(Hauppauge, NY- January 14, 2013) – Calling agriculture one of the most important economic engines of Suffolk County’s East End, County Executive Steve Bellone told a capacity audience of farmers that the County had preserved more farmland acreage in 2012 than in the previous three years combined, but argued more needs to be done to protect and preserve farmland, and promised an overhaul of the Farmland Protection Plan to reflect the realities of 21st century farming.
“Although Suffolk County leads our state in terms of total value of agricultural products, our agricultural sector is coming under increasing economic pressures,” County Executive Bellone said. “By prioritizing development rights acquisitions, overhauling our farmland protection plan and actively pursuing violators of this plan, we can continue this way of life for future generations.”
During the forum held on the eastern campus of Suffolk Community College, Bellone outlined the following accomplishments and priorities:
· Farmland preservation during his first year in office outpaced the previous three years in acreage preserved. Whereas the County preserved just shy of 450 acres between 2009 and 2011; in just one year in 2012, the County preserved 515 acres.
· In 2012, the County began prioritizing farmland development rights acquisitions to maximize the County’s financial resources for this purpose while preserving the County’s most valuable natural resources: agricultural soil and the sole-source aquifer.
· Suffolk is actively pursuing in the courts violators of the County’s farmland program.
Following his keynote address to the annual Long Island Agricultural Forum, Bellone toured Ringhoff Farm to see firsthand the extent of the environmental exposure caused by violations of farmland protections. Despite the fact that Suffolk County purchased the development rights to the farm for $1.69 million, the owners were illegally storing vehicles on the property.
“The development rights program is part of Suffolk County’s commitment to ensure continued agricultural use,” County Executive Bellone said. “As someone who believes in this program, I will not allow such a blatant abuse.”
During 2013, Suffolk County is partnering with the Peconic Land Trust to update the County’s Farmland and Agricultural Protection Plan to encourage sustainable economic development in the farming sector, access to affordable farmland, and continuation of farming on protected lands. Suffolk is the highest ranking county in New York State in terms of total market value of agricultural goods produced and boasts the oldest farmland protection program in the entire United States.
County Executive Bellone addresses participants at the Long Island Agricultural Forum
County Executive Bellone at the Ringhoff Farm where more than 600 cars were stored illegally