When New York voted to ban foie gras in late October, the shock wave was felt two hours north of the city, in quiet Sullivan County. It is here in this rural area near Pennsylvania that Hudson Valley Foie Gras and La Belle Farm, the two largest producers of foie gras in the United States, are found.
The two establishments, founded respectively in 1990 and 2000, employ about 500 people in total. But since the fateful vote of the New York City Council, their future has darkened. "We are very worried, admits Sergio Saravia, president of La Belle. Foie gras represents one third of our sales. It's a big part of our turnover. New York city councilors say the ban will have little impact, but that's not the case".
Arriving from El Salvador in 1989 to flee the violence in his country, the 38-year-old entrepreneur was able to come to the United States thanks to his father, who was then working for Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Today he employs 100 people, "basically immigrants". "We use a large workforce to ensure that our ducks are well treated. Without foie gras, we will not be able to keep all our employees".
His worries do not stop there. Her farm also supports support initiatives for heroin addicts, who are wreaking havoc in Sullivan County, one of New York's poorest counties. "This situation affects my health. I do not understand how New York city councilors, who have not even come to visit us, can both defend immigrants and make a decision that will deprive them of jobs. It's hypocritical, He continues. We help these individuals and their families to integrate. They become veterinarians, nurses, soldiers".
Not far away, at Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Michael Ginor, a foie gras chef who wrote a book on the French dish and runs a restaurant on Long Island, took the lead. His farm, which employs 280 people in the United States, began a few years ago to diversify its activities and increase its presence in Canada, where it employs 50 people. "Every business must constantly look to the future", Says the president and co-founder of the establishment. For the moment, his manpower – "for most immigrant workers " or descendants of immigrants "who have been with us for three generations"- continue as if nothing had happened. "Many of our families think of month month. They do not panic. They trust us to anticipate future changes".
Judicial battle in sight
New York law provides for a three-year grace period before the ban, which deals with the sale and storage of foie gras, comes into effect. In California, the only US state that banned the sale of foie gras, the measure led to the closure of the only producing farm in the Golden State.
Michael Ginor and Sergio Saravia (who is also an immigration lawyer) are determined not to let this ban come into effect. In particular, they want Sullivan County to seek the intervention of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets in the name of a provision that protects state farmers from local laws that restrict their activities. "unreasonably ". They also plan to appeal to the state and the federal courts for recognition of the unconstitutionality of the measure.
"We were making $ 3 million a year in California "says Michael Ginor, who participated in the twitches court battle in that state. He estimates that New York generates the same turnover. "The situation in New York is frustrating and annoying. It pushes us to make unnecessary expenses. That's so much money that we can not use to run the business". Sergio Saravia is optimistic. "I feel we have a better chance of winning than in California. Here, farmers are more protected by the state. But we never know. Sometimes personal opinions blur judgments".
For their part, defenders of the ban do not fall asleep on their laurels. On October 31, the day after the vote of the municipal council, the association Voters for Animal Rights sued D'Artagnan, the company specialized in the sale of foie gras created by the French Ariane Daguin. She accuses him of resorting to marketing "misleading"To sell its products, made using"objectively inhumane practices of breeding and slaughtering ducks". Avocados suddenly love foie gras.