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agriculture

March 30, 2020 - 1:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Chris Jacobs, NY-27, business, agriculture.

Press release:

Trump endorsed Republican candidate for Congress Chris Jacobs (NY-27) held a virtual round table with Western New York farmers on Saturday to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on local agriculture and what can be done to help farmers keep operating.

“Big decisions need to be made as we move into our planting season," said Molly Anderson, of Torrey Farms. " The effects of COVID-19 will determine how we make those decisions and impact our capacity to perform. Luckily, President Trump is a businessman and understands the critical importance of our nation’s farms and will work with us so we can have the resources to get through this."

"The utmost concern, whether it was a dairy farmer or a crop farmer was the health and safety of their workforce," Jacobs said. "No different than any other essential business, farmers have been following the guidelines of health officials to ensure they can still perform their duties without jeopardizing the health of employees.

“Not only is agriculture the largest economic sector in our region, but our farmers are directly responsible for ensuring abundant healthy food remains on our tables. It has been my priority to stay directly in contact with those vital to this industry and learn what they need so that when I take office I can get right to work helping them through this crisis.

"I am deeply encouraged by everything Congress and President Trump has done to assist our farmers by passing the CARES Act, and I look forward to helping my future colleagues ensure the prosperity of our farmers for future generations.”

The CARES Act, which passed on Friday in the House of Representatives and was subsequently signed by President Trump, provides critical relief to farmers in America. Among that relief is $14 billion for USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation, $9.5 billion in funding for livestock operation programs, $100 million in additional rural broadband grants, and increased deductions for farmers who donate commodities.

March 27, 2020 - 4:36pm

Press release:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement Thursday (March 26) in response to the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to authorize temporary waivers for in-person interviews for eligible H-2 visa applicants.

“Temporarily waiving in-person interviews for H-2 visa applicants streamlines the application process and helps provide steady labor for the agriculture sector during this time of uncertainty,” Secretary Perdue said. “H-2 labor is vital to the economy and food security of America – our farmers and producers depend on these workers to continue to feed and clothe the world.”

USDA has been directly engaged with the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure minimal disruption in H-2A and H-2B visa applications during these uncertain times. This Administration is doing everything possible to maintain continuity of this critically important program.

These flexibilities will allow our farmers and ranchers to utilize workers they have used in the past, or those who are already in the United States, to get our food from the farm to our tables.

March 24, 2020 - 12:31pm
posted by Billie Owens in National Ag Day, business, agriculture, farmers, pandemic.

Press release:

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement today (March 24) regarding National Agriculture Day and President Donald J. Trump’s Proclamation recognizing the importance of America’s farmers, ranchers, foresters and producers:

“Our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers in America are feeding and clothing the world," Secretary Perdue said. "Now more than ever it’s important that the American people not forget that. Our farmers are resilient, and during these uncertain times they are still working, day in and day out, to produce what’s needed for our growing population.

"Today, on National Ag Day, I challenge the American public to keep our farmers, ranchers and producers on their minds – for all their work to provide us a safe, healthy and abundant food supply. We owe them a debt of gratitude.”

View U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue's brief speech about today:

March 19, 2020 - 5:04pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, agriculture, H-2A, H-2B, labor certification, covid-19.

Press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today (March 19) announced a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to help facilitate the identification of foreign and domestic workers that may be available and eligible to transfer to other U.S. agricultural sector employers to fulfill critical workforce needs within the United States under existing regulatory authority during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ensuring minimal disruption for our agricultural workforce during these uncertain times is a top priority for this administration,” Secretary Perdue said. “President Trump knows that these workers are critical to maintaining our food supply and our farmers and ranchers are counting on their ability to work. We will continue to work to make sure our supply chain is impacted as minimally as possible.”

“American farmers and ranchers are at the frontlines of maintaining the nation’s food supply,” Secretary Scalia said. “In these unprecedented times, it is critical for them to have the workforce they need. This new partnership between USDA and DOL will help support our farmers, ranchers, and American families.”

Background

USDA and DOL have identified nearly 20,000 H-2A and H-2B certified positions that have expiring contracts in the coming weeks. There will be workers leaving these positions who could be available to transfer to a different employer’s labor certification. The data, available on www.farmers.gov/manage/h2a, includes the number of certified worker positions, the current employer name and contact, attorney/agent name and contact, and the worksite address

This information will be a resource to H-2A employers whose workforce has been delayed because of travel restrictions or visa processing limitations. Employers should be aware that all statutory and regulatory requirements continue to apply. Employers are encouraged to monitor www.travel.state.gov for the latest information and should monitor the relevant Embassy/Consular websites for specific operational information.

March 18, 2020 - 2:54pm
posted by Billie Owens in covid-19, NYSFB, business, agriculture.

Statement New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher:

“The agricultural community is strong. We understand adversity and come together in trying times. Our farms and agribusinesses are working hard to follow safety protocols and ensuring food production continues for the people of New York State and the country.

For this to continue, it is also important that agriculture remain open for business. New York Farm Bureau has sent a letter to Governor Cuomo commending him on the state’s response to COVID-19, but also asking that any mandatory business closures exempt farms, agricultural businesses that serve as a supply line, and food processing plants.

The letter reads in part, “Despite the spread of the COVID-19 virus, cows need to be milked, livestock needs to be fed, seeds need to be planted, machinery has to be repaired and regulations mandating environmental compliance will need to be met in order for food to continue to be placed on store shelves. The state’s food security and livestock health depend on obtaining an exemption from mandatory workplace staff reductions or closures for businesses across the state.”

In addition, New York Farm Bureau is concerned that the United States’ Consulates have suspended in-person processing of H-2A agricultural guest worker visas just as the spring planting season is weeks away. While we understand that plans are being implemented to consider workers who have previously been granted H-2A visas, it would halt the hiring of any new foreign workers. This could delay both planting and harvesting on farms and result in lower food production.

New York Farm Bureau has expressed our thoughts to the White House and members of New York’s congressional delegation. We have also encouraged our members to contact their representatives as well.

The letter to President Trump reads in part, “With the continued spread of COVID-19, now more than ever, it is essential that America maintain its level of high-quality food production to ensure food security for the nation. These H-2A visa workers help to plant, manage, and harvest essential crops, including fruits and vegetables. While we are not asking the Administration to jeopardize public health and safety or border security, NYFB requests that the Department of Labor (DOL) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) ensure that all H-2A visa applications are reviewed and acted upon in a timely manner to ensure the flow of approved H-2A workers into the U.S.”

Americans are coming together to get through this pandemic as a united nation. Farmers are doing their part, and the people of this great state and country can rest assured we will get the job done for us all.”

Click here to read the full letter to Governor Cuomo.

Click here to read the full letter to President Trump.

New York Farm Bureau is the State’s largest agricultural lobbying/trade organization. Its members and the public know the organization as “The Voice of New York Agriculture.” New York Farm Bureau is dedicated to solving the economic and public policy issues challenging the agricultural community.

March 11, 2020 - 1:05pm
posted by Billie Owens in agriculture, business, Oxbo International Corp., byron.

Press release:

Byron -- Oxbo International Corporation (“Oxbo”) was pleased to exhibit several products at this year’s New York Farm Show in Syracuse, held Feb. 27-29.

The Oxbo 7550 front boom (high-clearance) sprayer (in top photo) and its 77 inches of crop clearance was highlighted by Farm Progress’ Northeast Editor Chris Torres after the show.

“Each year Oxbo brings equipment to exhibit at the New York Farm Show because this show draws a broad group of agricultural customers from across the Northeast,” said Jim Welch, a Genesee County based Technical Services representative for Oxbo.

“This gives us a great opportunity to talk to our customer base and listen to suggestions to keep up with their changing needs. For 2020, we were able to exhibit our 2114 and 2334 forage mergers and our 7550 high clearance sprayer in the booth. Oxbo is the global leader in forage merger technology; forage merging is critical to feed quality for dairies in the Northeast.

"The 7550 is a new product for us, but we have supported high clearance sprayer customers for over twenty years; this product builds on our experiences in this industry and delivers a unique factory-direct sales and service model to our customer base. Both models are built locally in our Byron, New York facility,” added Welch.

Oxbo International Corporation is a leading supplier of specialized harvesters and other equipment for niche market agriculture. With manufacturing operations in Byron, Clear Lake, Wis., and Lynden, Wash., Oxbo markets its equipment to agribusiness and producers worldwide.

Photo courtesy of Chris Torres.

March 7, 2020 - 9:53am
Video Sponsor

MY-T Acres, located off Lewiston Road in Batavia, is Genesee County's Agriculture Business of the Year. The Call family will receive the award at the Chamber of Commerce annual awards dinner tonight Quality Inn & Suites.

February 24, 2020 - 5:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in farm labor, agriculture, batavia, business.

Press release:

New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon today announced she will convene a wage board for farm laborers that will hold hearings, review and make recommendations regarding overtime work for farm laborers in New York State.

Under the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, which Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law last year, farm laborers are entitled to overtime premium pay as of Jan. 1 for any work that they perform in excess of 60 hours per week, and for work performed on their designated day of rest.

As part of that Act, the wage board will consider and make recommendations as to overtime work and, specifically, will hear testimony about reducing the threshold for overtime below 60 hours per week and whether to do so in phases.

“We worked hard to ensure this bill included the proper labor protections and benefits that our farm laborers are entitled to,” Commissioner Reardon said. “We have an opportunity to improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of farmworkers. Overtime is a key component and we need to get it right.”

Convening the Wage Board

As required by the Act, New York State Labor Commissioner Reardon will convene a wage board with the following members:

  • David Fisher, president of the New York Farm Bureau
  • Denis Hughes, former president of the New York State AFL-CIO
  • Brenda McDuffie, president of the Buffalo Urban League

Under the Act, the wage board must hold at least three hearings at which the public will be afforded an opportunity to provide comments. The board will hold five hearings in various parts of the state. The board will carefully consider the input it gathers from farmers and other stakeholders.

The board has until Dec. 31 to make its recommendations, after which the Commissioner will have 45 days to take administrative action on those recommendations.

Public hearings are scheduled as follows:

  • Friday 2/28 – 11 a.m. – Albany – New York State Museum Cultural Education Center, Clark Auditorium, 222 Madison Ave., Albany, NY 12230
  • Friday 3/13 – 11 a.m. – Syracuse – Onondaga Community College, Storer Auditorium, 4585 W. Seneca Turnpike, Syracuse, NY 13215
  • Monday 3/23 – 11 a.m. – Binghamton – Binghamton University, Symposium Hall, Center of Excellence Building Innovative Technology Complex, 45 Murray Hill Road, Vestal, NY 13850
  • Thursday 4/16 – 11 a.m. – Long Island – Brookhaven Town Hall, 1 Independence Hill, Farmingville, NY 11738
  • Thursday 4/23 – 11 a.m. – Batavia – Genesee Community College, William Stuart Forum, 1 College Road, Batavia, NY 14020
February 13, 2020 - 4:51pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, annual ag dinner, agriculture, alexander.

Press release:

This spring come and celebrate Genesee County’s No. 1 industry -- agriculture!

Tickets are still available for the 18th annual Celebrate Agriculture Dinner. It will take place Saturday, April 18, at 6 p.m. at the Alexander Firemen's Recreation Hall, located at 10708 Alexander Road in Alexander.

The highlight of the night is a delicious meal using locally produced foods impeccably prepared by Penna’s Catering. The farm-to-fork feast is open to the public.

Tickets can be purchased at the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce (8276 Park Road, Batavia) for $30 each or a table of 10 for $275.

Sponsorships are also available which help support agricultural educational events in Genesee County, such as Kinderfarmin’. Order your tickets now as they will not be available 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 Soil & Water Conservation District, and the Genesee County Farm Bureau. 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 or [email protected].

February 10, 2020 - 4:11pm
posted by Billie Owens in farmers, agriculture, business, disaster area.

Information from press releases.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue designated 43 New York counties, including Genesee County, as primary natural disaster areas.

This designation allows the Farm Service agencies in affected states to extend much-needed emergency credit to producers recovering from natural disasters. Emergency loans can be used to meet various recovery needs including the replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or the refinance of certain debts.

The deadline to apply for these emergency loans is Sept. 29.

Excessive Rain

Producers in Albany, Allegany, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango, Clinton, Columbia, Delaware, Erie, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Greene, Hamilton, Herkimer, Livingston, Monroe, Montgomery, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Sullivan, Tioga, Washington, Wyoming, and Yates counties, who suffered losses due to excessive rain that has occurred since April 1, 2019, are eligible to apply for emergency loans.

Producers in the contiguous New York counties of Broome, Cattaraugus, Cortland, Dutchess, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Orange, St. Lawrence, Tompkins, Ulster, Warren, and Wayne, along with Berkshire County, Mass.; Bradford, Erie, McKean, Pike, Potter, Susquehanna, Tioga, Warren, and Wayne counties in Pennsylvania; and Addison, Bennington, Chittenden, Grand Isle, and Rutland counties in Vermont, are also eligible to apply for emergency loans.

"The farmers in Genesee County were certainly affected by excessive moisture in the spring," according to Molly Preston, the GC executive director of the local Farm Service Agency, which has an office on Liberty Street in Batavia.

"However, many of the farmers were able to get crops planted, even if it was a bit later than usual. 'The cows need to be fed' was the response from many farmers when asked if they were able to get all their crops in.

"In Genesee County there were approximately 12,500 acres reported as prevented (from being) planted. There are roughly 150,000 acres reported (as planted) annually in Genesee County.

The main crops affected locally were corn and soybeans, but some vegetable crops were also affected. In addition, some new seeded forages were delayed from being planted during the normal planting period, Preston says.

Excessive Rain, Flash Flooding, and Flooding

Producers in Cattaraugus, Jefferson, Lewis, and Madison counties, who suffered losses due to excessive rain, flash flooding, and flooding that has occurred since April 15, 2019, are eligible to apply for emergency loans.

Producers in the contiguous New York counties of Alleghany, Chautauqua, Chenango, Cortland, Erie, Herkimer, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Otsego, St. Lawrence, and Wyoming, along with McKean and Warren counties in Pennsylvania, are also eligible to apply for emergency loans.

FSA will review the loan applications based on the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

FSA has a variety of additional programs to help farmers recover from the impacts of this disaster. FSA programs that do not require a disaster declaration include: Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish ProgramEmergency Conservation ProgramLivestock Forage Disaster ProgramLivestock Indemnity Program;Operating and Farm Ownership Loans; and the Tree Assistance Program.

Farmers may contact their local USDA service center for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at farmers.gov/recover.

February 7, 2020 - 1:11pm

Press release:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the availability of two programs that protect hemp producers’ crops from natural disasters.

A pilot hemp insurance program through Multi-Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) provides coverage against loss of yield because of insurable causes of loss for hemp grown for fiber, grain or Cannabidiol (CBD) oil and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) coverage protects against losses associated with lower yields, destroyed crops or prevented planting where no permanent federal crop insurance program is available. Producers may apply now, and the deadline to sign up for both programs is March 16, 2020.

“We are pleased to offer these coverages to hemp producers. Hemp offers new economic opportunities for our farmers, and they are anxious for a way to protect their product in the event of a natural disaster,” said Farm Production and Conservation Undersecretary Bill Northey.

Multi-Peril Crop Insurance Pilot Insurance Program

The MPCI pilot insurance is a new crop insurance option for hemp producers in select counties of 21 states for the 2020 crop year. The program is available for eligible producers in certain counties in Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. Information on eligible counties is accessible through the USDA Risk Management Agency’s Actuarial Information Browser.

Among other requirements, to be eligible for the pilot program, a hemp producer must have at least one year of history producing the crop and have a contract for the sale of the insured hemp. In addition, the minimum acreage requirement is five acres for CBD and 20 acres for grain and fiber. Hemp will not qualify for replant payments or prevented plant payments under MPCI.

This pilot insurance coverage is available to hemp growers in addition to revenue protection for hemp offered under the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection plan of insurance. Also, beginning with the 2021 crop year, hemp will be insurable under the Nursery crop insurance program and the Nursery Value Select pilot crop insurance program. Under both nursery programs, hemp will be insurable if grown in containers and in accordance with federal regulations, any applicable state or tribal laws and terms of the crop insurance policy.

Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program

NAP provides coverage against loss for hemp grown for fiber, grain, seed or CBD for the 2020 crop year where no permanent federal crop insurance program is available.

NAP basic 50/55 coverage is available at 55 percent of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50 percent of expected production. Buy-up coverage is available in some cases. The 2018 Farm Bill allows for buy-up levels of NAP coverage from 50 to 65 percent of expected production in 5 percent increments, at 100 percent of the average market price. Premiums apply for buy-up coverage.

For all coverage levels, the NAP service fee is $325 per crop or $825 per producer per county, not to exceed $1,950 for a producer with farming interests in multiple counties.

Eligibility Requirements

Under a regulation authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill and issued in October 2019, all growers must have a license to grow hemp and must comply with applicable state, tribal or federal regulations or operate under a state or university research pilot, as authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

Producers must report hemp acreage to FSA after planting to comply with federal and state law enforcement. The Farm Bill defines hemp as containing 0.3 percent or less tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on a dry-weight basis. Hemp having THC above the federal statutory compliance level of 0.3 percent is an uninsurable or ineligible cause of loss and will result in the hemp production being ineligible for production history purposes.

For more information on USDA risk management programs for hemp producers, visit farmers.gov/hemp. For more information on the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program, visit USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services’ website FAQs here.

January 30, 2020 - 11:54am

Press release:

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Team will be hosting its annual Soybean and Small Grains Congress for producers from across the region on Feb. 5 and 6.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., presentations begin at 10 a.m. DEC Recertification points and Certified Crop Adviser credits will be available.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 5 – Quality Inn & Suites, 8250 Park Road, Batavia
  • Thursday, Feb. 6 – Quality Inn, 2468 Route 414, Waterloo

Guest speaker Dennis Pennington, wheat extension specialist, Michigan State University Extension will present: "Managing Wheat for High Yield Potential." His current research program includes the wheat state performance trials, precision planting, high management BASF project and on farm research and demonstration. Pennington is committed to excellence and strives to fulfill the MSU Extension mission by bringing science-based information and knowledge to critical needs and issues.

Additional topics to be discussed by Cornell University researchers include:

  • Disease Management Issues in Small Grains and Soybeans
  • Effective Programs for Controlling Waterhemp in Soybeans
  • Building a Soybean Yield Potential Database in New York
  • Cereal Leaf Beetle: History, Biology, Management and Biocontrol
  • Managing Spray Drift
  • Assessing Pesticide Hazard vs. Risk: Glyphosate, a Case Study

Registration is $65 per person and includes proceeding book, morning refreshments and hot buffet lunch.

To register online, and choose your location: https://nwnyteam.cce.cornell.edu/events.php

To register by phone, contact: Brandie Waite at: 585-343-3040, ext.138

The Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Team is a partnership between Cornell University and the Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations serving dairy, livestock, and field crop farm businesses and supporting industries in these nine northwest New York counties: Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne and Wyoming.

January 30, 2020 - 11:07am
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business, alexander, National Grid.

Press release:

National Grid has approved an economic development grant totaling $127,000 to offset costs related to an upgrade to three-phase electricity power at McCormick Family Dairy Farm in Alexander.

As part of an upgrade, the owners of the farm are planning to install new equipment that will keep their 2,500 cows healthy, save the company money and add power to run fans, motors and improve product quality.

“We frequently work with small businesses and agribusiness customers that are looking to grow but may be limited due to lack of three-phase power at their site,” said National Grid Regional Director Ken Kujawa.

“McCormick Family Farms had examined other potential alternatives to meet their new and growing electricity needs. By working with them, it was determined that three-phase power is the appropriate solution to meet the farm’s electric load.”

The grant was made through National Grid’s Three-Phase Power Incentive program, which provides grants to fund the extension of three-phase electricity service to eligible National Grid customers.

More information about National Grid’s economic development programs is available at www.shovelready.com.

January 17, 2020 - 12:07pm

Press release:

The Pavilion Central School District is proud to announce that we are now able to offer students a Career and Technical Endorsement in both Agriculture and Business.

This new endorsement will encourage students to enhance their skill sets in agriculture or business.

These new programs allow students to study in a focused career pathway, partake focused internships, and attain college credits at associated colleges.

Upon completion of the Business Career Program, the students can receive college credits at GCC in Introduction to Business, Introduction to Computers, and Microcomputer Applications.

The students are also able to achieve credits in Programming and Problem Solving, and Computer Programming after passing the Advanced Placement Computer Science Placement Exam.

The students enrolled in the Agriculture program will be able to receive credit in Agriculture Business at Morrisville State University, and Animal or Plant Science at Alfred State University.

January 16, 2020 - 1:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in trade, economics, agriculture, news.

Press release from the NYS Farm Bureau:

“The Senate’s passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement clears the final hurdle that stood in the way of progress for New York’s farmers.

"Nearly half of our state’s agricultural exports go to our North American neighbors, providing vital market opportunities that will remain open thanks to USMCA.

"The certainty that this agreement provides to farmers, plus the potential for expected growth for our dairy farms, are reasons to commend lawmakers for getting the job done in a strong bipartisan fashion.

"Combine this news with yesterday’s announcement of the phase one trade deal with China, and there is renewed hope that United States’ trade policy is headed in the right direction.”

January 10, 2020 - 4:03pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, agriculture, steve hawley, farm labor laws.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I- Batavia) announced today that he has introduced legislation, A.8916, that would mandate including two additional members on the Farm Laborers Wage Board, increasing membership from three to five individuals. The two additional members would be the Commissioner of Agriculture & Markets and a member of the business community.

“New York City politicians passed sweeping and overarching new farm labor regulations last year which have the potential to devastate small, family-owned farms in our state,” Hawley said. “It is imperative that the new wage board has input and influence from those who are on the frontlines of the agriculture industry instead of politically appointed Big Labor bosses.

“I proudly debated on the Assembly Floor and voted against the farm labor changes because Downstate lawmakers have no business telling our producers how to operate. Agriculture is a unique industry that is thriving in many parts of our state and to pass blanket labor laws from behind a desk in Albany is grossly irresponsible and myopic.

"As the Past President of the Genesee County Farm Bureau and former owner of our family farm in Batavia, I will continue to advocate for our area’s farmers and see that this bill I’m introducing to expand the wage board becomes law this year.”

January 3, 2020 - 9:02am
posted by Billie Owens in business, agriculture, steve hawley, NY Farm Bureau.

Press release: 

Assemblyman Steve Hawley announced today that he has once again been named to the Farm Bureau "Circle of Friends" for his legislative support of agricultural and farming initiatives in 2019.

“I am honored to once again be named to the Circle of Friends and I thank the Farm Bureau for the great relationship and dialogue we have exercised over the years to do what’s best for our area’s producers,” Hawley said.

Hawley is the former owner and operator of Hawley Farms in Batavia, a longtime member of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and a leading opponent of the Farm Labor Bill, which allows unionization, mandatory time off and other labor restrictions for farm workers.

“The new farm labor regulations, which took effect yesterday, are an absolute deathblow to family farms across our state," Hawley said. "By choking our farmer’s labor supply and mandating drastic wage increases, we are threatening our farms’ livelihood and their ability to operate and succeed when they need laborers the most.

"I was proud to stand with farmers across the state in debating and voting against this bill when it came to the Assembly floor. New York City politicians who have probably never set foot on a farm should never be allowed to dictate how we operate.”

January 1, 2020 - 6:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business, farm labor bill.

Press release:

A temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued by Federal Court Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo on Dec. 31 in U.S. District Court in Western New York. The TRO prohibits New York State from enforcing certain actions and imposing penalties upon farmers stemming from a new law scheduled to go into effect today.

It is important to note, the TRO does not impact the law or impact the wages of the vast majority of hourly employees working on New York farms and the payment of overtime, nor was it intended to.

The court action followed a lawsuit filed on Monday, Dec. 30 that would temporarily halt the implementation of the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act on Jan. 1. The suit was filed by the Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA) and the New York State Vegetable Growers Association (NYSVGA) on behalf of the organizations' member farmers across the state, seeking clarity and to ensure they are in compliance with the law’s requirements.

The TRO specifically restrains the state government from enforcing the Act where such actions would impact the status, compensation, and hours of supervisors, family members, shareholders, and administrative and professional employees. The TRO will be in effect for several weeks. If a mutually agreeable settlement is not reached, a preliminary injunction hearing will be held on Jan. 24.

Brian Reeves, president of the New York State Vegetable Growers Association, and owner of Reeves Farms in Baldwinsville (Onondaga County), said, “The ruling in favor of the TRO is an important first step for ensuring the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practice Act is implemented fairly for all who work on farms in New York.

"We want to protect the rights of all who work on our farms and are so important to our success. We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to correct the statute to better address the rights of all who work on our farms.”

Jon Greenwood, chair of the Northeast Dairy Producers Association and co-owner of Greenwood Dairy Farm in Canton (St. Lawrence County), said, “The narrow scope of the TRO ruling will allow us to continue to work with the state to improve language and definitions in the Act.

"Providing clarity to New York’s farms will help us protect our management teams while assuring family members and others employed on our farms are treated fairly. We look forward to working with the state and court to ensure that the interests of farmers, their families, and employees are represented in the new state law.”

December 30, 2019 - 12:57pm
posted by Billie Owens in Farm Labor Act, business, agriculture, dairy, vegetable growers.

Press release:*

A coalition of New York State dairy and vegetable farms has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Western New York seeking a court order that would temporarily halt the implementation of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act on Jan.1. New York’s farmers and employees are seeking clarity to ensure they are in compliance with its requirements.

The group, which includes the Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA), the New York State Vegetable Growers Association (NYSVGA), and individual farmers across the state have been working with state officials for months, leading up to and following the legislature’s approval in June of a measure that was then signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in July.

*(Update) In Genesee County, the coalition includes Torrey Farms, a dairy farm in Elba that's been in operation since 1803, and MTy Acres, which is represented on the Board of Directors of NYS veg growers.

Prior to filing the lawsuit today, representatives of NEDPA and the NYSVGA worked into the evening on Friday in an effort to seek a resolution that would bring clarity to the matter. In addition, they maintained open lines of communications and were willing to continue the dialogue throughout the weekend.

In fact, prior to being voted upon and signed, a statewide advocacy effort was conducted by concerned agricultural interests that repeatedly identified flaws within the legislation that needed to be addressed to avoid unintended consequences of the state action.

More specifically, the lawsuit outlines the challenges facing New York’s agriculture community, and identifies several key issues that require modification.

  • As currently written, the Act’s definition of “farm laborer” includes supervisors, farm owners and family members of farm owners. This places farms in a contradictory or “Catch 22” position. If supervisors, owners and family members are classified as farm laborers, they have the right to engage in collective bargaining with other employees. However, if supervisors, owners and family members are also agents of the farm business, they must not engage in conduct that would discourage union concerted activity, assist in the formation of a union, or otherwise violate the rights of farm laborers.
  • The Act also conflicts with Section 14(a) of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). The Act includes supervisors as part of the group of farm labors who may engage in concerted activities, but the NLRA expressly prohibits states from adopting such legislation, and so the law is preempted by federal law. 
  • Because the Act includes supervisors, owners, and family members for purposes of its hour restrictions and overtime pay requirements, farms must reclassify the way they engage these individuals, and this compounds the conflict as farmers endeavor to implement the law.
  • As a result, if a farm decides to classify its supervisors, owners and family members as farm laborers, it will result in a violation of the Act’s collective bargaining provisions. On the other hand, if a farm takes the position that supervisors, owners and family members are not farm laborers, the farm may be subjecting itself to criminal and civil penalties by violating their rights as farm laborers and by violating the hour restrictions and overtime pay requirements.

John Dickinson, Northeast Dairy Producers Association, and co-owner of Ideal Dairy in Hudson Falls (Washington County), said, “We greatly appreciate the efforts of our employees; they are invaluable to our success and we want to do what’s right for them. We have had productive interactions with state representatives and provided feedback on the lack of clarity this law provides, however we are asking for a pause to allow necessary changes to be made.

"The lack of guidance the dairy community is receiving is causing unnecessary stress on farms, agribusinesses, and families across the state. We have every intention of abiding with this law, but our farms and employees are struggling with implementation due to unclear and conflicting definitions as it is currently written.”

Brian Reeves, president of the New York State Vegetable Growers Association, and owner of Reeves Farms in Baldwinsville (Onondaga County), said,“We have been working for months in a constructive manner to bring clarity and fairness to a law that had significant problems due to ambiguity and unfairness to employees and farm families across New York.

"Today, we are simply seeking a temporary pause to the implementation of this law, to avoid harm to our farms and our employees, while the Governor and Legislature correct the ambiguities.”

December 26, 2019 - 12:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Cornell Cooperative Extension, business, agriculture.

Press release:

The Genesee County Cornell Cooperative Extension Board of Directors has selected Joaquina Kankam as their executive director, a position that includes leadership of the 100-year-old organization that provides quality programs in youth development, agriculture, nutrition, leadership, and community and economic development.

Kankam currently works as a statewide Extension Program Specialist in 4-H and Youth Development with Prairie View A & M University in Texas. She also cochairs a committee for the National Urban Extension Conference Planning Committee and leads numerous statewide youth development and professional development training.

Prior to her current role, she served as an instructor for two different colleges, and as an educator/administrator for the Houston Independent School District.

Kankam holds a B.A. in psychology from Tuskegee University, an M.Ed. in Education from the University of St. Thomas, and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Prairie View A & M University.

“I am so excited to work with such a kind group of people. I hope I can extend the same welcome to everyone as the lovely people of Genesee County have already given to me,” Kankam said.

She will begin her role on Jan. 6th. For more information on Genesee County Cornell Cooperative Extension, please visit genesee.cce.cornell.edu.

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