HUNTS POINT — Gov. Andrew Cuomo came to the South Bronx on Thursday to launch a new food safety program for the state that includes the construction of a new $20 million food hub in The Bronx.
The initiative is known as the New York State Grown & Certified program and is meant to identify and promote farmers in New York who meet the state's standards for food safety and environmental sustainability.
Foods that meet these standards will be marked with a "New York State Grown & Certified" label, and Cuomo stressed that this would be much more meaningful than labels such as natural and organic, which he derided as marketing terms with no legal definitions.
"You go into a store now, everything has marketing on it that suggests that it is natural or that it is healthy," he said. "Cage-Free Eggs. Chickens That Roam the Landscape Eggs. Chickens That Have Never Seen a Cage, Happy Chicken Eggs."
As part of the program, the state will also invest $15 million in a new $20 million Greenmarket Regional Food Hub in Hunts Point that will include a farmers' market and a food-processing center.
The facility, which should be built within the year, will be 120,000 square feet, create 150 construction jobs and 95 permanent jobs, and support farms that abide by the New York State Grown & Certified standards by promoting their products to restaurants and other buyers.
"This food hub will open new pathways to profitable wholesale markets for New York farmers and food businesses, and it will create a one stop shop for regional[ly] produced foods, which are increasingly in demand," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
Participating in the New York State Grown & Certified program is voluntary for farms, but more than 100 have already expressed interest, according to Cuomo's office.
Cuomo said it would be a worthy program to take part in based on how heavily the state would advertise and promote foods with the "New York State Grown & Certified" label, including encouraging the city's Department of Education to start purchasing food from participating farms.
"People will care about what they're eating," he said, "and if they know that this product was grown or raised under the strictest standards, that’s going to make a difference."
Cuomo and Diaz heaped praise on each other throughout the event, with Diaz describing Cuomo as a huge help on issues ranging from job creation to housing and Cuomo saying he was "a big fan" of the borough president.
However, despite the close relationship between the two and speculation that Diaz could run for mayor in 2017, Cuomo declined to say whether he would support him in a campaign against Bill de Blasio.
"That's next year," he said. "We have plenty of time."