By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Agriculture may become its own subcommittee of the Legislature.
Last Tuesday, Sustainability Policy Committee Chair Cindy Gieger convened several of the county’s top government, economic development and agriculture officials to discuss a unified vision for local ag.
Their purpose, she said, should be “basically to work out how we can effectively grow agriculture in Sullivan County ... really becoming a think tank for agriculture.”
A co-founder of the Sullivan County Farm Network, Gieger explained that interest in ag initiatives is growing locally, from alpaca farms to fiber mills to hydroponics operations.
As a result, there is the potential for significant economic growth.
She included green energy efforts like solar farms, noting that a company is interested in siting one on her Jeffersonville dairy farm.
“If I leased to them, just 30 acres alone would bring me $900 a month,” she pointed out.
On Tuesday, participants tossed around ideas on how to organize the group, from just being an advisory committee to becoming a full voting committee of the Legislature.
Ultimately, talk seemed to center on a cross between the two a subcommittee which would be comprised of around nine people representing the farming community, county government, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Catskill Mountainkeeper, the Industrial Development Agency, Sullivan Renaissance, Farmhearts, the Farm Network and the Watershed Agricultural Council.
County Manager David Fanslau suggested consolidating into this subcommittee the various reports given by local ag interests to the Legislature in four other existing committees.
The desire to add another full-timer to the county’s ag/sustainability personnel was also mentioned, though funding would first have to be found.
And Gieger hoped the renewed focus on ag would also lead to renewed funding for the Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development (SASD), which saw the budget for its contract with the county for green energy research/education services cut by more than half this year.
Nothing was decided upon at this meeting, and attendees agreed to gather again to discuss more ideas and perhaps solidify the group’s structure.
That meeting will be open to the public and is set for Tuesday, April 10 at 12:30 p.m. at the Government Center in Monticello.