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AG & LIGHT INDUSTRIAL Park, Village of Liberty

Liberty Ag Park back in spotlight

By Dan Hust
LIBERTY — February 29, 2008 — Remember the talk about the Liberty Agricultural and Light Industry Park?
Most residents can’t be blamed for forgetting, as the 10-year-old idea has yet to make it past the proposal phase.
But county officials and local farmers have not let their dream slip entirely away, and a team of people is now actively trying to move the process along.
Sullivan County Government, the Industrial Development Agency (IDA), Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Village of Liberty, and the Sullivan County Agricultural Local Development Corporation (LDC) are all working on the ag park, and there’s an expectation that a plan can be presented to the village planning board in 2-4 months.
The first phase will likely focus on a red meat processing facility where cattle farmers could take their livestock, rather than the 4-hour downstate trips now required.
Cornell’s Joe Walsh said that idea arose out of the creation of the Farmland Protection Plan a decade ago, and he and the county’s former agricultural point man, Rick Bishop, surveyed local farmers to determine the true need.
That survey has just been redone by the county, and the results are being tabulated, but Walsh expects the findings to be the same, if not showing greater need and demand.
“It’s probably one of the most important projects for the ag industry,” he remarked.
By this time next year, he hopes to see the red meat processing facility on one of the park’s five lots, located between Route 17 and Upper Ferndale Road in Liberty.
With convenient access to the village’s water and sewer services, the county’s Community and Economic Development commissioner, Susan Jaffe, and County Manager David Fanslau see vast potential in these 20 acres.
There’s a just-completed feasibility study by Gerry Skoda backing them up, and this former chicken processing plant along the old O&W right-of-way is now the focus of a federal Economic Development Agency grant that Congressman Maurice Hinchey has earmarked.
If the funds come through, half of the total infrastructure costs will be paid for by the nation’s taxpayers, while the other half will be shouldered by locals.
Seven years ago, that cost was pegged at $700,000, though those figures are now being updated.
Since the Village of Liberty could not front that large a funding need, the IDA was brought in to take the lead, as it has access to a far larger array of funding streams.
If the red meat facility is successful, the hope is to add a dairy processing plant, and perhaps other agribusiness enterprises that will save local farmers time and money – including those involved in agriculture in areas surrounding Sullivan County.
In other words, the plan now is to re-energize an effort that fell by the wayside when Bishop moved on from his county duties.
“This is a concept that has been deferred for some time,” acknowledged Fanslau. “This has to be a top priority for the county.”

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