The Southern Tier's fertile Food and Ag economy

This is the third in a series of posts to highlight the initiatives established by the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative (URI) plan submitted for consideration for a $500 million award from New York State. The plan in its entirety can be found here.

Governor Cuomo will announce winners of the URI competition Thursday, December 10, 2015. Our final post will highlight the fourth initiative of the Southern Tier's URI plan, the Southern Tier Innovation Culture. 

"It’s been said that farming is the “profession of hope,” and no other endeavor has had a more profound effect on the growth and development of nearly every city and village across New York State. Even today, after more than a century and a half of industrial dominance, countless acres of fertile and functioning farmland continues to populate the landscape." This line, from the introduction of the film "Harvest" produced by WSKG this fall is the perfect prelude to the Southern Tier's plan to transform the food and agriculture industry as part of the Upstate Revitalization Initiative competition. 

The Southern Tier is ripe for agricultural investment and the Transform the Food and Agriculture Initiative will fuel its growth beyond our expectations. This plan will implement a strategic mix of projects will position the Southern Tier as the leader in food production, processing, and distribution on the East Coast.

What makes this initiative so appetizing? The numbers are impressive. With a projected a leveraged investment of $525,000,000, this transformative initiative is expected to create 2,800 jobs, increase annual wages and agricultural output by 5% respectively, and result in an overall economic impact of $645,700,000.

It’s time to make what is already strong, even stronger. The Southern Tier is prepared to capitalize on its strengths to take its economy to a new level, and agriculture is no exception. While agriculture currently produces 5.2 billion dollars a year in output comprising 9.5% of the region’s economy, immense potential still exists. The Southern Tier’s eight counties continue to rank top in New York State for food production, with key sub industries ranging from wine-making to yogurt creating a unique niche in the state and regional economy.

In 2012, the region sold over $165 million in crops alone, utilizing more than 1 million acres of prime green space on more than 5,600 farms. While the dairy industry is thriving and producing $500 million annually in milk sales, the organic food as well as premium beverage (ex. winemakers, craft beers)  industry is growing at an incredibly rapid rate, with new outlets, breweries and distilleries continuing to open their doors each year.

The Southern Tier has all of the key components for a thriving agricultural sector. This includes academic research and development; close proximity to the largest consumer market – the northeast; sound transportation infrastructure; and a high quality of life. The Ag sector added more than 1,000 new jobs between 2009 and 2013 and the continued opportunities are endless. So what is the Southern Tier doing to build upon this success?  The new agriculture economy is all about technology - extending the growing season through controlled environment agriculture, such as greenhouses, high tunnels and hydroponics, and leveraging advances in plant science renewable energy as well.  

Signature projects include a USDA-Certified Slaughterhouse, a $20 million meat-processing packaging and cook chill hub facility, and the Binghamton Food and Beverage Business Incubator. There is also significant investment anticipated in areas of crop production through efforts like the Vineyard Reclamation and Replacement program. This initiative also includes the creation of a $30 million Southern Tier Agricultural Economic Development Fund, which will help expand existing farms and improve profitability through workforce development of the next generation of agricultural entrepreneurs.

This investment will provide critical value-added investment to expand the Southern Tier’s agricultural footprint and solidify the region’s distinction in the development of innovative, high-quality, and locally sourced products.

"The forces that produce success are manpower and brainpower" - Thomas J. Watson, Sr. 


posted by Nate Schwartz

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