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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

State leaders seek feedback on farm bill during AgriTech visit

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Public investment in agricultural research supports farmers, food security, economic development and environmental sustainability, Cornell researchers said during a tour of New York Aug. 26 at Cornell’s Agricultural Technology Facilities in Geneva, New York.

Delgado visited the campus with New York State Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Paul and other state officials as part of a statewide hearing to seek input for the upcoming federal farm bill. Every five years, Congress authorizes a new farm bill that governs and provides funding for a range of agricultural and nutrition programs. Congress has already begun hearings on the next farm bill, which is due to be voted on in 2023.

Delgado toured several farms in the Finger Lakes before visiting AgriTech and Industrial hemp breeding program which he described as “a truly cutting-edge campus and program”.

Cornell leaders, including Benjamin Holton ,Ronald B. Lynch, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Jan Nyrob, director of the Goichman family at Cornell AgriTech, led the tour to show some of the progress that has been made through public research investment.

“I hope one of the key outcomes today will be to show that economic success and environmental sustainability in agriculture work together,” said Holton.

New York is one of the Top Five Cannabis Producing Countries in the nation. A multi-million dollar industry, Hemp is used in medicine, food, clothing, and as a building material. Three graduate students in the lab of Larry Smart, Professor in the College of Integrative Plant Sciences, Department of Horticulture, and Alejandro Calixto, director of Integrated Pest Management for New York State, described the work being done to control pests and diseases that attack cannabis plants, and the breeding work being done to develop new cannabis varieties suitable for the growing conditions of the Northeast.

Doctoral student Jacob Toth described the economic and environmental benefits of a new hemp variety developed at Cornell that has the potential to produce 20 tons per acre of biomass, which can be used for textiles and as alternatives to wood in paper production and construction work.

“We are particularly excited about the use of hemp in building materials, as the carbon dioxide that the plant removes from the air is trapped for as long as the building is standing,” Toth said. “Our new grain variety produces seeds that are good in oil and protein, and have great potential for high-value products such as cosmetics and vegetable meats.”

The researchers also showcased just a few of the hundreds of fruit and vegetable varieties, including grapes, berries and pumpkins, that were developed at Cornell.

After the tour, Paul and other state officials held a two-hour hearing, where members of the public were invited to share their observations and suggestions on the farm bill. Speakers, who included farmers and researchers at Cornell, called for improving tractor safety, paying farmers for ecosystem services such as growing cover crops and adding vegetation along riverbeds, reducing bureaucratic obstacles for farmers to obtain grants and other government programs, and increasing investment in research. agricultural.

Nyrob said investment in public sector research has been stagnant since the 1970s and that China is investing twice as much as the United States in research. Increasing research investment in fruits and vegetables is particularly critical: Fruits and vegetables account for 50 percent of agricultural sales and 80 percent of essential nutrients in human diets, but receive only 15 percent of overall research investment, Nyrob said. Nyrob called for a doubling of investment in agricultural research into the next farm bill, with a particular focus on supporting small farmers, small farmers and disadvantaged farmers, and on interdisciplinary research.

“We have the most successful diet in the world – we’ve never had so many people get this much food – but we also face a lot of challenges,” Nyrob said. “We need to ramp up our production of agriculture while tackling climate change, and these things won’t happen without public investment.”

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