State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced the report from the members of the New York Food Supply Working Group. The Working Group is made up of New York State Council on Hunger and Food Policy members; farmers; representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Markets, Empire State Development, and Cornell University; and other institutional and industry stakeholders representing a wide swath of the state’s agricultural community. Beginning in March 2021, the group collaborated to provide recommendations to the State to improve the resiliency and self-reliance of the state’s farm and food supply chain.
Commissioner Ball said, “The importance of having a strong, local agricultural and food system became very evident in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we saw a need for greater resiliency and flexibility in our food system statewide, it became clear that this was an issue that called for thorough, thoughtful examination. The report issued today does just that. I thank the farmers, food industry businesses, and other stakeholders who gave their valuable input during the creation of this report and look forward to implementing these recommendations as we continue to strengthen New York agriculture and prepare for any challenges that may face our state moving forward.”
Empire State Development Acting Commissioner and President & CEO-designate Hope Knight said, "Agriculture and agribusiness are vital to New York’s economy, and we as a State have the resources and capacity to improve food supply resiliency. Working together with our partners at Agriculture and Markets, Cornell, and the state’s farm industry, we can follow the recommendations of the working group to build a stronger food supply chain."
Benjamin Houlton, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused incredible upheaval to our society, including disruptions to food systems that New York communities rely on for access to fresh vegetables, fruits, and food products. While New York alone cannot solve intractable issues related to global supply chain challenges, this report puts forth science-based recommendations for the policies and investments necessary to strengthen our state and local food systems for the long term. At Cornell CALS, we look forward to ongoing close partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Markets and our state’s farm and food communities in building a more resilient food network supplied by vibrant and economically healthy local farms.”
The final report outlines recommendations in 12 major areas, including strengthening coordination between local, state, federal, and private stakeholders; developing urban agriculture and focusing on food justice; strengthening and reimagining existing food availability programs; embedding equity into New York’s farm and food system; ensuring labor availability and immigration reform; and others. The report is available at https://agriculture.ny.gov/new-york-state-food-supply-resiliency-report.
The Working Group solicited public comment in the spring of 2021 to inform its final report. Comments were invited by all interested parties and were specifically welcomed from representatives of the food supply chain from different regions of the state, including women and minority-owned and small and family-owned businesses and farms; organic and conventional farmers; food processors; retail food businesses; food transporters; and many other stakeholders.
The Working Group sought comment on the following:
- loss of markets for farmers, processors, and handlers;
- farm to consumer direct marketing opportunities and changes;
- worker safety;
- food chain roadblocks, limitations, and disruptions;
- food shortages and the implications to food insecure individuals and families and emergency food providers;
- changes in consumer purchases, grocery store demand, and supply chain disruptions;
- disruptions to the food service industry and restaurants; and
- prevention of food waste.
In preparation of the report, the Working Group considered the need to strengthen food supply chain logistics, to prevent food shortages and food waste, and to overcome hurdles involved in getting farm products to markets and consumers. It additionally focused on the need for changes to, and development of, new state and federal laws, rules, policies, programs, and incentives to improve the state food supply in a manner that benefits New York farms, food businesses, workers, retailers, restaurants, food banks, and consumers.
More information about the New York State Food Supply Working Group is available on the Department’s website.