The state Legislature’s joint budget subcommittee on Environment, Agriculture, and Housing agreed to restore funding that will strengthen Long Island’s wine and farm industries, Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R, C -Shoreham) said today.
The subcommittee’s action retains funding for the state’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program and restores funding to the New York State Wine & Grape Foundation, which promotes wines made on Long Island and elsewhere in the state. The programs will receive $500,000 and $713,000, respectively.
“Whether sod farming, harvesting potatoes, or producing grapes, agriculture is an integral part of the local economy and culture here in Suffolk County,” Losquadro said. “The state must continue to provide the support and resources necessary to ensure this industry can continue to thrive as an engine of economic growth and job creation.
Suffolk County is the state’s No. 1 agricultural producing county in terms of the value of its crops, $242.9 million in 2008. In 2008, there were 34,404 acres in farms, 6 percent of the county's total 583,669 acres, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“It’s a victory for agriculture,” said Ron Goerler, president of the Long Island Wine Council, an industry trade group, and vice president of Jamesport Vineyards. He said winery owners and Long Island Farm Bureau director Joe Gergela had been actively lobbying in recent weeks in Albany for these issues—and others.
“It’s nice to see that people listen,” Goerler said.
Prior to this week’s subcommittee agreement, the state’s IPM program was on the verge of elimination from the budget, Losquadro said, noting that over the years, the IPM program proved to be an effective and environmentally sensitive way of managing pests by using current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment.
“IPM gives farmers critical support to manage pest damage economically and with the least possible harm to people, property and the environment from debilitating crop diseases like golden nematodes,” Losquadro said. “The continuation of this program is crucial to ensuring our growers continue to produce the freshest and most environmentally safe foods.”
Goerler said IPM, a guide published by the state, is key to controlling insects and pests in his vineyard.
“It’s a necessary tool for any farmer,” he said. “It’s how I make all my decisions on farming practices."
He said using IPM guidelines, he scouts is fields looking for insects and disease and then decides how best to deal with any problems.
Also, under the budget subcommittee’s agreement, funding will be restored to the New York State Wine & Grape Foundation, which promotes the region’s wine industry and agri-tourism industry. The foundation, based in Canandaigua in the Finger Lakes region, faced elimination of its entire $713,000 in state support and a possible shutdown.
“It’s a good thing,” said Larry Perrine, partner and chief executive of Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton and a director of the state foundation. “They’re restoring the funding to this modest level. This gives us a chance to live through another year.”
“The North Shore has the best wineries in the state and the subcommittee’s funding restoration will go a long way to help promote these excellent wines throughout the state and nation,” Losquadro said. “At the end of the day, this funding is a wise investment in our region’s tourism and agricultural industries that will create jobs and bring in needed revenue to Suffolk County.”
The New York grape, grape juice and wine industries contributed over $3.76 billion in economic benefits to the economy of the state in 2008, according to a study by the Napa Valley-based Stonebridge Research Group LLC, released in January.
The New York Wine & Grape Foundation, which represents New York grape growers, grape juice producers and wineries, was created by state legislation in 1985 during an economic crisis in the industry to fund research and promote New York wines.
As for the grape foundation budget agreement, Goerler said, “It’s important for the industry to have a voice. It helps the entire state.”
Officials of the Long Island Farm Bureau could not be reached for immediate comment.