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Leaders call for farmland support

Saratoga County officials are urging state lawmakers to support efforts to preserve state farmland and open space, and to retain funding for programs designed to maintain it that would be eliminated under Gov. David Paterson's executive budget through a $50 million decrease in the Environmental Protection Fund appropriation.

The governor and State Legislature must take steps this year to protect New York's valuable farmland and strengthen the future for farms growing across New York, reads a resolution passed by the county Board of Supervisors at their Tuesday, Feb. 24, meeting in Ballston Spa, copies of which will be forwarded to the governor and state lawmakers.

Saratoga County has not only large tracts of farmland, but also the highest equine population in the state. That brings a notable economic benefit to the area and should warrant making open space protection a top priority, said David Cummings of the Saratoga County Farm Bureau, who addressed the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

He noted that the equine industry brings around $250 million into the county annually.

"Saratoga should garner every bit of that industry as possible," said Cummings.

Efforts to do so are already under way with the study of building a horse park in the area. Cummings praised the work of Markin Consulting, along with the local Cornell Cooperative Extension in moving this dream ahead.

Saratoga is also one of the few areas in the state where farmland acreage and the overall number of farms are on the rise, according to data from the recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture census. The faltering economy is a threat to such expansion, however, much of which has been done by small, niche operations.

"These are trying times for the economy as a whole, and farms in particular," said John Anderson, membership chair of the county bureau and a Moreau dairy farmer. He urged efforts to keep struggling farms going. "The great thing about farms and open space is that they're paid for by farmers and still create taxes."

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