Sullivan County, along with the Town of Warwasing in Ulster County, is one of five special zones in the country designated as Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zones. The REAP Zone status allows the region to have priority access to federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); in 2012 and 2013, communities and organizations in the county received over $485,000 in federal investments.
On August 9, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Chris Gibson travelled to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County (CCE) to say they are pushing to pass a version of the federal farm bill that will maintain the county’s REAP Zone status.
Gillinbrand said the projects that can be funded by the USDA include rehabilitation of rural housing, developing local and regional food systems, supporting rural entrepreneurs and small businesses, infrastructure improvements to community facilities, water and other similar projects that are critical to the area’s overall economic development.
She said an example of a project that is taking advantage of REAP zone funding is a commercial community kitchen. She said, “Cornell Cooperative and the Liberty Community Development Corporation teamed up to create a commercial community kitchen that will become part of Sullivan County’s food hub and incubate new food industry- and agriculture-related economic activity.”
Gibson said, “My top legislative priority for the fall is getting a farm bill enacted into law. It is essential not only for our farmers, but also for our rural communities that we have policies in place, like the REAP designation, that support their future. I have put a focus here in Sullivan County, with an office and a staff that are dedicated to helping Sullivan County succeed. I am proud to join with Senator Gillibrand in this effort, and appreciate her continued commitment to getting this farm bill done for our New York communities,” said Congressman Gibson.
Among the approximately 100 people who turned out for the event were Sullivan County legislators Cora Edwards, Cindy Gieger, Gene Benson, Ira Steingart, Kitty Vetter and county legislature chairman Scott Samuelson, who said, “The Sullivan-Warwarsing REAP zone has been a great assistance to Sullivan County over the years for our economic development goals, especially in our rural and farming communities. We are grateful to Senator Gillibrand for her continued support of the REAP Zone and her commitment to extending those benefits.”
Greg Sandor, executive director of the CCE, said, “We applaud Senator Gillibrand for her willingness to get out into the community and work ‘hands on’ with farmers not only relating to production issues, but for her tremendous help with our marketing efforts”.