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The predominantly rural New York 23rd Congressional District, with its beautiful natural resources, rolling hills, family farms and vineyards, is the jewel of New York State. Its beauty and resources should be preserved.  Each county faces its own particular challenges.  But they share a common theme: the threat of pollution, fracking, and use as landfill or toxic dumps and incinerator plants for the garbage from downstate.  A healthy environment benefits all residents of the District; and a healthy environment will attract tourism, which will benefit our local economy. 

 

There are many ways in which we can strengthen the District’s rural economy. We should:

  • Promote fair farm prices for family farmers by eliminating farm subsidies for large corporate farms; and by, in turn, offer grants and low-cost long-term loans to farmers with incentives to develop energy independence that promote energy conservation and the use of biomass to generate energy,  especially in moderate-sized dairy farms.
  • Aide farmers in developing new products such as hemp.  And eliminate burdensome regulatory laws that hinder the development and transport of hemp.
  • Invest in bringing high-speed internet access to the district.
  • Re-evaluate the property tax system; and redirect tax revenue to a progressive tax based on income rather than a real estate tax for which farmers are particularly vulnerable.
  • Encourage models of cooperation with local universities and high schools to integrate education.
  • Develop and provide incentives for introducing farm-to-school lunch programs and encourage the development of local culinary not-for-profits.
  • Increase access among tribal schools to farm-fresh and traditional foods, especially from tribal producers: Native American communities face disproportionately high rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes.  Encouraging farm-to-school partnerships between tribal schools and tribal producers will increase consumption of nutritious traditional foods while also supporting Native farmers.

 

The Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE-Tompkins) is a great resource for the District that is enormously helpful, and has even greater potential. It is unique among local organizations in offering a continuum of education and resources that enable it to address the food system in a holistic way.  By working at a food-system level, it more effectively responds to cross-cutting needs such as food safety, food access, local agriculture and community infrastructure.  It offers resources for farmers and consumers that help strengthen local and regional food systems.

 

Tompkins County has a vibrant and thriving Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) network that provides a living wage to employees, a decent living for farmers, and fresh healthy food for residents.  And through its relationship with the CCE-Tompkins, the County also has a program called Healthy Food for All (HFFA) that addresses the needs of local low-income families by making fresh, quality produce accessible to them through CSA shares.  In existence since 2006 and now ending hunger for close to 200 families, HFFA is recognized as one of our regions leading community food security programs. Win-win symbiotic relationship such as the one between ours CSAs and HFFA can be promoted throughout the District.