Tag Archive | "Kirsten Gillibrand"

Gillibrand, Bishop Call on USDA to Designate LI Sound and Peconic Bay as Critical Conservation Areas

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U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Congressman Tim Bishop urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week to designate the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay watershed as a critical conservation area.

Such a designation could lead to increased federal funding to help protect and improve the quality of drinking water and estuaries by assisting the agricultural community in adopting more water-friendly practices.

Lawmakers pushed for the designation through a newly created federal watershed program under the 2014 farm bill, which passed earlier this year. Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Bishop pointed out that steering critical funding toward Long Island would address water quality issues and enhance soil fertility, allowing Long Island farmers, who faced devastation from Superstorm Sandy, to access tools to help adapt to severe weather patterns.

“Safeguarding Long Island’s water quality is vital to preserve and protect economic vitality of the Sound and help Long Island farmers for generations,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Designating Long Island as a critical conservation area will provide the needed federal resources to improve the health of the Sound.”

“Protecting the quality of Long Island’s water is an urgent priority,” said Congressman Bishop. “I commend Long Island’s farm community for its leadership in adopting more environmentally-friendly farming methods to conserve water and ensure that it is suitable for drinking and basic needs. I am pleased to work with Senator Gillibrand in sending this message to the secretary of agriculture with the hope that USDA will designate the Long Island Sound watershed as a critical conservation area with federal funding to meet our water quality goals.”

“I commend Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Bishop for their efforts to seek more investment to protect the most important resource Suffolk County has:  our water,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.  “Our federal representatives know that water quality is worth the fight.  It affects our quality of life, our economy, our land values, our tourism industry and our recreational use of Suffolk County’s waterways. I join our federal representatives in their efforts and will continue to make water quality the top priority of my administration.”

The new partnership program, known as the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, promotes coordination between Natural Resources and Conservation and its partners to provide federal assistance to farmers and landowners. Regions must apply in order to be eligible for the program and be eligible for federal funding.

Lawmakers in a press release said that water quality issues in Long Island Sound and the Peconic Bay watershed are of state and national significance. Examples of the kind of agricultural conservation practices that would address water quality issues include the purchase of agricultural conservation easements, nutrient management, cover crops, conservation tillage, alternative pest management methods and bio-controls, the use of controlled-released fertilizers, well water testing, riparian buffers and filter strips. This initiative would also incorporate soil health practices that are a national priority for NRCS and are valuable to Long Island farmers. Conservation practices to enhance soil fertility would also aid in adaptation to severe weather patterns, which are an increasing threat as evidenced by Superstorm Sandy last year.

Federal Board Approves Bid To Make Lighthouse National Landmark

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By Claire Walla

What do the Montauk Point Lighthouse and the Old Whalers’ Church have in common? That’s for the U.S. Secretary of Interior to decide.

This week, the National Park System Advisory Board Landmarks Committee decided unanimously to grant the historic lighthouse, built in 1796, national landmark status, allowing it to join the likes of The Old Whalers’ Church and six other historic landmarks on the East End of Long Island. While the designation is pretty much a done deal, it won’t be considered official until U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signs off on it.  (The paperwork is expected to take several months.)

“We’re already on the list of historic places,” explained Eleanor Ehrhardt, a member of the Montauk Lighthouse Committee. “But a national landmark is far more prestigious.”

In a letter written to Ronald James, Chair of the NPS Advisory Board Landmarks Committee, New York State Senator Kirsten Gillibrand urged James to issue the lighthouse national landmark status. “The Montauk Point Lighthouse has a rich history and continues to serve as a vital navigation feature to this day,” she wrote. She added that landmark status would have the potential to enhance tourism and economic activity in the area.

The Montauk Lighthouse Committee first asked the National Park System Advisory Board Landmarks Committee to consider granting the lighthouse landmark status about six years ago. And when they received word that it was something the park service would consider, the committee got to work to make a case—they had to prove that the Montauk Lighthouse was significant to the development of the United States.

“The lighthouse was the most important lighthouse for the nation’s foreign trade for the first eight decades of the U.S. lighthouse service,“ Ehrhardt continued. The group’s final 35-page document—submitted to the National Park Service’s executive committee for review this week—focuses on the period of U.S. history from 1797 to 1870. “If [ships] hadn’t been able to sail around the point, New York City wouldn’t have been built up to what it is today.”

With major help from East Hampton Historian Bob Hefner, Ehrhardt said the committee scoured museums throughout the east coast and Washington D.C. to gather basic information comparing the Montauk Lighthouse to others along the east coast, and collected historic records detailing the precise amount of tonnage transported to New York City by foreign vessels during that time.

In addition to its significance, Ehrhardt said the landmarks board will also consider the current state of the building. “The big word with them is integrity,” Ehrhardt continued; and on that point she feels the lighthouse is a worthy contender. “We didn’t paint it purple, or knock down any staircases,” she said with a laugh. “The tower is still in good shape.”


Farmers and Foodies Talk with Senator

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A group of farmers and foodies gathered in a barn at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett on Sunday and listened as New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand talked about the importance of small farms that supply Long Islanders with fresh food. The senator believes agriculture could be key in rebuilding the economy while also addressing issues like nutrition, obesity and keeping the nation’s food supply safe from contamination. So significant is agriculture and food production, she said, that the Senator believes it should be considered a national security issue.

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The event – organized by Edible Manhattan publisher and Edible East End editor Brian Halweil, Quail Hill Director and Farmer Scott Chaskey, Bonnie and Steve Munshin and Leigh Merinoff – was part of an effort by Senator Gillibrand to conduct “listening sessions” throughout the state with local farmers.

The senator’s tour comes as Congress prepares to debate the next Farm Bill renewal in 2012.

Gillibrand is the first New York Senator to sit on the Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years. New York boasts over 35,000 farms on over 7.1 million acres, a fourth of the state’s land. The industry generates about $4.5 billion for New York’s economy.

In an interview following the event, Senator Gillibrand talked about why she believes Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which takes place at Quail Hill and at neighboring farms like Balsam Farm in Amagansett and Sunset Beach Farm in North Haven, are an economic benefit for both the farmers and the communities they serve.

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Senator Gillibrand announced a bill this June within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that seeks to promote CSA, which are designed so members can pay for a weekly share of the farm’s produce, either picking up a box with their yield for the week, or actually harvesting vegetables from the ground, as is done at Quail Hill.

There are more than 12,000 CSA farms operating throughout the country, with 350 in New York State. Senator Gillibrand’s Community Supported Agriculture Promotion Act’s competitive grant program would award federal funds to non-profit organizations, extension services and local and state governments to provide support for growers. That would range from marketing and business assistance to crop development and the development of innovative delivery and distribution programs to encourage growth and save costs.

Preference will be given to projects working with family farms, farms operated by or employing veterans — a particular passion of the junior senator — and those that reach out into “food deserts,” which are low income communities without access to fresh foods.

A resident of upstate New York, near Albany, Senator Gillibrand said that while her grandmother was certainly a grower, raising corn, zucchini, raspberries and other crops, her passion for CSA came after she learned more about agricultural issues. She learned first hand the influence farming has on local economies, providing employment as the country continues to struggle with joblessness. She also sees agriculture as an educational tool to combat health care issues like childhood obesity.

Supporting stateside agriculture is not only crucial to the economy, the senator said, adding that it is also a national security issue, pointing to the tainted milk scandal in China in 2010, among others. The senator said one of her focuses on the agricultural committee is drafting and supporting legislation that will allow the industry to grow, and create more jobs, as well as healthy food for the dinner table.

“We don’t want to lose New York as a food producer,” said Senator Gillibrand, adding that supporting small farms and the ability for them to branch out and sell specialty food items, which is an economic driver in the agriculture industry, is critical. She would like to see a stronger Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program to help farmers branch out into the production of jams or cheese for market sale.

She noted New York can proudly call itself “the center of Greek yogurt in the country.” Chobani, a Greek yogurt crafted in Central, New York, has become a nationwide staple for many, as Greek yogurt gained in popularity over the last five years.

Senator Gillibrand said she would like to work on behalf of Long Island farmers and those in the Hudson River Valley to seek some of the $1 billion in economic aid up for grabs in a regional competition created by Governor Andrew Cuomo to promote job growth throughout the state.

“I have talked to as many farmers as will listen to me,” said Senator Gillibrand. “They are great stewards of our state.”

Senator Gillibrand said the small, family farms are not only economic drivers in New York, but also bring in tourism dollars, drawing visitors interested in wine or cheese trails as a new kind of culinary vacation.

“That is very valuable on Long Island,” she said. “And very valuable in the Finger Lakes.”

Agriculture also has the ability to teach our children where their food comes from, added Senator Gillibrand, an increasingly more critical kind of education as childhood obesity rates continue to skyrocket.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 17 percent — or 12.5 million — children ages two to 19 are obese. In New York State, 10 to 15 percent of children are obese.

“Our children just don’t understand where their food comes from,” she said.

A member of the Armed Services Committee in the House of Representatives, Senator Gillibrand also sees the ability to create jobs in agriculture for veterans, who like many are facing high unemployment rates among their ranks. Working in agriculture would provide an opportunity to learn about nutrition, but also about small business, she said. Senator Gillibrand also added the act of farming can aid post -traumatic stress disorder.

Senator Gillibrand also enjoyed the sweeter side of agriculture on Sunday, tucking into two servings of local berry cobbler while talking to Chatsky, other farmers, chefs and writers.

“I like raspberry,” she said.