Almost a quarter of all land in New York state is farmland, which may come as a surprise to those who think of the state as one Big Apple.
A report issued by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli Thursday says $4.8 billion in revenue came from New York’s farms in 2017, with more than half of that — 56 percent — from milk alone.
“Agriculture is a crucial piece of the state’s economy, with farms contributing nearly $2.4 billion to the state’s gross domestic product,” DiNapoli said in a statement that accompanied the report. “Our farmers continue to provide jobs and fresh, locally sourced food, while also preserving open spaces. However, farmers face a number of challenges, from declining milk prices, which can threaten family businesses, to tariffs and restrictions on immigrant workers.”
New York was among the top five producers in the nation for 15 different farm products, and held the No. 1 spots for cottage cheese, sour cream and yogurt. It’s No. 2 for maple syrup, cabbage, apples and snap beans. And it’s No. 3 for milk, milk cows, grapes and Italian cheese.
In descending order, the top five crops by dollar value in New York are: milk, corn, hay, apples, and cattle and calves.
DiNapoli’s report describes some trends of growth, particularly in the number of organic farms and in crops such as Concord grapes and maple syrup. Production of Concord grapes – used primarily for juice and jams – nearly doubled from 2012 to 2017. Some things remained stable though. Wyoming County, which has the largest number of cows in the state, at 47,500 head of cattle, still has more cows than people.
But DiNapoli warned of some clouds on the agriculture horizon in terms of trade and labor force.
“Declining milk prices have cut revenues sharply, in some cases threatening family businesses. Tariffs, including those imposed recently on agricultural products by the nation’s trading partners in response to those imposed by the federal government, have increased financial uncertainty for many farmers in New York and nationwide,” the report said. “Federal policies relating to visas for migrant workers and other immigration programs have increased restrictions on such workers, who play an important role in the state’s agricultural workforce; such steps may add to the challenge of planting and harvesting on a timely basis.”
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