To be better informed, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., will be visiting local farming communities to help implement needed agriculture proposals in the upcoming federal farm bill.
The next farm bill will not be passed for another three years, but Sen. Gillibrand - the first state senator in nearly 40 years to be on the agriculture committee - said the debate has already started in Congress. She said it is important for the next farm bill to provide hard-working farmers in the state what they need to succeed.
''It is important to get the farm bill right this time,'' she said. ''It needs to be tailor-made for New York farmers.''
With 35,000 farms on 7 million acres statewide producing $4.5 billion for the economy, Sen. Gillibrand said the business sector is important for the state.
''It is an economy that must thrive for New York,'' she said.
In Western New York, there are 6,500 farms on 1 million acres that generate $710 million for the economy. In Chautauqua County, there are 1,658 farms - more than any other county in the state - on 235,858 acres of land that generate more than $138 million for the economy.
Sen. Gillibrand said Chautauqua County will definitely be one of the stops she will make during the next year as she gathers information.
''It is important for me to reach out to every community,'' she said about researching what farmers need. ''I want to go to the (agriculture) committee with a body of evidence from ... farmers.''
Sen. Gillibrand said she plans to focus on key areas of the farm bill that will have a major influence on New York, including access to financing, new market opportunities, assistance for specialty crops and investments in renewable energy. From dairy farms, black-dirt farms and apple orchards to vineyards, artisanal cheeses, and other specialty crops, New York farmers and communities will have a lot to gain in the next farm bill.
''New York is home to the hardest-working farm families and the finest locally grown produce in the world, but outdated regulations and a bad economy are hurting our farmers and farming communities across the state,'' she said. ''We need to make sure the next farm bill is a good deal for New York. I plan to take the next several months to listen to farmers and businesses in every corner of the state and discuss my ideas on how to help farmers survive and prosper in the new economy.''