|Formed||April 29, 1926|
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets is the department of the New York state government that enforces laws relating to agriculture, weights and measures, and the production, processing, transportation, storage, marketing and distributing of food. Its regulations are compiled in title 1 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations.
Agriculture is a major component of the New York economy. As of the 2012 census of agriculture, there were over 35,000 farms covering an area of 7 million acres (28,000 km2) which contributed $5.4 billion in gross sales value and $1.2 billion in net farm income to the national economy. The Finger Lakes region is the center of state agriculture, and the state is a top-ten national producer of cow milk, apples, grapes, onions, sweet corn, tomatoes, and maple syrup.
The New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee is an independent agency within the department that supports natural resources management through the support of soil and water conservation districts, which represent each of the 57 counties of New York and New York City (for the 5 counties thereof). The state committee administers the Agricultural Nonpoint Source Pollution (NPS) Abatement and Control Grant Program, the Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Base Program, the annual district reimbursement, and provides review and oversight for AEM Planner certification. The US Natural Resources Conservation Service continues to set standards for water conservation best management practices (BMP) and administers farm bill conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).
The department's progenitor was the 1884 New York State Dairy Commission that inspected dairy production and sales facilities, which was abolished in 1893 and its functions transferred to the Department of Agriculture that inspected farms, set agricultural quality standards, and operated agricultural experiment stations. A separate Department of Foods and Markets was established in 1914 to set standards for grading and selling food, supervise markets, and publish information on dairy prices and marketing methods. In 1917, these two departments and the 1851 Office of State Superintendent of Weights and Measures were consolidated into the Department of Farms and Markets, headed by the Council of Farms and Markets.
The current Department of Agriculture and Markets was established as part of the 1926 reorganization of government under Governor Al Smith and was transferred the functions of the Department of Foods and Markets as well as the State Fair Commission. In 1935 the Council of Farms and Markets was abolished and the power to appoint the commissioner transferred to the governor. In February 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent to the states the Standard State Soil Conservation Districts Law, a model law, and on April 23, 1940 the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee was established and the soil and water conservation districts authorized when the Soil Conservation District Law was enacted, and in April 1964 water was added to the jurisdiction and in 1981 the state committee was transferred to the Department of Agriculture and Markets.