Agriculture; It means everything to the Finger Lakes

The following is a guest column by Senator Michael F. Nozzolio.As you drive around Finger Lakes – Lake Ontario region on these beautiful summer days, you will see an abundance of quality food grown right before your eyes.From the vineyards around our lakes, to the wheat fields awaiting harvest, to the potato fields in our region’s rich muck soil, to our dairy farms and fruit apple orchards, agriculture is unquestionably the backbone of our economy. Virtually every business, family and individual in our region, directly or indirectly depends on agriculture, the single largest job producing enterprise in New York State.That is why we are fortunate here in the central Finger Lakes to be home to one of the world’s top agricultural research centers. Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva is renowned for its success in helping farmers grow great crops, and entrepreneurs start new businesses that in turn create and retain jobs in New York. Along with the Agricultural and Food Technology Park, which is adjacent to the Experiment Station, these two facilities are integral in making our region a world-wide leader in agribusiness, food science and biotechnology.It is important to recognize that you do not have to be a farmer to benefit from the tremendous work being done at the Ag Tech Park and Cornell Experiment station. From the construction jobs necessary to expand the existing facilities, to the new jobs that are being created in the food processing and wine industries as a result of research and incubator programs, the impact of these facilities is far reaching.Over the last several years I have worked hard to secure millions of dollars in State funding for improvements and expansion at both these facilities. Last year I was successful in securing $4.7 million for the reconstruction of over 21,000 square feet of greenhouse and research facilities at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. Working together with Assemblyman Brian Kolb, I also helped secure over $3.2 million for the construction of the Finger Lakes Viticulture Center, which serves as a permanent location for the Finger Lakes Community College’s groundbreaking Viticulture and Wine Technology Program. This program is the only one of its kind in the Northeast and is located at the Cornell Agricultural Technology Park.Earlier this month, I secured $3.4 million in State funding to begin a major expansion at the Experiment Station. The expansion will modernize the Fruit and Vegetable Processing Pilot Plant, the cornerstone facility in which the New York State Food Venture Center carries out product and business development operations. The Food Venture Center serves 2500 companies per year, many of whom are startup food processing businesses. The more we can expand food processing in New York, the more markets will be available to New York farmers, and more jobs in New York will be the result. These critical investments allow the Ag Tech Park and the Experiment Station to continue attracting the brightest scientists from around the Nation and the world by providing a stimulating and innovative research environment for the development of new agriculture, food sciences, and biotechnology initiatives. This research is critical to ensuring that New York State continues to keep pace with new technological advancements and that New York’s producers remain profitable and competitive in the growing marketplace.Whether it’s the apple farmer in Wayne County who is selling new apple varieties developed at the Cornell Experiment station, the Seneca County winemaker who further refined their knowledge at the Finger Lakes Viticulture Center, or the stay at home mom in Cayuga County who started her own small scale food processing business with the help of the Food Venture Center, the growth of the Ag Tech Park and Cornell Experiment station is instrumental to the job growth and economic vitality of the entire Finger Lakes Region.

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