Still The One: Agriculture And Family Farming Remain The Strong Backbone Of New York’s Economy

Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
October 21, 2011

Do you know where today’s breakfast came from? The quick answer to that question is to simply point toward the local grocery store as the source for the morning bowl of cereal and milk or bacon and eggs that nourished you and your family. Unfortunately, such an answer misses all the hard work it took local family farmers to bring those delicious breakfast foods to your kitchen table.

It is the tireless efforts of New York’s farmers that produce the nutritious, affordable food that families rely upon and maintain our status as a national leader in the field of agriculture – not to mention all the award-winning wines produced right here in our Finger Lakes community!


According to the New York Farm Bureau – the state’s leading grassroots advocacy group comprised of 30,000 members – our Empire State remains a national leader in the areas of family farming and agriculture. The following are a few examples of family farming and agriculture’s continued importance to our state and economy, all of which are listed on the New York Farm Bureau’s website:

  • New York is a Leading Agricultural State: Our cumulative farm products were worth an estimated $4.42 billion in 2008, this figure is closer to $5 billion today;
  • New York’s National Agricultural Product Rankings in 2008: First in cabbage and cottage cheese production; second in apples, maple and sour cream production; third in milk, grape, corn silage and cauliflower production; fourth in pear, pumpkin, tart cherries, sweet corn, snap beans and squash production; and fifth in onion production;
  • Value of New York’s Farm Products: Cash receipts by commodity in 2008 were $2.4 billion for livestock; $961 million for field crops; $468 million for vegetables; $346 million for fruit; and $225 million from other related areas;
  • New York’s Top Five Agricultural Commodities: Dairy products, $2.3 billion; grain and silage corn, $748 million; hay, $363 million; apples, $261 million; and floriculture, $202 million; and
  • New York’s Farm Economy: Our farm economy generated $4.42 billion in receipts in 2008 and added to the economy in a variety of ways including $427 million in employee compensation; $343 million in energy costs; $236 million in property taxes; $188 million in maintenance and repair; and $133 million in marketing and transportation.


One of my top priorities as Assemblyman and one of only four Legislative Leaders in state government – and the only one living in, working in, and representing upstate – has been recognizing the important role of family farming and New York agriculture. I was honored that the New York Farm Bureau again named me to its prestigious “Circle of Friends” for the 2011 Legislative Session, one of the highest honors the New York Farm Bureau gives state legislators. This year’s designation marks the eleventh time I have received the award, having been first named to the Circle of Friends back in 2000 and recognized every year since then.


Besides sponsoring the annual “Dairy Day” event in Albany – a non-partisan gathering that raises awareness of the critical role played by New York family dairy farmers and showcases their award-winning products – I have introduced, sponsored and supported a whole host of non-partisan legislative initiatives designed to strengthen and support agriculture including:

  • Property Tax Cap: Capping property taxes was the first step to providing real tax relief to family farmers. As owners of large tracts of land, family farmers had been hit especially hard by increasing property taxes. The second – but just as important – step involves delivering unfunded mandate relief for local communities and taxpayers;
  • Excelsior Linked Deposit Program: Increasing the Excelsior Linked Deposit Program to $1 billion (initiative is currently $560 million) will help New York State farmers obtain reduced-rate financing to make improvements to their operations;
  • Federal Support for Struggling Dairy Farmers: Urge the federal government to continue the Federal Milk Marketing Order system and strengthen the Federal Milk Income Loss Contract Program, which are important safety nets for New York’s dairy farmers; and
  • Grow Markets for New York’s Agricultural Products: Encourage the growth of existing markets and develop new markets to increase opportunities to sell more of New York’s agricultural products locally, nationally and internationally.

All of these are common sense public policies that will ensure agriculture remains New York State’s strong economic backbone and that we continue the proud tradition of family farming here in the Empire State. As the saying goes: “No farms, no food!”

As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at