I celebrate the diversity and heritage of our farm families and communities who carry out the extremely important industry of agriculture in New York State. From the Southern Tier, to the Greater Adirondacks, from the harbors of Long Island to the shores of Lake Erie, agriculture is one of New York State's top industries. In the most recent figures, agriculture returned over $3.6 billion to the New York State economy. Dairy, apples, and grapes are the primary agricultural commodities in New York. At the same time, our farmers also produce a wide variety of other crops, including sweet corn, cabbage, snap beans, and onions for both the processing and fresh market. The production, processing, distribution and marketing of agricultural products employ nearly 1 million New Yorkers. In addition, the rural landscapes, farmlands and vineyards provide a source of recreation and scenic beauty for the thousands of tourists and residents who visit New York's rural communities every year.
I will continue to fight hard to preserve critical Farm Bill programs that benefit New York agriculture and farmers. Over the past six years, I have been particularly instrumental in conveying to the USDA the needs of New York farmers for disaster relief and crop insurance. I have also fought hard to maintain programs in resource conservation, economic development, and specialty crops that are vital to the environmental and economic health of our family farms and rural communities.
I recognize the growing importance and demand for New York State agricultural products and I am continually working to promote the growth of the agricultural industry by creating innovative options for the distribution and marketing of New York State commodities. In the fall of 2003, I announced my Farm-to-Fork initiative, which I created in order to promote and conserve the amazing diversity of New York State's agriculture and to connect farmers and producers with distributors, retailers, consumers, farmers markets, restaurateurs, and schools in other parts of the state, particularly New York City. In March 2007, I introduced the School Food Fresh Act, which not only benefits local farmers by selling fruits and vegetables to area schools, but also guarantees that our school children are fed quality produce.
In addition, I support policies to diversify our energy supplies by investing in renewable energy technologies such as biofuels. That's why I have proposed the Strategic Energy Fund to jumpstart our transition to cleaner energy sources and to reduce America's oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions. There is an agricultural opportunity for the State of New York in my energy strategy and I hope to make our state a stronghold of renewable energy sources.