If Not Now, When? New York is about to Miss a Real Opportunity to Help Struggling Farmers

By ANDREW M. ROSNER and ALLAN GANDELMAN

With a renewed public interest in local businesses rather than courting out-of-state companies, New York has a real opportunity to build a thriving local hemp and cannabis industry. In passing the now besieged Cannabis Law, Albany can provide a much-needed boost to struggling farmers around the state who relied on early enthusiasm for the law.

The Federal government opened the door by passing the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 that provided minimum standards that the government felt appropriate for hemp products. This allowed states to create regulations and laws for growing and processing hemp. Governor Andrew Cuomo saw the potential for a new industry in New York that could serve multiple ends–agricultural, social justice and economic.

Governor Cuomo started soliciting farmers in 2015 to join the New York State Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. Farmers rose to the occasion to accomplish his vision of “creating new jobs and laying the foundation for future economic growth” (Cuomo Press Release). The Cannabis Law presented in the Governor’s 2019 budget created an even greater set of opportunities by developing an entirely new industry that could benefit farmers and many other people.

To give a sense of scale, New York has over 35,500 farm operations with over 7,200,000 acres operated (over 35 time larger than NYC) producing over $5 billion in revenue (USDA). Besides dollars, farmers produce immeasurable value in the products that act as a basis to a whole host of other industries. However, the scale of farming in New York State hides the challenges faced by farmers in running their businesses–climate change, tight margins, reliance on loans and overseas competition creates an enormous amount of risk with catastrophic consequences lurking around every corner.

If Albany truly understood the benefits for New York State, then we would see representatives coming together to support the Cannabis Law. Albany does all of us an injustice by withholding an opportunity to put another crop in rotation with added benefits to the soil and stability of our farms. Governor Cuomo recognized an opportunity for “innovative ideas that could provide a major boost to our farms and communities.”

We hope that in these final days, representatives will stop holding hostage a law that can boost upstate and downstate communities while achieving desired social justice and economic goals.

 

ANDREW M. ROSNER and ALLAN GANDELMAN are founders of the New York State Cannabis Growers And Processors Association and hold licenses to grow and process hemp in the New York State Industrial Research Hemp Pilot Program.

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