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State Sen. Cathy Young to lead Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture in Geneva

New York State Senator Cathy Young will be Leaving her post to become director of the new Cornell AgriTech Center of Excellence in Geneva

Article Reposted from the Finger Lakes Times

GENEVA — A veteran Republican state senator is set to lead the new center of excellence designed to grow the state’s food, beverage and agricultural industry.

Cornell University announced Thursday that Cathy Young, 58, has been named director of the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva.

Young, R-57 of Olean, begins her new job March 11.

“It was a very challenging decision to leave my service in the New York State Senate because I care so deeply about the people and issues facing my district,” said Young, who grew up in Livingston County. “However, this new role will provide me with more direct opportunities to make progress in one of the industries that is closest to my heart.”

The Center of Excellence launched in September 2018 with $1 million in funding in the 2018-19 budget.

Cornell officials said the center’s mission is to “grow New York’s food, beverage and agriculture economy by serving as a hub for New York businesses to connect with the expertise and resources they need to innovate, grow and thrive.”

It’s already paying dividends. According to a release put out by the Cornel; Media Relations Office, the Center for Excellence team “has engaged with more than 50 companies, providing mentorship and guidance to help food and agriculture startups raise more than $12.3 million in 2018.”

Jan Nyrop, director of Cornell AgriTech and an associate dean at Cornell, said Young is an excellent choice.

“Agriculture and food manufacturing are two of upstate New York’s largest job creators, and Catharine Young has significant experience integrating farm business with food processors and championing initiatives that support the food and farming sector to push our region’s economy forward,” Nyrop said. “We are very fortunate to have someone of Sen. Young’s caliber to step into this role with a strong vision, statewide network and proven track record of growing businesses.”

State Sen. Pam Helming, R-54 of Canandaigua, a colleague of Young, agreed with Nyrop.

“As the former chairwoman of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, I worked aggressively to secure the Center of Excellence designation in last year’s state budget and bring it to the Finger Lakes,” she said in a statement to the Finger Lakes Times on Thursday afternoon. “The center is a game-changer for our entire region, farmers and local agribusinesses. Sen. Young is a great fit to lead the center and will put her experience to work to promote New York agriculture. She has the background and personal experience to move the center forward and ensure that it becomes a tremendous global resource and epicenter of innovation. As state senator, I look forward to working closely with Senator Young on behalf of our region.”

Young served in the state Assembly for six years before moving over to the state Senate, where she has served for 13 more.

Her districts have included most of the western Southern Tier and parts of the western Finger Lakes region. She become the first woman to chair the influential Senate Finance Committee when under Republican control.

She also served as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee and founded the Legislative Wine and Grape Caucus.

Additionally, Young sponsored legislation to create the New York State Council on Food Policy, of which she was also a member, and chaired the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources. Cornell officials said she helped several ag-related businesses expand while in office.

Young said her background should serve her well.

“I grew up on a dairy farm and know firsthand some of the challenges that those in the food and agriculture industry face and the opportunities that innovation, technology and business partnerships can bring to the industry,” she said. “I am thrilled to continue making a difference in this new and enhanced statewide capacity.”

Young said she has worked with Cornell on a number of projects while serving as a state legislator.

Tom Schryver, executive director of Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement, said that with Young at the helm, “I am confident that we will see more food and ag companies, more jobs and more leading-edge, ag-tech innovation in our state.”

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