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Aubertine touts executive budget proposals as a means to boost farms

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OGDENSBURG — State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine is touting Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s commitment to New York’s farmers.

In meetings with editorial boards and reporters across the state, including the north country, Mr. Aubertine said the governor’s $136.5 billion executive budget proposal for 2013 proves he is dedicated to supporting the agriculture industry in a way few previous governors have been.

Small farms “are viable again,” Mr. Aubertine said in a meeting Tuesday at the Ogdensburg Journal office.

In particular, Mr. Aubertine said, the new Taste NY program is a positive step toward bolstering connections between local farm producers and consumers.

“We’ve got 20 million mouths to feed just here in New York state,” Mr. Aubertine said, adding that the governor is advocating better ways of getting local food onto local tables.

The Taste NY program is a $2 million investment in the promotion of locally grown food and locally produced beer, wine and spirits and other goods made in New York.

The products would be sold across the state, sales-tax free.

Mr. Cuomo, in his Jan. 9 State of the State address, pledged to create duty-free stores all over the state to promote products grown and produced in New York. The stores will be established largely in train stations and airports.

Mr. Aubertine noted a shift in the public’s awareness of the benefits of local food as more people look to healthier diets.

Calling people who are focused on quality local foods “foodies,” Mr. Aubertine said it’s “not a fad; it’s here to stay.”

To support the trend, Mr. Aubertine highlighted $3.6 million in proposed state funding that will be used to create four food distribution hubs across the state.

He said the state has a great food supply and plenty of demand, and these distribution hubs will help unite the two.

One of the hubs, at an estimated cost of $350,000, will open in Canton.

The hubs also will give small farmers another avenue to sell their products besides local farmers markets and roadside stands.

Mr. Aubertine said the hubs will prove to be a source of economic stimulation and also will help empower small-scale farmers by bundling their products.

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