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April 26, 2017 - 2:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, dairy, NY-27, business.

Press release:

Representative Chris Collins (NY-27) today led a bipartisan letter sent to President Trump applauding the president’s acknowledgements of Canada’s protectionist trade policies related to dairy products and advocating for swift action to ensure Canada upholds its trade agreements.

“President Trump campaigned on putting America first, and protecting American jobs,” Collins said. “Today’s letter highlights how vital the U.S. dairy industry is to Western New York and dairy producing regions across the country. The U.S. dairy industry supports billions of dollars in exports and hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs.

"Unfortunately, due to unfair competitive practices by Canada, we must take action to ensure our dairy products will be able to compete on a level playing field. I am glad President Trump has recognized how important this issue is to hundreds of thousands of hardworking Americans, and I will continue working with my colleagues to protect the U.S. dairy industry.”

The letter which 68 lawmakers signed on to was also co-led by Representatives Elise Stefanik (NY-21), Ron Kind (WI-03), Sean Duffy (WI-07), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), and Peter Welch (VT-AL).

The letter details Canadian trade practices that “may violate Canada’s existing trade commitments to the United States by effectively discouraging U.S. dairy exports to Canada.” It also reinforces that “our districts and states rely on the jobs the dairy industry provides and cannot afford further protectionist policies from our northern neighbor.”

Full text of the letter along with signatories can be seen here and full text can be read below.

April 25, 2017 - 9:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Torrey Farms, agriculture, elba, business, news.

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Maureen Torrey, co-owner of Torrey Farms in Elba, was at the White House today along with other representatives of the country's farmers, for the signing by President Donald J. Trump of an executive order aimed at boosting agriculture and rural communities (Full text of the order).

Torrey said the farmers also met with the president and his staff and there was a productive, positive discussion about labor, infrastructure, research, trade, NAFTA, Canada and Western NY dairy.

Torrey is pictured on the far left, back row.

UPDATE: Here's a related press release from the NYS Farm Bureau:

New York dairy and vegetable farmer, Maureen Torrey from Genesee County, joined 13 other farmers from across the country for a roundtable discussion yesterday with President Donald Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall was a part of the discussion as well on issues the White House believes are most pressing for American agriculture.

Following the roundtable, President Trump signed an executive order that acknowledges a reliable, safe, and affordable food, fiber and forestry supply is critical to America’s national security, stability and prosperity. The order also establishes an interagency task force, to be chaired by Secretary Perdue, charged with identifying legislative, regulatory and policy changes that would enhance American agriculture, rural economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, energy security and quality of life in rural America. The report from the task force is due within 180 days.

“It is an honor to have a representative of New York agriculture invited to play an integral role in the roundtable discussion at the White House,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President.  “Farm Bureau looks forward to working with the administration and Congress on issues like trade, farm labor and regulatory reform, with the goal of boosting American agriculture and increasing access to New York-grown food.”

The event is an historic occasion, as it is believed the last time a group of farmers met with a U.S. president this early in an administration was prior to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.  

It followed the swearing-in of newly confirmed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. New York Farm Bureau is supportive of Secretary Perdue and is pleased to see him finally in place as the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Secretary Perdue is one of us. He grew up on a dairy farm, raised row crops, and was an agri-business owner. It is important to have someone in this position who understands trade, immigration and a whole host of other issues that are vital to a farmer’s success. Secretary Perdue spoke about having the opportunity to visit New York during his confirmation hearing, and New York Farm Bureau would like to personally invite him to our great state to showcase the opportunities and challenges that exist for our diverse membership,” said Fisher.

April 21, 2017 - 4:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in FAA, agriculture, oakfield-alabama, news.

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The Future Farmers of America chapter of Oakfield-Alabama-Elba received a $5,255 grant from the Tractor Supply Company and the National FFA. 

There were requests for funds totaling $86,170 from chapters in New York and only $27,911 was awarded to winning requests, including the $5,255 provided to OAE FFA to fund its projects, including a barn at Oakfield-Alabama High School that FFA members can use to raise livestock.

This will especially help FFA members who don't have property where they can raise livestock. FFA members will be able to sell their livestock at the annual 4-H Livestock Auction at the Genesee County Fair.

April 21, 2017 - 12:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Charles Schumer, agriculture, news, trade.

Press release:

“President Trump and I spoke yesterday about reversing Canada's new and unfair dairy-pricing policy. It is an unwise policy that violates our agreements and hurts our farmers, and we agreed to work together to immediately address the issue.

"Since Canada’s damaging policies also impact dairy farms in Wisconsin, I suggested reaching out to Speaker Ryan. The three of us, in conjunction with Senator Tammy Baldwin and other stakeholders, will develop a comprehensive plan to tackle this issue.

"We can all agree that, it is critical to level the playing field for our hard-working dairy farmers and make sure our Canadian neighbors rescind their unfair policy and again play by the rules,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

Previously: Schumer uses stop in Bergen to raise concerns about rail safety and trade with Canada

April 19, 2017 - 11:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Charles Schumer, trains, agriculture, business, bergen.

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Sen. Chuck Schumer was in Bergen today to talk trains and trade.

He's concerned about volatile sweet light crude oil being shipped from North Dakota by CSX on lines that pass through many populated Upstate communities, such as Bergen, and he's ready to get tough with Canada over new barriers to imports of dairy products from WNY.

He also answered questions about a potential wall along the border with Mexico, President Donald J. Trump's tax returns, immigration and high-speed rail.

"Even with the new oil cars, if the train is going faster than 25 miles (per hour) a big explosion will occur and that kind of explosion could occur on these tracks right here in Bergen," Schumer said. "Look, there are houses all around and businesses all around."

He reminded reporters of a derailment involving fuel cars in Canada few years ago that claimed several lives.

The fuel car issue has been on Schumer's radar for a few years, but what brought him to Genesee County today to raise the issue again was the derailment of a train carrying gun powder in Batavia during the windstorm in March.

As he held an enlargement of a picture of the derailment published by The Batavian, Schumer said, "as you can see it’s frightening to look at. These are large, large cars going at a very fast speed and if they had contained flammable materials they can be dangerous."

The fuel coming through Upstate New York in recent years comes from oil wells in North Dakota that tap reserves inaccessible until new technology changed the oil business. 

That has been a very good thing, though not without a cost, Schumer said.

"It's made us much less dependent on foreign oil," Schumer said. "It’s reduced the cost of gasoline and home heating oil and other things over the years, so it’s a good thing. But they don’t refine it out there in North Dakota. It gets on our rail cars and comes right across Upstate New York and Albany. They turn south and they go to those huge refineries in New Jersey."

According to this NPR story, the number of train cars carrying oil out of North Dakota has increased 4,000 percent since 2008. It was shipped by rail because, at the time these new fields opened, there was no other infrastructure in place to deal with the new supply of oil.

The trains can be a hundred cars long, Schumer said, and that's just too dangerous. If the oil companies won't voluntarily change the way they do business, then he wants the Commerce Department and Energy Department to write new regulations requiring oil companies to burn off the mixture of methane, butane, and propane that comes out of the ground with the oil.

The natural liquid gasses, stored in a confined space, are explosive if suddenly exposed to air and a spark.

The oil companies already do what Schumer wants in Texas, he said, without government regulation.

That's one reason, Schumer said, the economic impact of his proposal would be minimal and since the gas is going to be burned off one way or another, there is no additional environmental impact by burning it off in North Dakota instead of New Jersey.

Schumer believes bringing pressure to the issue can lead to change. He said his efforts have already led to rule changes that forced rail companies to ditch older tanker cars, what he called 1-11 cars, for newer, safer tankers. 

"We pushed very hard, and it hasn’t happened as fast as I’d like, but the law now is they have to get rid of all of these unsafe cars and put safer cars in.  More than half the oil cars now are now safer."

Schumer also wanted to talk about changes in dairy import policies in Canada that he said are hurting New York dairy farmers and in particular, O-AT-KA Milk Products, which employs nearly 300 people in Batavia.

According to Schumer, Prime Minster Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to protect Canada's dairy industry and has since started to implement measures that are closing the market to U.S. dairy products, mostly what's known as ultra-filtered dairy product, which is used in cheese production. O-AT-KA is one of 70 producers in New York and Wisconsin that are affected by the change in trade policy.

"I'm telling Trudeau to back off because it would just lead to a lot of trouble on both sides," Schumer said.

Canada exports some $260 billion in goods to the United States, and trade with New York includes $17.7 billion in goods being shipped to New York while it imports $12.6 billion worth. Top Canadian exports to New York include aluminum ($626 million), paper ($571 million), precious metals ($444 million), motor-vehicle parts ($417 million), plastics ($354 million).

Canada has a lot to lose in a trade war with the United States sparked by a fight over dairy exports, Schumer said.

"If they persist, they’re going to suffer with their exports, not necessarily with dairy, but with something else," Schumer said. "I am just adamant about this."

He said he was surprised that Trudeau has actually been pushing the issue.

"We didn’t really think they would go through with it at the end of the day," Schumer said. "We just thought it was a campaign promise up there, that they would realize the damage it would do to the Canadian economy if we started going back and forth, back and forth, but they’re persisting, so we have to up our game."

Schumer suggested Canada's actions are a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"That shows you what a lot of good NAFTA does," Schumer said. "I’m glad I voted against it way back when."

On trade, Schumer said he agrees on a lot more with President Trump, at least the way Trump campaigned, than people might think. He's not a fan of the World Trade Organization (on the dairy issue with Canada, he said it would take the WTO six years to issue a ruling and dairy farmers don't have six years to wait); he opposed NAFTA out of concerns with trade imbalances with Mexico and losing American jobs to Mexico; and thinks more needs to be done to promote and protect American jobs.

"My position on trade, frankly, has been closer to President Trump than to President Obama or President Bush," Schumer said. "Now I just hope he follows through on all of it. That hasn’t happened yet."

Schumer does have reservations about Trump's proposed border wall with Mexico. Trump wants to put it in the 2017 budget, but Schumer said he needs to slow down and come up with a workable plan.

"Here’s what no one knows about the wall: A -- how much it would cost?" Schumer said. "Today we were told there it is an estimate of $70 billion. That’s a huge amount of money. Wouldn’t we rather have that money fixing our roads and bridges and everything here?

"Second," he added, "no one knows where it should be or what side of the river it would be on. The Secretary of the Interior, whom the president appointed, said he can’t build it on the U.S. side because it would cut off us from the river. We can’t build it on the Mexican side because they won’t have it. Maybe we have to build it in the middle of the river. There are no plans for it. So you can’t go ahead and allocate money until there are plans.

"The final thing is, eminent domain, there are tons of property owners who own land right up to the border. It would take forever to get their property and you might not even succeed in court. So instead of rushing it through, there ought to be a discussion about it."

On immigration, he said he is pushing for reforms in the H1B visa program because foreign workers should be paid less than U.S. workers.

He said he understands the concerns local farmers have about immigrant labor but didn't express much hope that anything will change soon to help them get the help they need.

He noted that last year, there was an immigration reform bill that Dean Norton, an Elba dairy farmer who was then president of the New York Farm Bureau, helped draft, that would have given farmers the relief they need, but it didn't pass and he doesn't think there will be any movement on it this year.

"We had a really tough bill and it got bipartisan support in the Senate but it never made it in the House," Schumer said.

As for Trump's tax returns, he said the president will have an easier time with tax reform if he is completely transparent about his own tax returns. He said Trump is no longer a private citizen and he should release his returns.

"He should do it because it's going to slow down tax reform," Schumer said. "Any proposal he might make for cutting something, people will say, 'is he doing that because it's good for the American people or is he doing it because it's good for his own real estate holdings?' "

The last time Schumer was in Bergen, it was to push construction of a high-speed rail line between Bergen and Churchville as a demonstration project. We've heard nothing about the proposal since then.

"We did get a big transportation budget and in that budget, there was money for high-speed rail," Schumer said. "The Republicans took out the money for high-speed rail. Now, this is an area where there is some agreement, if we could get a major infrastructure bill, there could be money for high speed rail.

"I know there is division here in Bergen about whether we should have it or not," Schumer added. "I would want to come back to the communities, but if people thought it was a good idea I would probably try to get the money."

schumertrainsbergenapril2017.jpg

March 3, 2017 - 4:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in 4-H, Yancey's Fancy, agriculture, pembroke, news.

4h_dairy_club_yancy_tour_2-20-17.jpg

Press release:

On February 20, 2017 twenty 4-H Dairy Club members and their families were given a private tour of the new processing facility at Yancey’s Fancy.

The young dairy enthusiasts were given a behind the scenes look at the commercial dairy processing industry and left the tour with a visual understanding of how artisan cheese is produced.

To learn more about the Genesee County  4-H Youth Development Program visit our website: http://genesee.cce.cornell.edu/4-h-youth-development 

February 21, 2017 - 5:51pm
posted by Billie Owens in agriculture, news, business, Announcements.

Press release:

Tickets are still available for the 15th Annual Celebrate Agriculture Dinner which will take place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 18, at the Alexander Fire Hall.

This annual event is a celebration of Genesee County’s number one industry – Agriculture. The highlight of the night is a delicious meal using locally produced foods prepared by Penna’s Catering. The dinner is open to the public.

Tickets can be purchased at the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, 8276 Park Road, Batavia. Tickets are $30 each or a table of 10 can be purchased for $275. Sponsorships are also available which help support agriculture educational events in Genesee County. Only 400 tickets will be sold. Tickets will not be available at the door.

The Celebrate Ag Dinner is coordinated by the following partners: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County, Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District and Genesee County Farm Bureau.

For ticket information contact the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce at 585-343-7440, ext. 1027, or [email protected].

January 31, 2017 - 1:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, 4-H, Pavilion, news.

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Press release:

Genesee County 4-H member Emily Boldt has been selected to represent the New York State 4-H Program as a youth delegate at the 2017 National 4-H Conference. 

The National 4-H Conference is the pinnacle experience in 4-H Citizenship, providing an opportunity for young people to connect, engage, lead and learn how to impact their communities, their nation and their world.

The 2017 National 4-H Conference will be held March 25-30 in Chevy Chase, Md. Youth delegates from across the United States will explore current issues affecting youth, the role 4-H can play in addressing those issues, and tell federal decision makers if their current efforts are effective. 

Emily is a junior at Pavilion High School. She has been actively involved in the Genesee County 4-H Program for the past seven years and has taken on leadership roles within several areas. Emily is the current president of the Genesee County 4-H Rustic Riders Horse Club and also attended the 2016 4-H Career Explorations Conference at Cornell University.

January 25, 2017 - 3:53pm
posted by Billie Owens in alexander, agriculture, business, news, Announcements.

Tickets are still available for the 15th Annual Celebrate Agriculture Dinner! The dinner will take place Saturday, March 18 at the Alexander Fire Hall. Doors open at 6 p.m.  This event is a celebration of Genesee County’s number one industry – Agriculture. The highlight is a delicious meal using locally produced foods prepared by Penna’s Catering.

The dinner is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased at the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce (8276 Park Road, Batavia) for $30 each. A table of 10 can be purchased for $275. Sponsorships are available for $350 and help to support agriculture educational events in Genesee County. Tickets will not  be sold at the door.

The Celebrate Ag Dinner is coordinated by the following partners: Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County, Genesee County Farm Bureau and Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District. Many local farms and businesses sponsor or donate products to this event.

For ticket information contact the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce at 585-343-7440, ext. 1027 or [email protected]

January 20, 2017 - 10:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, land use, planning, news, Alabama, batavia, byron, elba, Oakfield, and Pembroke..

Press release:

A state-mandated 30-day public review period has begun for Agricultural Districts No. 2 in the towns of Alabama, Batavia, Byron, Elba, Oakfield and Pembroke.

The Genesee County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board announced that Agricultural District No. 2 will embark on its eight-year review with a 30-day public review period beginning on Jan. 26.

As with every eight-year review, landowners with lands in the district under review will be asked to complete a worksheet where they will be given the option to enroll or withdraw property from the district. Only entire parcels can be included or excluded.

Landowners will receive the worksheet, along with a letter, informational brochure, and map of the current district boundaries in the next couple of days. Each landowner will have until Friday, Feb. 24th of this year to mail the worksheets to the Department of Planning in the envelopes provided. This deadline also coincides with the deadline for the Annual Enrollment Period, which allows for inclusion of predominantly viable agricultural land to any of the County’s Agricultural Districts pending review by the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board. In addition, nearby landowners that are receiving Agricultural Tax Assessments and are not part of the Agricultural Districts Program will be mailed a letter and form inviting them to join the program.

During this 30-day period, a map of the District will be on file and open to the public in the office of the Genesee County Clerk and at the Genesee County Department of Planning.Any municipality whose territory encompasses the above Agricultural District, any State Agency or any landowner within or adjacent to the District, may propose a modification of the District during this period. The District and any proposed modification will be submitted to the Genesee County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board for review. Consequently, a public hearing on the District and any proposed modifications will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 10, at the Genesee County Old Courthouse, 7 Main St., Batavia.

At the conclusion of this review, the Genesee County Legislature will vote on any modifications to the District and send the proper materials to the State Department of Agriculture and Markets for recertification. The public is encouraged to attend all open meetings.

By enrolling land in the Agricultural Districts Program, participating farmers can receive relief from nuisance claims and certain forms of local regulation. Enrollment is free and voluntary. For a free informational brochure, please contact the Genesee County Department of Planning. Phone: (585) 815-7901; fax: (585) 345-3062; email: [email protected] Visit us on the Web at www.co.genesee.ny.us/departments/planning.

January 11, 2017 - 4:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in elba, agriculture, Torrey Farms, news.

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Members of the Elba Lancers Girls Basketball teams, varsity and JV, wore T-shirts at their games Tuesday night in Attica to honor Jordyn M. Augello.

Augello, 30, died of cancer Monday just months after giving birth while going through cancer treatment. She coached many of the girls as a youth coach as they came up through the Elba program in fifth and sixth grade.

She is the daughter of Mark Torrey and was a partner in Torrey Farms. She leaves behind a husband, Charles Augello, and children Carmine Frank and Frances Mary. She was a 2009 graduate of Cornell University.

For her full obituary, click here.

Team photos courtesy Tom Redband.

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January 11, 2017 - 3:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business, news, chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21) have introduced the Family Farm Relief Act of 2017, legislation to move the H-2A Agricultural Visa program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture to better meet the unique labor needs of farmers and agricultural businesses.

“The last thing our farmers need is for the federal government to make it harder for them to make ends meet,” Congressman Collins said. “Access to a willing and available labor force is absolutely critical for Western New York’s agriculture community, particularly our dairy farmers. I am proud to join my colleague Congresswoman Stefanik in introducing this common-sense legislation to streamline and improve the H-2A visa program.”

“Agriculture is the backbone of our North Country economy and I am pleased to introduce this important bill to address the labor shortages facing our farmers,” Congresswoman Stefanik said. “When I travel the district speaking with our farmers, I often hear about how unnecessary delays in worker visas lead to difficulty meeting production goals. This common-sense legislation simply puts the H-2A agricultural visa program in the hands of those who best understand the specific needs of our farms.”

“Immigration reform that allows for both seasonal and year-round farm labor has been a longtime priority for New York Farm Bureau. For too long, the federal H2A guest visa program has been cumbersome, prone to delays and too rigid to fit the needs of both farmers and their employees. We thank Congresswoman Stefanik for taking the lead on The Family Farm Relief Act that will provide real reform and address a critical issue in New York's diverse agricultural community,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau president.

The Family Farm Relief Act of 2017 takes practical measures such as allowing visa applicants to fill out H-2A applications on paper or online, requiring a user-friendly online system, and ending burdensome requirements on advertising and prevailing practice surveys.

The current H-2A visa program is unworkable, especially for the dairy farms across our nation. The H-2A visa program does not currently provide a category for year-round livestock workers, including dairy. This has caused difficulties for dairy farms that need employees year-round. This legislation addresses this oversight, by creating an H-2A category for these workers.

Additionally, the legislation also allows farm cooperatives and other agricultural associations to apply for workers for their members, makes the program more workable for dairy and other livestock operations, and requires reporting to Congress if delays occur in the H-2A visa application process.

January 4, 2017 - 1:28pm

Press release:

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County, in collaboration with Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, will be offering a CDL Training Program for Genesee County agriculture producers and their employees for Class A and Class B licenses. This training program is designed for producers and farm employees that have some experience with commercial truck operation.

An informational meeting will be held on Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Cornell Cooperative Extension building at 420 E. Main St., Batavia. This meeting will explain how the program works and answer any questions you may have. The required training materials and medical forms will be passed out at this time.

Classroom training dates are Feb. 1 and 2, 7 to 9 p.m., at the Cornell Cooperative Extension building located at 420 E. Main St. in Batavia. Full payment (check or cash) will be required at the Feb. 1st class. The cost for Class A is $625 and the cost for Class B is $475.

Class size is limited. Registration is required and will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Jan. 23rd or until the class is full.

For more information or to register, contact Jan Beglinger at 585-343-3040 x 132 or Brandie Schultz at ext. 101.

January 4, 2017 - 1:09pm
posted by Billie Owens in steve hawley, agriculture, veterans.

Press release: 

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) announced today that he has been reappointed Assistant Minority Leader of the Assembly and will sit on the Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, Insurance, Ways and Means and Rules committees.

“After a relaxing holiday season, I am excited to get back to work on behalf of the citizens in my district and continue to make strides rebuilding our infrastructure, securing crucial education funding, protecting our vets and fighting Albany corruption,” Hawley said. “I am overjoyed to have the great opportunity to serve on such important committees in the Assembly, and look forward to offering my expertise as a small-business owner when it comes to insurance and agriculture issues.”

This is the first term that Hawley will serve on the Rules Committee, which is the final stop for many bills before they reach the floor for a vote. It is also the group that controls many important operations of the House.

“The Assembly Rules Committee is one of the most important governing bodies in Albany, and I couldn’t be more honored to serve as one of its members,” Hawley said. “This committee is usually the final stop for legislation before it either comes to the floor for a vote or dies in committee. This is an excellent opportunity to safeguard upstate against radical and misguided legislation supported by downstate special interests, and I plan to do just that.”

December 16, 2016 - 11:38am
posted by Howard B. Owens in CY Farms, agriculture, elba, business, news.

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Emmaline Long didn't grow up on a farm, but she grew up loving everything about farming. She always wanted to work in agriculture and after graduating from Cornell University with a degree in Agricultural Sciences, Long landed what she describes as her dream job, crop production manager for CY Farms in Elba.

The 2008 graduate of Byron-Bergen High School has a passion for farming that goes beyond just her job. She is chair of the New York 4-H Foundation, co-chair of the Genesee County Young Farmers and Ranchers and serves on the precision agriculture advisory committee at Genesee Community College.

All this passion, all this dedication to farming is why she received the Excellence of Agriculture Award from the New York Farm Bureau at its statewide convention last week.

The award is given annually to a person between the ages of 18-36 who derives most of his or her income from agriculture but doesn't own a farm.

She describes the award as humbling.

"Because I’m passionate about a lot of things, it’s nice to be recognized for the things I have been doing, and that putting myself out there and being a leader doesn’t go unnoticed," Long said.

Although Long didn't grow up on a farm, farming was always part of her life. Her dad had owned a dairy farm before she was born and she and her parents always worked their garden and her dad would ride her around in his lap on their tractor. In high school, she started raising a rare, heritage breed of sheep, Lincoln longwools. She was a member of 4-H and competed annually at the Genesee County Fair.

"(Agriculture) is in my blood," she said. "I've always loved it. It's always been something I've been interested in."

She still has her flock and hopes someday she can make enough from selling wool to pay for her hobby.

Her job at CY Farms, which she started two and a half years ago, affords her the opportunity to be involved in a wide variety of ag-related jobs, from managing and planning what crops get planted where, and managing the nutrients they will need, to handling disease and pest control in an environmentally friendly way, plus handling all the ag precision data. She also puts out the farm's newsletter. 

“I found it difficult to find one aspect of the industry I liked more than the others," she said. "I like forage crops and I like vegetable crops and I like grain crops and I couldn’t decide what I wanted to focus on, so I was specifically looking for a farm to work on that I could get involved in all the different aspects of the industry."

She's currently working on her master's thesis for a degree in Animal Science.

When she first graduated, she kind of thought her career path might have her working on a farm for a couple of years and them moving to a job with another, bigger agriculture company, but she's found she loves being involved in the local ag community, where everybody knows everybody and supports everybody, and she loves working at CY Farms, so it's now hard to imagine moving on.

"I love the operation and the opportunity they've been able to give me, so it’s hard to look forward because I’m content to work where I am now,"

Next month, Long will find out if her experience and passion for agriculture helps her win the same title at the national level of the Farm Bureau. She will be among 40 candidates for the award when the national organization holds its convention in Phoenix.

Previously: CY Farms grew from the good land

December 7, 2016 - 6:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in farm bureau, New York Farm Bureau, agriculture, elba, news.

Elba's Dean Norton has been replaced as president of the New York State Farm Bureau in an election held this evening at the bureau's annual meeting.

Norton, a dairy farmer, has been president and face of the farm bureau for eight years, representing the bureau not just in New York but in Washington, D.C., and around the nation.

The membership instead elected David Fisher, who owns a large dairy farm in St. Lawrence County, as president.

The nominees were Norton, Fisher and Mark Dunau.

(Information via the NY Farm Bureau's Twitter postings.)

UPDATE: Press release:

During the New York Farm Bureau State Annual Meeting in Albany, voting delegates elected David Fisher, a dairy farmer from St. Lawrence County, as the new president of the organization.

Fisher and his family have operated Mapleview Dairy in Madrid, N.Y. for four generations. He has served on the New York Farm Bureau Board of Directors for the past five years and previously was president of St. Lawrence County Farm Bureau. A graduate of Cornell University, Fisher earned a degree in Animal Science.

Fisher replaces Dean Norton who served as president for the past eight years.

“I am humbled that the farmer members of New York Farm Bureau have placed their confidence in me to lead this great organization. My family has a long history with Farm Bureau, and I am excited to work on behalf of our diverse membership to increase the value and visibility of New York agriculture. I would also like to thank Dean Norton for his service and commitment to New York Farm Bureau,” said David Fisher, president of New York Farm Bureau.

Vice President Eric Ooms, a dairy farmer from Columbia County, was re-elected to his position.

In addition, representatives to the State Board of Directors were elected, too. This concluded the annual two-day long meeting where resolutions were discussed and voted on to set NYFB’s 2017 public policy agenda.

Those elected include Pat McCormick of Wyoming County, re-elected as District 2 Director; Lin Davidson of Tompkins County was elected as District 4 Director; Jacob Schieferstine of Oneida County was re-elected as District 6 Director; Dean Casey of Rensselaer County, re-elected as District 8 Director; Chris Kelder of Ulster County, re-elected as District 10 Director; Kristen Brown of Orange County as the new Young Farmer and Rancher Chair on the State Board and Phyllis Couture of Cattaraugus County was re-elected as the Promotion and Education Chairperson on the State Board.

In addition, New York Farm Bureau handed out the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Awards to two worthy individuals who have made an impact on New York Farm Bureau and agriculture in this state. The awardees were Chris Fesko of Skaneateles, N.Y. and member of Onondaga County Farm Bureau, and Michael DellaRocco of Melrose, N.Y., a member of Rensselaer County Farm Bureau.

Finally, New York Farm Bureau announced two recipients of the James Quinn Award that recognizes extraordinary efforts by individual Farm Bureau members during the course of a given year “to serve and strengthen agriculture”.  The honorees were Joe and June Swyers of Livingston County Farm Bureau and Brad and Carolyn Almeter of Wyoming County Farm Bureau.

November 25, 2016 - 3:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Torrey Farms, elba, fire, news, agriculture.

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In farming, there's little time to dwell on losses and already the Torreys are moving on after a fire caused more than $3 million in losses to their Big O Farms onion packing and storage facility in Elba yesterday.

They're still shipping onions from two other facilities they own and making plans to replace the equipment lost in yesterday's fire.

"That’s what we’ve got to do," said Mark Torrey, who stopped by the scene of the fire at 5520 N. Byron Road this afternoon to meet an insurance adjuster. "That’s what keeps you going today. We got up this morning and had to figure it out. We had loads we had to get out today. We had to figure out how to get them out. We actually started working on that yesterday afternoon."

There were three lines of onion-packing equipment in the building, Torrey said. Some of the equipment was installed within the past year. The property is assessed at more than $400,000 and each line costs more than a half-million-dollars each.

"It's not something you can just buy off the shelf," Torrey said.

Most of the equipment is manufactured in Europe, so even if suppliers have already assembled the parts, it will take some time to get everything to Elba and get it installed.

Meanwhile, the Torreys still have onions from this season's crop to get to market and some 70 employees to keep working.

A few employees posted on Facebook about how sad they were about the fire and praised the Torreys as good people to work for.

"A lot of these people have worked for us for a long time," Torrey said. "They’re working in the other places (today), but yeah, we’ve got a lot of good employees and you try to treat them right."

The fire may have started with a tractor that was stored on the southeast corner of the building and had its engine block plugged into an electric socket to keep it from freezing. Nearly every fire department in the county, along with companies from Monroe and Orleans counties, responded to the Thanksgiving Day fire. There is reportedly a community effort underway to organize an event to recognize the volunteers.

Local contractor Vito J. Gautieri also was at the facility today. He built the plant in 1958 for the Ognibene family. He came with a model of a truss used in the main arched barn. The county's online property database doesn't list the size of the facility. Gautieri said it was greatly expanded from what he originally built, but he estimated the entire space to be about 25,000 square feet.

"It's the first building I ever built that burned down," Gautieri said.

Torrey acknowledged it's a difficult loss, but that the business will continue as usual.

"This is a big set back, but we’ve still got people, we’ve got product we’ve got to pack," Torrey said. "You’ve just got to get doing it and that sort of keeps your mind off of this today."

Previously:

November 24, 2016 - 8:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in elba, fire, Torrey Farms, agriculture, news.

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It's been more than 12 hours since the first alarm sounded for a barn fire at  5520 N. Byron Road in Elba and volunteer firefighters are still on scene.

On Thanksgiving Day.

It was a massive fire. It consumed the entire onion packing and storage facility owned by the Torrey family. It's a facility that 15 years ago was owned by the Ognibene family, hence the name of the business location, "Big O Farms."

The facility is just a mile or so north on Transit Road from the Elba Mucklands, where the Torreys are one of the largest onion growers in the county.

Family members told firefighters that most of the recent season's crop was stored at other locations, so while about 1,000 crates of onions were lost, most of this season's harvest was not in the building.

What was in the building was all of the company's sorting and packing machines, all of which were destroyed in the fire.

"Obviously, these agriculture-design buildings have no built-in protection systems, so that’s a game changer for us," said Tim Yaeger, emergency management coordinator. "Then not having the adequate water supply for us initially, we were playing catch-up the entire time."

Clearly, the fire started in the southeast corner of the building. The cause, however, is unknown. Yaeger said investigators will look at electrical and equipment as the potential spark that lit the inferno. 

Elba crews were first on scene and started an exterior attack. Yaeger said that it's possible even by that time, given the wide-open spaces inside the building, the fire could have spread extensively.

It didn't take long for flames to reach the west end of the building, and a short time later, five- and six-foot high flames could be seen flitting through the roof.

Heavy equipment was brought in to knock down walls and open holes in the roof to help firefighters get water onto the fire.

But all morning, the water supply was a major obstacle to fighting the fire.

There was only one low-volume fire hydrant in the area, so as many as 20 tankers were called in from four counties to help shuttle water from fill sites (ponds, generally) and to porta-ponds set up on North Byron Road.

"Some of the primary fill sites weren’t adequate because of the drought we had this past summer so they had to establish and look for other fill sites, which unfortunately were further away," Yaeger said. "Some points were four, five, six miles away."

While nobody wants to be dragged away from friends, family, parades and football to fight a fire on Thanksgiving Day, the timing of the fire had one benefit: plenty of manpower. Many volunteers were home today instead of at work on a typical Thursday.

"I was fearful on the way here when the alarm came in, you know, people go away, go to visit family, a lot people go out of town, so I was concerned about what our manpower situation was going to be," Yaeger said. "Surprisingly, it may have worked in our favor. We had more than adequate manpower."

Every fire company in Genesee County was mobilized in some way for the fire. If the department wasn't on scene, and most of them were, they were acting as standby or fill-in for the departments who did respond.

Responding from the county included Elba, Byron, South Byron, Bergen, Oakfield, Stafford, Alabama, Alexander, Le Roy, East Pembroke, Bethany, Pembroke and Indian Falls, with Darien and Pavilion placed on standby or fill-in.

Departments from Orleans County, including Albion and Barre, responded, as well as Brockport from Monroe County and inmates from Wyoming Correctional Facility.

All volunteers, all giving up all or a portion of their Thanksgiving to fight a fire.

But Yaeger suggested we not concentrate on the sacrifice of the volunteers.

"It’s difficult, but our hearts and thoughts go out to the business owner," Yaeger said. "That’s the primary concern. We don’t ever want to see this kind of destruction. It’s a total loss. That’s our real thought. For the firefighters, to be away from their families is difficult, but that’s what we do. In times of need, the fire services have got to be there and we were. It’s unfortunate it was today."

Previously: 

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November 24, 2016 - 2:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, elba, news, agriculture, Torrey Farms.

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Photos from the fire that broke out about 7:30 a.m., today, at Big O Farms, a property of Torrey Farms, where onions are processed.

We'll have more coverage later. Initial coverage, here.

Give thanks for our volunteer firefighters.

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October 18, 2016 - 2:30pm

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has announced $55,000 in state funding to establish a new joint agriculture education program for Oakfield-Alabama Central and Elba Central School districts.

The mission of the new program is to encourage more high school students to explore agriculture and consider a career in the industry.

“This important program will serve as another tool for educators to cultivate student development and success, and I am proud to have been able to jump start this new program," Ranzenhofer said. "Now, our students will have better opportunities to learn more about agriculture and be inspired to start a career in the industry."

The start-up funding will cover equipment, field trip expenses, instructional resources and materials, and instructional salaries. Enrolled students, in grades nine through 12, will experience classroom instruction, hands-on projects and opportunities to visit local businesses with a connection to the agriculture industry. The program will be administered by and located at the Oakfield-Alabama School District.

“We appreciate the support of Senator Ranzenhofer in this new program. Our students are surrounded by agriculture and now have the opportunity to learn about the careers of the industry. We hope the program will motivate some of our graduates to remain in the area as well,” said Oakfield-Alabama Superintendent Mark A. Alexander.

Agriculture and its related industries are the number one economic driver for Genesee County and New York State, and industry demand for a properly trained workforce is greater than ever. According to the Land O' Lakes Foundation, food production in the next 50 years will need to be higher than the prior 500 years.

Senator Ranzenhofer’s office received letters of support from the local agriculture industry, including: Cornell University Cooperative Extension Genesee County; Lamb Farms Inc.; CY Farms LLC; East Pembroke Grange; Wayne E. Phelps Ent. Inc.; Offhaus Farms Inc.; and Z&M Ag and Turf.

The Oakfield-Alabama Board of Education will publicly recognize Senator Ranzenhofer for his efforts to establish the new program during tonight’s board meeting.

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