New from Capital District Data – Economic Impact of Regional Agriculture; Winter Storms Relieve Drought

The Spring 2017 issue of Capital District Data is now available from the Capital District Regional Planning Commission. This issue tackles topics related to the Regional economic impact of agriculture, and updates readers on drought conditions.

Agriculture and its regional economic impact

Working with Capital Roots’ Greater Capital Region Food System Assessment program, CDRPC has reviewed the agriculture economy of the 11-County Region. The 11-county region includes Albany, Columbia, Greene, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren, and Washington. The Food Assessment program will address issues of food insecurity by connecting residents with locally produced food. The Assessment is attempting to identify areas of need and opportunities for growth for the Greater Capital Region’s farms.

Establishing a foundation for the Assessment, Capital Roots and CDRPC have examined the Region’s agricultural output. Overall, the Greater Capital Region contains 4,878 farms, comprising 849,781 acres. Washington and Montgomery counties are the centers of the Region’s agriculture, combining for 37.7% of the Region’s total farmland. On the whole, the Greater Capital Region was responsible for $546.8 million in sales. The Greater Capital Region’s # 1 commodity was milk, generating $249.2 million in sales. Most of the agriculture activity occurred in Central and Western New York. Of the State’s 62 counties, none of the 11 in the Region ranked in the Top 10 for sales. Three, however, ranked 50th or lower.

Snowstorms relieve drought conditions

The second article in this issue of Capital District Data provides an update on the Region’s drought conditions. The mild winter of 2015-16 left the Capital Region (Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady) in a precipitation deficit. A dry Spring and Summer of 2016 further exacerbated the situation, and the Capital Region found itself in its worst drought in a decade. Conditions were so poor that there were concerns that water conservation efforts may be required in 2017.

Photo by Skip Dickstein., Times Union and used with permission.

Conditions across the Region have improved significantly since November. The blizzard that hit the area in March brought the Region’s seasonal snow accumulation up to average and reversed drought conditions. In March, only 10.6% of the Region was classified as “abnormally dry”, and only 0.1% was classified as being in “moderate drought”- the lowest tally since April 2016. The Region is still facing a long-term precipitation deficit of over 2 inches, and groundwater is still below its historical median, but overall the situation is much improved from late 2016. If conditions continue to improve, there will likely not be any need for water conservation measures. Groundwater would be the only area remaining of concern. A dry summer could pose a heavy burden on groundwater for irrigating crops, and that could cause already low water levels to drop even more.

Readers will find all of this, and more, in the newest issue of Capital District Data, available now at