the production to foreign nations, leading to our current $2.1 billion dollar fruit and vegetable trade deficit,” Gillibrand wrote. Data gathered by Gillibrand's staff shows that over the last 20 years, wholesale prices for broccoli, green beans, cabbage and apples have gone up more rapidly than what farmers receive for that same produce. “The fresh produce industry operates on extremely tight margins...,” Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association, wrote in a statement. “Our industry is the ultimate supply-and-demand economy, and our real goal must be to increase demand for fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s the key to raising prices paid to farmers.” Gillibrand said she planned to introduce legislation that provides for real-time pricing to farmers “so they’re no longer left in the dark,” she said. Read the full story in the Times Union.