December 17, 2015 – Hauppauge, NY – Yesterday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced the unanimous legislative approval of the adoption of the 2015 Suffolk County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan (the Plan), which was last updated in April 1996. The Plan aims to support adaptable public policy to protect, encourage and sustain agriculture as an industry for future generations in Suffolk County.
“Agriculture in Suffolk County has undergone significant changes over the past 20 years and this updated Plan reflects the current state of the industry’s successes and challenges,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “The adoption of this Plan will help ensure that the future of farming in Suffolk is resilient and a productive part of our economy, environment, quality of life, and culture.”
“As we face increased threats to food security such as loss of productive farm land and climate change, growing local, nutritious food is vitally important for region, now and into the future,” said Legislator Al Krupski, whose district includes some of the most productive agricultural lands in the county. “Suffolk County has been leader in farmland preservation since 1974, and the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan will help us to continue to preserve our deep, fertile soils and build on the county’s past success. I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to see this plan completed.”
“Farming has defined Suffolk County’s identity for more than 350 years,” said Legislator Kara Hahn, Chairwoman of the Legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture committee. “Adoption of the 2015 Suffolk County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan will ensure our connection to agricultural traditions and help guide our county’s policy decisions. I commend County Executive Bellone and the Division of Planning for its work to make Suffolk County a place where agriculture can truly take root.”
The Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan includes a brief historical look at agriculture in Suffolk County; an inventory of current resources and efforts to protect farmland in the County; a review of each local municipality’s policies, programs, plans and regulations related to agriculture; and challenges and suggested courses of action to address issues facing the agricultural industry.
Research for the Plan was funded by a $50,000 Farmland Protection Planning Grant from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, a $10,000 grant from the Long Island Community Foundation and an in-kind match from Suffolk County.
The Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning conducted multiple focus groups throughout the county and surveyed local farmers in 2013 to provide public input for the updated plan.
The department also conducted an aerial analysis of the county’s approximately 39,000 acres of farmland in Suffolk County, nearly 20,000 acres of which are already protected by municipal governments and not-for-profit organizations, to assess the status of agricultural lands and create a master list of protected and unprotected farmland.
The Plan offers suggested courses of action to help preserve agriculture as an industry in Suffolk County; to continue to work to purchase development rights to farms that are not yet protected; to incentivize farmers to implement best management practices to increase crop production, reduce costs and protect surface and ground waters; to attract new farmers; and to expand the diversification of crops and agricultural business models in Suffolk County.
The Plan includes several important additions to its 1996 predecessor, including an increased focus on aquaculture, which has grown in importance within the last decade. Suffolk County ranks first in the state for market value of aquaculture products sold according to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture. Increases in aquaculture production can be attributed to the Suffolk County Shellfish Aquaculture Lease Program in Peconic Bay and Gardiners Bay, which was adopted by the county in 2009 to lease publicly owned underwater lands to private commercial shell-fishing operations.
For more information on the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan and other initiatives to preserve and strengthen agriculture in Suffolk County, log on to www.suffolkcountyny.gov or www.facebook.com/stevebellone.
Statements of Support:
Dale D. Moyer, Agriculture Program Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, said, “The farmland protection plan provides important guidance for addressing the challenges facing the agriculture industry. It will assist in maintaining Suffolk County’s viable and diverse agriculture businesses for years to come.”
David Haight, New York State Director for the American Farmland Trust, said, “For decades, Suffolk County has been a national leader in protecting its working farmland. We applaud Suffolk County for taking steps to ensure that the region will have a strong farm economy as well as its irreplaceable farmland and clean water.”
David Okorn, Executive Director of the Long Island Community Foundation, said, “We are fortunate to live in a region that continues to maintain a commitment to its maritime and farming culture and history, and the Long Island Community Foundation will continue to support efforts to protect the region’s cultural identity, economic vitality, and public health. County Executive Steve Bellone’s farming and water protection initiatives are so critical to safeguarding Long Island’s most critical assets, even as we grow and adapt. We applaud Suffolk County for this vital plan update and for ensuring that the voices of the farming community informed the recommended solutions and actions.”
John v.H. Halsey, President of the Peconic Land Trust, said, “The Peconic Land Trust is very pleased to have assisted Suffolk County in the update of its Farmland Protection Plan, thanks to a grant received from the Long Island Community Foundation. This plan reinforces the County’s history at the forefront of farmland conservation, dating back to the 1970s and the introduction of the first purchase of development rights program in the nation. The plan also includes strategies to address the challenges we face in protecting not only farmland as a resource, but also the business of farming as an important part of our economy. We look forward to working with the County and our partners to ensure that agriculture continues to be viable and sustainable for generations to come.”
Robert Carpenter, Administrative Director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said, “Long Island Farm Bureau would like to recognize Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and his staff as well as the Suffolk County Legislature for their continued support of Long Island agriculture. As one of the leading agricultural counties in New York State, it is imperative that we work hard to strengthen the industry so we can continue to provide food, wine and other products for our residents to enjoy. As a component to Long Island’s leading industry, tourism, and as an economic engine for the county, it is important that we maintain a strong industry for future generations.”
Photo by Jociano Brait via Free Images.