October 3, 2011

Senator Schumer Pushes USDA Funding to Help the CIA

Senator Schumer at the CIA
Senator Schumer at the CIA

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer on Friday called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to tap the federal Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and the Beginning Farmer Development program to fund The Culinary Institute of America’s (CIA) Sustainable Farming Program. The CIA, working with local farms, food stores, restaurants and small-businesses, is creating a Sustainable Farming Program that will help local farmers grow products that are currently in demand at local stores and restaurants in a sustainable manner. The program seeks to connect local growers with new, local markets based on the needs of Hudson Valley stores and restaurants. With funding from the USDA, the CIA will be able to expand its reach and help more farmers get their products from their fields and into local markets.

Schumer called on Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to fund the CIA’s efforts, helping create new economic opportunities for farmers in Dutchess County and throughout the Hudson Valley. “Stores, markets, and restaurants throughout the Hudson Valley should be filled with locally grown products from right here in Dutchess County,” said Schumer. “With The Culinary Institute of America leading the way, and the USDA funding behind them, this partnership of local organizations and community farmers can serve as an economic boost to the region, all while providing delicious, high quality food.”

“The Culinary Institute of America believes that there is an inextricable link between chefs and farmers, and we support sustainable practices through education and research across our curriculum,” said Dr. Tim Ryan, president of The Culinary Institute of America. “We are very grateful for Senator Schumer’s recognition of these initiatives, and the opportunity to expand them with grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. With his help, we know the CIA will be able to work with farmers to grow sustainable agriculture in the Hudson Valley.”

“This bolsters Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation’s Food and Beverage Alliance initiative and growing this priority sector,” said Mike Oates, president of the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation. “We applaud Senator Schumer’s support and efforts and we are thrilled to partner with Dr. Tim Ryan and the world-class Culinary Institute of America. It is critically important that we work to support and expand this cluster in the Hudson Valley.”

Schumer was joined by CIA President Tim Ryan, Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation President Mike Oates, representatives from Crown Maple Syrup, Continental Organics, farmers and economic development officials from throughout the Hudson Valley as he announced his push to help The Culinary Institute of America tap U.S. Department of Agriculture funding to create a new Sustainable Farming Program. Through the
USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and the Beginning Farmer
Development program, the CIA would be able to specialize its Sustainable Farming Program to specifically help Hudson Valley farmers grow products that are currently in demand at local stores and restaurants in the Hudson Valley and help to introduce them to new products and new markets which will ultimately add to the growth of their bottom line. Through their Sustainable Farming Program, the CIA is committed to purchasing local, sustainable food, and also works to influence local businesses and chefs to do the same. The combination of these two programs can create new business opportunities and create new jobs across the Hudson Valley, all while increasing sustainable practices and helping local farmers become more profitable.

The SARE grant program would allow the CIA to focus on marketing and research of supply and demand of current crops and products in the Hudson Valley, as well as the need for new or specialty products. Using key network contacts and polling, the CIA and the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation (HVEDC) would work to identify new markets and needs for crops or food products, and then work with farmers and businesses to implement plans to locally grow and produce these needed products. The SARE program would also focus on sustainable farming and production in the Hudson Valley, which would not harm current yields but rather would identify niche products which can be produced alongside currently produced items.

The CIA’s Sustainable Farming Program would also research the supply and demand side to find crop and livestock diversity to parallel the necessary business and investment demands of dual yielding revenue streams to increase a business’s chance to be profitable and attract new investments for new products. The program works to develop the best marketing practices for farmers and businesses, so that their products can be exposed to new markets and outlets in the Hudson Valley. This would allow farms and businesses to find suitable products which can be grown or produced in combination with their current yields—in some instance, adding certain new crops or even animal grazing techniques will increase their current yields all while adding a new product to their business, at a minimum cost.

Schumer is also pushing for the USDA to select The Culinary Institute of America as a recipient of the Beginning Farmer Development program. If selected, the CIA will use this investment to provide more programs, courses and instructional series for farmers and business leaders in the Hudson Valley, in regards to sustainable farming, working with restaurants and marketing products for new uses. The Sustainable Farming Program would also teach the best ways to grow specialty or new crops without harming current cash crops. The HVEDC would help to identify the needs for educational development in various Hudson Valley food and farming sectors, and would help develop continuing education and professional development courses at the CIA.

Through the Beginning Farmer Development program investment, the CIA would also identify areas in which these programs could be folded into degree and certificate yielding courses, as well as current courses offered in four-year programs for students seeking a bachelor’s degree. Also, the CIA would look to develop mastery level courses, which would help current Hudson Valley businesses identify the educational needs of their leaders and workers and allow the CIA to bring in specialty and well-known educators to offer short, medium and long-term educational programs.

The Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation will use its regional network of food and beverage sector industries to identify the need for employee education and training, and help to develop the necessary courses to strengthen the knowledge and practices allowing Hudson Valley businesses to succeed and grow in a new and unique economy.

In a personal letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack, Schumer noted that the CIA’s Sustainable Farming Program is a perfect match to the Administration’s goal of strengthening local and regional food systems. The Culinary Institute of America is the premier culinary college in the nation, and it is uniquely suited to educate its students to carry the message of sustainability with them when they graduate and implement sustainable strategies throughout the country. Schumer also wrote that an investment in the CIA would help create new economic opportunities for farmers in Dutchess County and throughout the Hudson Valley.