The Hudson Valley was once celebrated as the "breadbasket of New York." Today, that nickname is being embraced again, as new farming methods open up existing land to enhanced production and farm-to-market locations get local produce, beef, wine, and other agricultural items to Empire State consumers and beyond. Furthermore, thanks to the additions of new employers like Amy’s Kitchen, our local growers and producers have access to the global distribution network of a successful business.
For example, Continental Organics in New Windsor is helping to pioneer the next phase in Orange County’s agricultural development. The sustainable growth practices tested here could soon be the industry standard, and Continental’s aquaponics combines an organic greenhouse and fishery under one roof. Founder Mike Finnegan and his staff recently gave me a tour of Continental Organics’ world-class facility, a veteran-owned, veteran-preferred business. We’re striking a balance between the jobs our county residents need and the scenic vistas the Hudson Valley is famous for. With that in mind, I’m pleased to announce an important initiative spearheaded by our county Planning Department.
Orange County has designated March as the period during which landowners may request inclusion in its NYS Agricultural Districts. This annual process is the result of the 2002 amendments to the NYS Agricultural Districts law. During this process, parcels of land may be added; no land can be removed. The only time that lands may be removed is during the programmatic eight-year review of the districts.
The process is straightforward: During the 30-day period, from March 1 to March 30 each year, landowners may ask to be included by submitting a completed copy of the Orange County Agricultural District Annual Enrollment Form (available at the County’s website – www.orangecountygov.com – or directly from the Orange County Planning Department at 845-615-3840) and a copy of the portion of the tax map showing the parcel(s), to the Orange County Planning Department. The Planning Department’s address is 124 Main Street, Goshen, NY 10924.
At the end of the 30-day period, requests are sent to the Orange County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board (AFPB). The AFPB then has 30 days to review the requests and make recommendations to the Orange County Legislature. The two criteria used by the AFPB in its review are whether the land(s) are "viable agricultural land," as defined in the State Agricultural Districts law, and whether the inclusion "would serve the public interest by assisting in maintaining a viable agricultural industry within the district." The county legislature then holds a public hearing and acts on the request.
According to the NYS Agricultural Districts law, "viable agricultural land" means land highly suitable for agricultural production which will continue to be economically feasible for such use if real property taxes, farm-use restrictions, and speculative activities are limited to levels approximating those in commercial agricultural areas not influenced by the proximity of non-agricultural development.
We must also seize the bully pulpit on the dangers of flooding to our Orange agricultural and residential communities. Flood control for crops and homeowners is essential. Flood Safety Awareness Week runs from March 16th to 22nd and is sponsored by the National Weather Service (NWS). Flood Safety Awareness Week is intended to highlight some of the many ways floods can occur, the hazards associated with flooding, and what you can do to save lives and property.
According to the National Weather Service, more deaths occur in the United States due to flooding each year than from any other type of severe weather hazard. More than half of all flood-related deaths result from vehicles being swept downstream. Many of these deaths are preventable, and the goal of Flood Safety Awareness Week is to reduce risks by increasing information available to the public. For more information, please visit the NWS Flood Safety Awareness Week 2014 website at www.weather.gov/okx/FloodAwarenessWeek2014.