Agritourism Viewed As Sound Farming Practice Under Senate Legislation

George Winner

May 15, 2006

Albany, N.Y.-- The New York State Senatehas unanimously approved legislation sponsored by State Senator George H. Winner, Jr. (R-C, Elmira) that promotes "agricultural tourism," commonly known as agritourism, as an increasingly popular practice vital to the future of the state’s agricultural industry.

The legislation was approved by a vote of 57 to 0.

"We’re wise to encourage agritourism development in New York State. Farming and tourism remain economic and cultural mainstays of rural, upstate New York communities, but we have to keep monitoring the strength of these leading industries," said Winner, chairman of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources. "Many farmers are attracting tourists with farm tours, educational facilities, roadside markets, farm-stay vacations and other on-the-farm attractions. Diversifying farm operations with a tourism component has proven profitable for many farmers in New York and other states. It helps them keep their land in farming and heightens the public’s awareness of agriculture’s importance to New York State."

Earlier this year the state of Pennsylvania conducted an assessment of agritourism, including a wide-ranging survey of those currently involved in the growing industry. Approximately 90 percent of those surveyed said that agritourism was an economic growth opportunity for Pennsylvania’s rural regions.

Winner’s legislation proposes to include a definition of agricultural tourism in New York’s right to farm laws, as well as in the state’s list of sound agricultural practices. Doing so, according to Winner, would help promote agritourism as a commonly accepted farming practice in New York and protect farmers from nuisance suits and other potential land use conflicts that sometimes arise with neighboring property owners who may be unfamiliar with agricultural operations. He added that the legislation would help improve the effectiveness of local right-to-farm ordinances being adopted by a growing number of municipalities seeking to preserve a hospitable operating environment for their farmers.

Winner highlighted several other benefits of agritourism, including:

-- increased farm profitability;

-- preservation of agricultural land and open space; and

-- educating the public about the importance of agriculture and its contribution to local economies and quality of life.

Agricultural tourism opportunities throughout New York State include on-farm wine and other farm-related tours, educational facilities, barn dances, corn mazes, outdoor recreation such as cross country skiing and horse riding, hay rides, gift shops, and farm-stay vacations with opportunities for families to spend time living and working on an operating farm.

Winner’s legislation (S.6767), which has bipartisan support in the Legislature, is sponsored by Assemblyman David Koon (D-I, Fairport), vice chairman of the Rural Resources Commission. It has been reported to the Ways and Means Committee in the Assembly.