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US (NY): New legislation in support of NYC urban agriculture

Supporters of new legislation to create a comprehensive plan for urban agriculture in NYC packed a public hearing at City Hall. The turnout to endorse Intro No. 1661, introduced by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Council Member Rafael Espinal Jr., is a testament to the significance of Urban Agriculture in the lives of the city’s workers, residents and business owners.

The global urban farming industry has an estimated valuation of $5.8 billion in the next five years, and NYC boasts the largest existing Urban Agriculture system in the country. NYC urban farmers expressed that the city’s lack of cohesive regulation and oversight has stifled the local marketplace, while other cities like Atlanta and Boston have gained a competitive edge. The legislation aims to address this concern by developing NYC’s first Urban Agriculture plan, which includes a feasibility assessment for creating an office of Urban Agriculture.

“Today's hearing was a success”, said Council Member Rafael Espinal. “Urban Agriculture has endless potential to grow local, fresh food, increase access to healthy produce for low-income New Yorkers, create jobs, and support our environment. With more frequent floods and droughts ravaging our planet, including the recent devastating hurricanes we have seen first-hand, we must do everything we can to reduce climate change. Urban farming uses the technology of our day to reduce our carbon footprint, use less water than traditional farm systems and cultivate nutrient-rich food. NYC must come into the 21st century and create a plan to harness the great potential of this industry.”

Among the 46 individuals who offered testimony in support of the bill were private sector CEOs, university professors, chefs, nonprofit leaders, environmental advocates, tech entrepreneurs, farmers, job seekers and local food supporters. The lone opposition came from the Department of City Planning, which would be charged with developing the plan if the legislation passes.

“Urban Agriculture has many applications and potential impacts. Thus, it can be easily labeled as ‘complicated’ by the DCP and other city agencies,” said Henry Gordon-Smith, founder of Agritecture Consulting and member of the NYC Agriculture Collective. “However, this is not a reason to oppose the development of a plan. In fact, this is the exact reason why I support Intro No. 1661, to develop a clear plan to foster urban agriculture in all its variation, sustainably in NYC.”

Numerous members of the NYC Agriculture Collective were in attendance to speak as proponents for the bill. Members discussed the wide-ranging benefits to NYC of nurturing the Urban Agriculture marketplace, including job creation, economic development, food security, community involvement and environmental impact.

Liz Vaknin, founder of Our Name Is Farm, and also a member of the NYC Agricultural Collective added, “It’s a shame that no one is looking at this as a means to growing the City from numerous socio-economical perspectives. Yes, access to local food is the top priority, but if that’s not good enough, the DCP should be motivated by the influx of capital, the infrastructural growth, the added jobs, the growing agri-tourism, etc. that developments in Urban Agriculture will undoubtedly bring to this City”.

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