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Cornell ag dean urges embracing all ag strategies enabling financial sustainability, rather than pitting conventional vs. organic agriculture.

October 1, 2014

2 Min Read

Apart we are weak; together we are mighty. That sums up recent comments about New York agriculture by Kathryn Boor, dean of Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. And they bear repeating.

"It's critically important that we celebrate (agriculture's) accomplishments and share them with our non-farming neighbors," notes Boor. "That's because less than 0.1% of New York's population is directly involved in production agriculture.

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"Agriculture is a significant driver of our state's prosperity. New York's 36,600 farms contribute more than $3.9 billion in farm gate receipts. When the state's food and beverage manufacturers' contributions are taken into account, including their benefits to related industries and households, total economic impacts to the state are nearly $46.0 billion per year.

Key numbers
• Agriculture supports nearly 164,000 New York. That includes more than 103,000 directly employed on farms and in food processing plants. 

• Ag industries effectively create new jobs in supporting industries. One new position on a dairy farm, for instance, generates an additional job elsewhere in the community. Each new job in dairy food or beverage manufacturing generates 5.6 additional jobs.

• New York is a national leader in the production of specialty crops, organic crops and high-quality dairy products. It's number one in yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese and number four in cheese production. It's now fourth in the nation in organics, with 827 organic farms and $105 million in sales. 

• The Empire State's wine industry has grown from nine wineries in 1976 to over 360 today. 

This is why, says Boor, "We in agriculture embrace the full range of agricultural strategies than enable financial sustainability for our producers rather than wrestling amongst ourselves about how we perceive conventional vs. organic agriculture."

The challenge ahead
As New York's land-grant college of agriculture and life science, Boor says CALS is committed to fulfilling our land-grant mission to foster that vitality.

"We educate the brightest young minds to become the next generation of leaders and innovators in food and beverage production. We conduct cutting-edge research that pushes forward the boundaries of ag science and technology. And we work hand-in-hand with partners in government, business, and the non-profit sector to develop real-world solutions."

She acknowledges that it's a challenge to continually keep pace with changing stakeholder needs, evolving resources, and the shifting research funding landscape. Combining CALS five plant and soil sciences departments into the new School for Integrative Plant Science is part of that plan.

Boor expects it'll help attract more students to the plant science undergraduate major; invest to achieve greatest possible impact for stakeholders and drive a new wave in plant and soil science innovation, education and outreach at Cornell.

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