Editorial: Suffolk ag plan is good to see; now, time to execute

12/28/2015 4:00 PM |

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It’s not uncommon for editorials on these pages to refer to Suffolk County using the East End as a cash cow, and while we don’t delve into state politics too much, the same can often be said about Long Island’s relationship with Albany.

So it’s nice to see proceeds from the hotel/motel tax and sales tax generated at Tanger Outlets go toward something that will benefit the East End for years to come: an update of the county’s Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan.

Southold and Riverhead each have chapters in their own Comprehensive Plans dedicated to agriculture, but synchronizing the industry as a whole from East Marion to East Northport will benefit citizens far beyond the last exit on the Long Island Expressway — while also retaining a key part of the East End. The county has recognized this since 1974, when it created the nation’s first farmland preservation program, through which it purchases the development rights to farmland in order to keep it ripe for agriculture.

And despite our occasional gripes, Suffolk County has done a fine job sustaining the industry since its last agricultural plan was adopted in 1996, conserving about 20,000 acres of farmland even as its population had continued to grow.

But a lot of work remains to be done and, to be sure, there are no easy solutions to complex issues that involve far more than growing crops.

The study outlines 25 challenges today’s agriculture industry faces and offers possible strategies to address those problems as well as vague timelines for implementing those measures. It’s also very encouraging to see aquaculture acknowledged this time around as part of Suffolk’s agricultural reality.

One of the biggest takeaways from the study, though, should be that the average farmer is getting older by the day; much action is needed — and soon — to slow and eventually reverse that trend. Government at all levels needs to act before it’s too late.

Kudos to the county for laying a strong foundation for the future. Now, however, it’s time to turn that study into action. The courses of action need to be prioritized and executed.

PHOTO CAPTION: A 1979 White tractor at A new farm stand this year run by Brian Densieski of Riverhead and Susan Hodun of Calverton selling Christmas trees, wreaths and more. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

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