Editorial: Local interests should be heard - Press-Republican: Opinion

Editorial: Local interests should be heard

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Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 2:25 am

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has established a state task force on agriculture designed to promote growth in the industry and eliminate obstacles to progress.

We hope this task force will identify significant areas for improvement in an endeavor so crucial to this region — and to the entire state.

Unfortunately, no one from our area was named to it.

The task force has, if nothing else, a catchy acronym: SILO, which stands for Strategic Interagency Task Force on Lessening Obstacles to Agriculture. (You have to skip over some of those words to get the appropriate letters, but the thought was good.)

Task Force members comprise leadership from state government and representatives from the field of agriculture.

According to a news release, the group “will work together to ensure that state agencies that deal with farmers are communicating regularly, interacting efficiently and lessening regulations on farms.”

The idea is to expand and enhance agriculture within the state by making sure state agencies are hearing farmers, producers and each other, Cuomo said.

He points to his so-called Yogurt Summit as a model for this type of success. The summit, which advised the governor on the needs of the industry, has resulted in New York becoming “the yogurt capital of the nation,” according to the news release, and reclaiming its status as the No. 3 milk producer in the nation.

Additionally, the release says, New York has experienced “a 72 percent increase in farm-based beverage licenses since 2011, in part as a result of reforms enacted at the first Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit.”

The North Country, of course, profits from both initiatives, as it is home to robust milk farming and, now, wine-making activity.

Apples are among this region’s most abundant farm operations — and the state ranks No. 2 nationally in apple production.

Eight members make up the new Task Force, none of whom are from Clinton, Essex or Franklin counties. With our region so prolific in dairy, apples, maple syrup and wine production, that seems a slight and, frankly, disadvantageous.

It does include Jeff Williams, director of public policy for the New York Farm Bureau, certainly an organization familiar with North Country assets and problems. Tonya Van Slyke, executive director of the Northeast Dairy Producers Association, is another member.

The state agencies participating on the Task Force are the departments of Agriculture and Markets, Environmental Conservation, Labor, Transportation, Health, and Tax and Finance, along with the Public Service Commission, Empire State Development and the State Liquor Authority.

If this Task Force has any legislative clout at all — and, by its makeup, it should — the interests of local farmers will be represented.

But we should have had a member.






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