Winner's Agritourism Legislation Signed Into Law

George Winner

September 07, 2006

Albany, N.Y.-- Legislation sponsored by State Senator George H. Winner, Jr. (R-C, Elmira) that promotes "agricultural tourism" as an increasingly popular practice vital to the future of the state’s agricultural industry, has been signed into law by Governor George Pataki.

Winner’s legislation was unanimously approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

"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."

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.

The new law sponsored by Winner will 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, will 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 will also 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 also noted that the 2006-07 state budget included $1 million, at the Senate’s insistence, for an "Agri-Tourism Projects" initiative, administered through the state Department of Agriculture and Markets (Ag and Markets), to encourage the development, implementation or expansion of agri-tourism projects statewide. Applications are currently being accepted for a round of funding that will provide up to $50,000 in matching grants for projects involving traditional agri-tourism activities, as well as new approaches in promoting New York food and agriculture. Individuals, public and private agencies and organizations, business and industry, educational institutions and local governments are eligible to submit proposals. Eligible projects should involve endeavors which promote New York food and agriculture by attracting visitors to New York State for economic, social, cultural, environmental and/or educational purposes. Examples of eligible projects may include but are not limited to direct marketing efforts, educational offerings, entertainment, lodging and dining.

Applications are available by calling 1-800-554-4501 oronline. The deadline for submitting an application is September 11, 2006.