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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has rolled out the New York State Grown & Certified program and revealed plans for a new $20 million food hub in the New York City borough of the Bronx to boost access to farm-fresh produce.
The program identifies and promotes New York producers who comply with the state’s food safety and environmental sustainability programs, and assures consumers that the food they’re buying is local and produced at a higher standard. Including a wholesale farmers’ market, a cold-storage facility for farmers, a food-processing center and other infrastructure to support local food businesses, the 120,000-square-foot Greenmarket Regional Food Hub will significantly expand distribution capacity, provide new markets for farmers, and create 95 permanent jobs and 150 construction jobs in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. According to published reports, the state government intends to put $15 million toward the cost of construction of the hub. A spokeswoman for Cuomo's office told PG that the facility was expected to be operational in 18 months.
“New York state agriculture is an essential pillar of our economy, bolstered by the modern market demands for safer and more sustainable food,” said Cuomo. “The New York Grown & Certified Program strengthens the link between producers and consumers and provides new opportunities for agricultural development. By connecting upstate farmers to new markets with a state-of-the-art food hub and promoting the consumption of healthy and environmentally conscious food, these initiatives will have extraordinary environmental, nutritional and economic benefits for all New Yorkers.”
More than 100 qualifying vegetable and fruit farms across New York state already have already expressed interest in taking part in such an effort, according to officials. The Department of Agriculture and Markets will work with producers to help them qualifying for the voluntary certification program. To ensure maximum environmental sustainability and food safety, participation in such existing certification programs as the state’s Agricultural Environmental Management program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Good Agricultural Practices program is required for producers to take part in New York State Grown & Certified.
Further, a new marketing campaign, including on-product labels and promotional materials, will generate awareness of the program and spotlight New York producers who meet New York State Grown & Certified standards. Consumer advertising and retail promotion are slated to start this fall.
After New York’s inaugural Farm to Table Upstate-Downstate Agriculture Summit in late 2014, Cuomo pledged to work with local partners to develop a wholesale farmers’ market downstate. Further, the New York State-New York City Regional Food Hubs Task Force, convened at the governor’s request, placed a high priority on a regional food hub as part of its final action plan.