Sandy Lewis, center, has filed a complaint in court against the town of Essex over the assessed value of two of the six parcels that make up the Lewis Family Farm there.
RAY BROOK — Essex Farmer Sandy Lewis addressed a group of Adirondack Park Agency commissioners and Sen. Betty Little Oct. 24, and told the group the Adirondacks needs a centralized slaughterhouse for farms such as his to succeed.
At the same time, Lewis said the APA should not be involved in the permitting process to build and operate a slaughterhouse in the Adirondacks. That condition has stymied such an operation from opening, he said.
Currently, farms are allowed to slaughter farm animals for personal use, but are not permitted to sell the meat unless it is processed by a federally licensed slaughterhouse — and none exist inside the Blue Line.
Adirondack farmers also cannot process meat taken from neighboring farms without APA and federal approval, Lewis noted, making it even more difficult to operate in the black.
That means local farmers must absorb the cost of transport if they don’t have the ability to slaughter for their personal consumption, or if they want to sell processed meat commercially. Transporting to a federally licensed slaughterhouse is about a four-hour round trip for most, Lewis said.
“It is a constant financial struggle to accommodate animal transfer to and from the nearest slaughter house,” Lewis said.
Thurman Supervisor Evelyn Wood agreed, saying because of the cost of transporting animals to slaughterhouses, a lot of farmers in Thurman have downsized their farms and only sustain enough livestock to feed their own families.
“A lot of farmers would go bigger if we had a slaughterhouse close by,” Wood said.
Lewis said farmers in the area do not produce for those outside their households, because they simply cannot afford to.
“We’ve got good farm land, and its important to work with what we’ve got, I would like to see a centrally located processing center,” he said. “Farmers can’t make a living without one.”
Lewis said his family farm in Essex — which is the only USDA certified grass-fed farm in the nation — could potentially host its own slaughterhouse, but Lewis said he refuses to go through the APA permitting process required to run such an operation in the park.
He said there is no place for the APA in farming and said Adirondack farms would be better served if the USDA and local zoning regulations handled the permitting process.
“I am not going to apply to the APA for permission to put up a slaughterhouse, I never will,” Lewis said. “They will find a way to send the signal or Governor Cuomo will find a way or the Lewis Farm is not going to be involved in this process, and we cannot survive without a slaughterhouse.”
APA commissioner Art Lussi said the agency would welcome the permits for a slaughterhouse in the Adirondack Park, but Lewis remained steadfast in his contention that farmers should not be required to go before the group.
“What the APA said is because you would reach out to serve other people you need APA jurisdiction. I take issue with that, get that damn law changed,” Lewis said. “Jurisdiction is a serious problem with the farming industry, we do not need the APA's jurisdiction in putting up a slaughterhouse.”
Following the meeting, Little said she definitely sees the potential for increasing the number of livestock raised in the Adirondacks and supports meat being processed here.
“That was the point of presenting this to the APA — to get them to understand the need and the impact it would have with agriculture,” she said.