Carmine Istvan of Dutchess County Hops discusses the future of farming in the Hudson Valley with County Legislator Sue Serino, State Senator Patty Ritchie and Dutchess County Legislator Gregg Pulver.

County Legislator and 41st state Senate District candidate Sue Serino (R,C,I- Hyde Park) hosted a roundtable discussion today with area farmers and state Senator Patty Ritchie, the chair of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, to discuss the future of family farms and the rural economy of the Hudson Valley.

“Agriculture is a crucial part of the economies of Dutchess and Putnam Counties, and the 750 family farms which are currently in operation help make up the unique character of rural communities,” Serino said. “Who doesn’t love the taste of a crisp apple picked fresh from a local farm, or dairy products, maple syrup and farm fresh produce that’s grown right in our own backyards? Our local farms ensure that Dutchess and Putnam Counties’ children and families have access to good, healthy, fresh, and safe food on a daily basis.

“I would like to thank Carmine Istvan, and everyone at Dutchess Hops, for welcoming Senator Ritchie and me to their facility and hosting this great discussion. Family farming is hard work and we can certainly be doing more to provide resources for local farmers, especially providing them greater access to food deserts, like New York City, where their produce and goods are needed. As senator, I look forward to helping provide our farming community with the assistance they need to continue to grow, prosper and keep our family farming heritage alive.”

State Senator Patty Ritchie compared Senate Republican efforts to strengthen agriculture, including tax cuts for agriculture and increased funding support for critical programs that aim to help make farming more profitable, to those of Democrats who, when they controlled the Senate, slashed farm funding and raised taxes that threatened farmers’ businesses.

“The fact is that agriculture and the success of our family farms is a priority for Senate Republicans,” said Ritchie, who grew up on her family’s dairy farm in Northern New York and has led the Senate’s Agriculture Committee since 2011. “But Senate Democrats don’t get rural New York,” Ritchie said. “In the two disastrous years they took control of the Senate, they gutted farm programs by slashing funding and raising taxes on farmers, while record numbers of farms went under.”

Senator Ritchie said that agriculture funding for programs that aim to boost productivity, expand marketing and support key ag-related research is on track to reach record levels in next year’s state budget.

This compares sharply to 2009 and 2010, when the New York City-led Senate eliminated all funding for two dozen agriculture programs, including those aimed at food safety, preventing rabies, and helping farmers boost production and sales of products, like milk, grapes, onions and maple syrup. Funding was also reduced for apple growers and wineries.

“It is great to have a leading voice like Senator Ritchie visit Dutchess County and learn about our growing and diversifying agriculture industry. I’m also tremendously pleased to work with Legislator Serino to provide her with the background she needs to help the local agriculture industry thrive here in the Hudson Valley. Here at Dutchess Hops we have a saying, ‘No Farms, No Beer;’ while our industry is thriving, it can only continue to do so if government doesn’t inhibit our ability to produce,” said Carmine Istvan of Dutchess County Hops.

Today, New York farms have close to $5 billion in economic impact annually, with Dutchess and Putnam Counties playing a key part. In the 41st Senate District, farms directly employ 1,602 people with an estimated payroll of $24 million. The Hudson River Wine Region also has around 40 wineries currently, with the number growing each year.

Dutchess County is home to over 112,000 acres of farmland, ranking number one in the state for goat farms and boasting a high number of horse farms. The county is also top in the state for chickens raised for consumption. Putnam County as a whole has over 5,900 acres of farmland, with the majority of those producing vegetables and hay.