Cuomo Announces New Grant Awards For New York Dairy Farmers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced $30 million in farmland protection opportunities for dairy farmers in New York state. These monies will be used by qualifying farms that choose to submit proposals to enhance the financial stability of farms and help them transition to more diversified farm operation or non-dairy agricultural uses.

These conservation easement projects are an attempt to help remedy the challenge low milk prices have given dairy farmers. Funding for these opportunities comes from the state’s Farmland Protection Implementation Grants Program.

“New York’s dairy industry is critical to local economies across the state, and we must ensure that our dairy farmers have the resources they need to thrive among the challenges of the current marketplace,” Cuomo said.

The additional options for dairy farms offered by the farmland protection opportunities will be put into action in an attempt to retain agricultural land for agricultural use only and hopefully maintain a healthy state for dairy farms for future generations.

Conservation easement projects will specifically be awarded to eligible dairy farms that are transitioning to the next ownership of a continuing dairy farm, whether within a family or to another farmer, in order to modify operations for better financial sustainability; continuing dairy production but also diversifying farm operations to other areas of agriculture; or converting to a non-dairy farm operation altogether.

Projects that help the transition of dairy farms into non-dairy farms are still worth investing in, said the state office, because even if not all dairy farms can retain their status as dairy producers, farms will still be preserved. Keeping land that is based in agriculture and farm-related activity is one goal of these easement projects.

Conversion of farms into non-farm uses is to be avoided, according to the program, so that the sustainability of the agricultural industry at large is bolstered. Still, dairy farms make up approximately half of on-farm production, which is a main reason why these opportunities are being introduced to help dairy farms conquer the obstacles in their way.

“By investing state funding to support farmland protection, we are laying the groundwork for more jobs and increased stability for family farms,” said Kathy Hochul, lieutenant governor.

Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello was glad to hear about the governor’s increased efforts in supporting dairy farmers. With continuing low milk prices, Borrello is worried a low supply problem might result if this kind of aid to keep dairy farms in business was not available.

“Chautauqua County has the largest number of farms per capita,” Borrello said. “Dairy farms are a significant portion of that.”

The county has supported programs of the Cornell Cooperative Extension for the education of farmers to incorporate best practices. Chautauqua County has also doubled its support for the 4-H program.

For farmers who are interested in applying for farmland protection opportunities, they can submit proposals electronically through the New York State Grants Gateway.

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