Danks Burke: Big Farms Are Getting Covid $, Not So Much Small Farmers

June 12, 2020

From Leslie Danks Burke:

As farms across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes continue to struggle amid the COVID-19 crisis, Leslie Danks Burke today stressed the importance of supporting local farmers across New York throughout this crisis and beyond. While the federal government is touting tens of billions of dollars in agriculture aid, family farms are being left behind in favor of big agri-business.

Since the restaurant industry and many meatpacking plants were shut down in response to the pandemic, the supply chain disruption and inadequate processor availability has forced many farms to dispose of large quantities of their products, including dumping milk and slaughtering animals on a massive scale. This has led to not only economic hardship for farms, but emotional suffering for those who run them. Meanwhile, some New York crop farmers have found flexible ways to survive and continue to provide food, through existing or new routes getting products directly to the consumer by CSA boxes and at farmers markets.

To support local farms and promote healthy eating, Danks Burke proposes that the State fund an Upstate program for the half of New Yorkers who do not live in New York City, that is similar to GrowNYC where SNAP recipients get matching funds for each dollar they spend on fresh produce at a farmers market. The program would benefit both local growers and consumers across the state.

“We’re seeing in real-time just how vulnerable corporate agriculture is, and why it makes more sense to support local farms than prop up the Big Ag that’s angling to put our New York farmers out of business anyway,” said Danks Burke. “When the supply chain abruptly ground to a halt, we found that corporate farms are too big to navigate this new world, resulting in tons of food lost, even while families face food shortages on an unprecedented scale. Local farms have shown they can be nimble in challenges. Moving forward, let’s focus on supporting and investing in local farms, which are more sustainable and benefit our farmers, families, and our community overall.”

Some of the policies Danks Burke has previously proposed to support local farmers include:
1. Immediately cut property taxes for New York’s small farms so they stay afloat through the crisis and don’t go bankrupt and need to start over from scratch.
2. Establish in-state preference for purchasing produce for state agencies including SUNY, corrections facilities, and local schools.
3. Establish now that schools and local governments will buy New York-produced milk products first.

Leslie Danks Burke is an attorney and a longtime advocate for education, healthcare, and rural economic development. She is the daughter of farmers and a mother who, together with her husband, is raising two children in this community. A Democrat, she previously ran for State Senate in the 58th in 2016, outraising incumbent Tom O’Mara by over $200,000 and receiving more voter support from outside her party than any other challenger to a sitting incumbent that year — on either side. Since 2016, Danks Burke has remained a powerful advocate for local community engagement and honest government.