November 12, 2009

To Help Farmers Grow During Economic Recession, Gillibrand Urges Federal Support For Syracuse-Based New York Farm Viability Institute

During Economic Downturn, Funding For The Institute At Risk When Farmers Need Services The Most

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to include the New York Farm Viability Institute in their "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" Initiative. The Institute was created as one of the original "Agriculture Innovation Centers" within the 2002 Farm Bill.  Out of the 10 states funded in this program, only New York and Minnesota continue to have fully functioning innovation centers. However, since 2005, the Institute has not received federal dollars. During this economic downturn, funding for the Institute is at risk at a time when farmers need its services the most. Inclusion of the Institute in the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" Initiative would provide crucial support to programs that benefit underprivileged farmers, increase research and education capabilities that maximize farm profits and provide economic models for other farms.

"New York's farmers are a critical part of our economy and we must ensure their success," Senator Gillibrand said. "In this economic crisis, we can't afford to let our family farms be pushed any farther to the brink. If we're going to rebuild this economy, we need to keep families on their farms. The New York Farm Viability Institute helps farms increase profits and provide models for other farms. It is critical that they be included in the ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' Initiative."

"The New York Farm Viability Institute shares Senator Gillibrand's interest in expanding USDA programs and outreach to better connect consumers with farmers through the "Know your Farmer, Know your Food" initiative," said Tom Sleight, Executive Director of the New York Farm Viability Institute. "Expanding interest in fresh, locally produced food is creating new and exciting opportunities and marketing channels for farmers.  An essential part of USDA's campaign is empowering farmers to develop new enterprises and products to reconnect with consumers.   The New York Farm Viability Institute has been doing this and much more. By instituting creative new production and management strategies, the Institute has become a vital link to helping farmers stay competitive and meet ever-changing consumer needs."

Located in Syracuse, the New York Farm Viability Institute is a farmer-led nonprofit group that works with farms to foster a vibrant agriculture business sector in New York State. They help farmers expand their businesses by providing support through applied research, outreach education, information transfer, adoption of technology, business planning and market analysis.

In her letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Senator Gillibrand wrote, "The Institute's work fits perfectly within the ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' Initiative's central mission of creating new economic opportunities by connecting consumers with local producers.  Investing millions of dollars over the years, the Institute has started and supported farm-based projects that boost farm sales and profits by increasing consumer demand for New York farm products and by strengthening the farmers' positions in local, national and global agricultural markets.  The Institute's priorities are clearly in line with the Initiative's goals, making it a logical program to be funded by ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.'"