March Is a Good Time to Recognize and Celebrate Agriculture
Legislative Column by Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush (R,C-Black River)
March 17, 2011
With spring just around the corner, maple syrup production is in full swing and farmers are busy getting prepared for planting. So it’s fitting that in March we celebrate many agriculture awareness days. From New York State Maple Weekends to Ag Literacy Week, there are many opportunities for us to take a few minutes to learn more about New York state’s number one industry. The weekends of March 19 & 20 and 26 & 27 are official “Maple Weekends” here in New York state. Maple Weekends were established 15 years ago to give the public the opportunity to see how maple products are produced, from tree to table, along with the chance to taste and purchase maple products. I know I am personally looking forward to getting out on one of the designated weekends to taste some fresh maple syrup. In 2010, New York state’s maple producers made 312,000 gallons of syrup, placing New York 2nd in national maple producers, behind only Vermont. The economic impact of maple syrup production in New York state is estimated at more than $5.5 million. To assist the state’s maple industry, I am pleased to support legislation that would remove burdensome regulations on sugar shacks. The legislation would allow the facilities to be considered agricultural buildings, which would allow them to operate without sprinkler systems and other mandated safety equipment. The bill also would allow the public to visit sugarhouses as an agri-tourism activity. In addition to the maple weekends, there are many opportunities here in the North Country for the general public to get out and experience agriculture firsthand. But not everyone has access to a farm, sugar shack, or vineyard, so Ag in the Classroom was developed to educate youth, teachers, and consumers about agriculture and the food and fiber system. As part of the Ag in the Classroom curriculum, the week of March 21 is Ag Literacy Week. This year’s Ag Literacy Week focuses on the poultry industry, and students throughout New York will be learning about the variety of products that the poultry industry provides as well as having the opportunity to visit with a community member involved in agriculture. As I have reiterated over the past few months, I am disappointed in the governor’s proposal to include only $1.2 million in the state budget for agriculture programs, including Ag in the Classroom. However, as the ranking member of the Assembly agriculture committee, I will continue to advocate for additional state investments in agriculture, and as budget negotiations move forward over these next two weeks, I am hopeful that the governor, senate and assembly can come to an agreement on a budget that restores this important funding for our state’s number one industry. I am always available to answer your questions and concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact me at 315-493-3909 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by my district office, 15 Bridge St., Carthage.