Cultivating Leadership And A Healthy Economy Through Agriculture

Legislative Column from Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush (R,C-Black River)
May 10, 2012

New York State is beginning to emerge from the economic downturn, and with this comes new opportunities to start fresh and build ourselves a stronger and more resilient economy. Building this new economy and making the Empire State once again a worldwide powerhouse requires all of New Yorks unique sectors to be strengthened, especially agriculture.

Strengthening New Yorks agricultural sector must start from the ground up. Family farms are dwindling across the state, a trend that I find troubling. However, with the help of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and instructors like its New York Officer, J.W. Allen, and students like Amanda Rhodes, both of Belleville Henderson Central School, I am confident we can cultivate the kind of young leaders needed to expand this crucial sector of our economy.

I recently attended the FFAs New York State Convention, and I am always impressed by the passion and professionalism of its students and educators. They know, like I know, that agriculture is serious business. Its an interesting juxtaposition; as these students learn about the ancient art of cultivating the earth and raising animals, they also learn about cutting-edge farming techniques and how to integrate social media into a sound agri-business model.

While honing their business savvy, these students also learn the value of tradition, generosity and being connected to their community. Like small businesses, the family farm enriches small communities in more ways than just through commerce.

Many leading economists believe that diversifying the economy is what will make it healthier and more flexible when shocks to the system threaten its stability. After seeing firsthand how agriculture and the family farm have helped our rural upstate communities, there can be no question how important this sector is to the overall economy.

When people ask me how we are going to fix our economy, I give them a simple North Country fix invest in agriculture and invest in our youth. Doing this strengthens an economic sector that supports not only individuals but whole communities. Its worked for us, and it can certainly work across the state.

How do we accomplish this? Ive already helped with the first part by securing investment in agriculture. I voted yes to increase state investment in agricultural programs and markets by $4.3 million for an overall investment of $21.6 million. Agriculture is just that important to a recovering economy.

Heres the second part something Albany has a hard time hearing we need to remove the state- mandated rules and constraints that are placed upon our schools. Every dollar spent on a useless and expensive mandate is a dollar taken away from our kids for programs like the FFA.

Its critical we do everything we can to make New York the leader it was once and can be again.

If you have any ideas or thoughts on agriculture and the economy, please contact my district office at 493-3909 or e-mail me at