Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor
Richard A. Ball, Commissioner of Agriculture
April 2018

    In this issue :
New inspection ratings for retail food storesRetailStores

New York State has introduced a new letter rating system for its food safety inspections of retail food stores. Starting January 1, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets began providing an improved notice of inspection to retail food store owners following their annual inspections, which will more clearly display if the retail food establishment complies with current laws and regulations. The letter grading will help consumers better understand the sanitary conditions of the store and provide an opportunity for better education to store owners.

Following the Department's sanitary inspection of the retail food store, the inspector will give the store an "A," "B," or "C" letter grade, which corresponds to the results of the most recent sanitary inspection.  Learn more  here .
  • A - No critical deficiencies were found. (Food safety program in place is working.)
  • B - Although critical deficiencies were found, they were corrected at time of inspection. (Room for continuous improvement)
  • C - Critical deficiencies were found but were not or could not be corrected. (Need for immediate corrective action.)
Tax credit available to New York farmers for charitable food donationsTaxCredit

New York farmers are now eligible to receive a tax credit for qualifying food donations made to food banks and other emergency food programs beginning January 1, 2018. The tax credit is expected to save farmers a total of $10 million annually. According to the New York Farm Bureau, farmers across the state donated more than nine million pounds of food in 2017, which helped provide more than seven million meals to New Yorkers in need. 
Following a recommendation of Governor Cuomo's Anti-Hunger Task Force, the tax credit was enacted to compensate farmers for costs associated with harvesting, packaging, and distributing local products to eligible food pantries, food banks and other emergency food programs across the state. Increased donations will help meet the growing demand for fresh, healthful foods in underserved communities across New York.

The tax credit, which is supported by the New York State Council on Hunger and Food Policy, is a refundable credit equal to 25 percent of the fair market value of qualified donations up to $5,000. Eligible donations include fresh fruits and vegetables grown or produced in New York State and provided to emergency food programs that qualify for tax exempt status. To claim the credit, the taxpayer must receive proof of the donation in the form of a receipt or written acknowledgment from the eligible food program. Learn more here
$5.5M in farmland protection grant opportunities announcedFarmlandProtection

Governor Cuomo recently announced $5.5 million to advance farmland protection efforts throughout New York State. Two programs will help preserve viable farmland in agricultural production, protecting it from development and conversion to non-farm uses. 

The funding will also help farmers identify available land and expedite the process of permanently protecting agricultural properties through perpetual conservation easements. These new initiatives are the result of the Governor's pledge in his 2017 State of the State address to improve regional collaboration to enhance farmland conservation efforts statewide.  

For the first time, the State's farmland protection program has been expanded to allow eligible applicants to implement an Option to Purchase a Perpetual Conservation Easement, also called an Option Agreement Project. This new initiative provides a total of $5 million to eligible applicants, including municipalities, counties, soil and water conservation districts and land trusts. Grants of up to $500,000 will be awarded to cover costs associated with obtaining and administering an Option Agreement Project.

A new $500,000 Land Trust Grants program was also created to advance farmland protection strategies identified by counties and municipalities throughout the state. The program provides competitive grants of up to $50,000 to land trusts. The funding will help develop local inventories of viable farmland and inform landowners of programs and opportunities to protect their properties from conversion to non-farm uses. Learn more about both grant programs here
First Harmful Algal Blooms Summit kicked off in the Hudson ValleyHAB
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo kicked off the first of four summits supporting the state's comprehensive effort to protect vulnerable lakes and waterbodies in Upstate New York from harmful algal blooms, or "HABs." The summits are a part of the $65 million four-point initiative unveiled in the Governor's 2018 State of the State to aggressively combat these algal blooms. The increasing frequency and duration of harmful algal blooms threaten drinking water quality and the recreational use of lakes essential to upstate tourism. Three other Harmful Algal Blooms summits took place in Syracuse, Rochester and Ticonderoga last month. Learn more here
New York State Grown & Certified Program grows to include maple industryGC
The New York State Grown & Certified program has expanded to include the New York maple industry. The program will increase exposure for New York's maple producers, who rank second in the nation in syrup production and generate an estimated economic impact of $141 million each year. 

Annual Maple Weekends scheduled for March 17-18 and March 24-25 will help spotlight the growing maple industry and boost awareness of producers in the Grown & Certified program. Learn more here.
$1M Awarded to 12 Farm-to-School ProgramsF2S

Governor Cuomo announced $1 million has been awarded to 12 Farm-to-School projects across New York State. The Farm-to-School program helps Kindergarten through Grade 12 schools connect with local farmers, increase the use of locally grown food on school menus, improve student health, and educate young people about agriculture. The projects will benefit 219,471 students in seven regions across the state. The program also supports the expansion of the NY Thursdays Program, a school meal initiative that uses local, farm-fresh foods on Thursdays throughout the school year.

The awards have been provided to school districts and educational organizations that serve students in Kindergarten through Grade 12. The funding will be used to hire Farm-to-School coordinators, train food service staff, provide nutrition education in classrooms and cafeterias, purchase equipment to support food preparation, and increase the volume and variety of local farm products, such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, and herbs, used in school lunches. Learn more here
There's still time to participate in the Census of AgricultureMeadery

There's still time to complete the 2017 Ag Census. The data gathered helps shape the funding for farm programs and the future of agriculture. From the Specialty Crop Block Grant funding to the important work being done by county Cornell Cooperative Extension offices, the availability of many programs and services rely on information in the Ag Census.
Producers should respond online with the new time saving questionnaire here.  For help completing the census, call 1-888-424-7828.

$5M awarded to animal shelters across New YorkShelters

14 animal shelters and humane societies across the state have been awarded nearly $5 million in funding through the New York State Companion Animal Capital Fund. The Companion Animal Capital Fund is the first state-funded program in the nation to support critical improvement projects at New York shelters. It allows these organizations to make significant updates to their facilities to enhance animal care and health, and help ensure adoptions for dogs and cats.

Funded in the 2017-18 New York State Budget, the Companion Animal Capital Fund provides matching grants to offset the costs associated with capital projects such as renovating dog kennels, improving medical facilities, or building more efficient shelters to reduce the cost of operation. Funds can also be used to construct, renovate, rehab, or acquire buildings or equipment needed to house, treat, and care for sheltered dogs and cats.Competitive grants were awarded to shelters based on need and the readiness of projects. Learn more here

Agriculture Loan Fund Program launchedAgLoan

Empire State Development launched an Agriculture Loan Fund Program to address and help alleviate the economic barriers faced by many New York State small agribusiness owners. The Job Development Authority has provided $10 million in funding, which will be distributed as low interest loans by third party lenders.

Through the Agriculture Loan Fund Program, eight participating lenders will loan between $50,000 and $200,000 to eligible businesses. Qualified businesses include, but are not limited to, value-added processors, food distribution companies, food aggregators, craft beverage producers, and Food Hub participants. The projects may include the acquisition of and/or improvements to land or buildings, the purchase of machinery and equipment, and working capital used in support of the New York State agricultural industry. Learn more here
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
10B Airline Drive, Albany, NY 12235