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June 15, 2019 - 12:58pm

Submitted photo and press release:

June is National Dairy Month! Recently, Genesee County Dairy Promotion held its annual coronation at Genesee Community College. The 2019 Court includes six Dairy Maids and six Dairy Ambassadors.

The State Address was given by Beth Keene, who encouraged the girls to learn and teach others about the Dairy Industry and the importance of sharing their own dairy stories. NYS Alternate Dairy Princess, Alyssa Roorda, spoke about Dairy Promotion activities across New York State.

Congratulations to the new Genesee County Dairy Promotion Team!

The girls are anxious to help out at dairy events. Contact Emily at (585) 201-3494, for more information. 

Pictured -- Back row, from left: Maggie Winspear, Georgia Luft, Noelia Ventura, Miah Werth, NYS Alternate Dairy Princess Alyssa Roorda, Carolyn Sybertz, Amelia Brewer, and Jillian Brewer. Front row, from left: Annalise Sybertz, Chloe Lamb, Claire Lamb, and Caroline Luft.

June 13, 2019 - 1:43pm
posted by Billie Owens in steve hawley, Grow-NY, agriculture, business, news.

Submitted photo and press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) met with supporters at a rally in Albany Wednesday organized by the New York Farm Bureau and Grow-NY regarding the dangers of allowing farm workers to unionize.

Hawley, the former owner and operator of Hawley Farms in Batavia, is a longtime member of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and has been outspoken on the damaging effects labor regulations would have on the family farming industry.

“I was proud to stand with dedicated farmers, activists and producers yesterday in Albany as we push back against labor regulations being advanced by New York City politicians,” Hawley said.

“Our family farms are already struggling under suffocating minimum-wage mandates and low commodity prices, and to regulate an industry, which thrives off the necessity to operate unique hours at different times would be devastating.”

Net farm income is down 50 percent from just a few years ago and farmers have little to no control over the prices they receive for what they produce, unlike most manufacturers who can set their own prices.

According to a 2019 report from Farm Credit East, mandatory overtime would increase labor costs on farms by almost $300 million and decrease net farm income by almost 25 percent.

“We know what works best for our family farms and that is the ability to regulate their own labor to produce the best results. I will continue to stand in the way of harmful farm mandates as session nears its end next week,” Hawley concluded.

Photo: ​Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) meets with Maureen Torrey and Shelley Stein, on left, from Grow-NY at Wednesday’s New York Farm Bureau Rally in Albany.

June 13, 2019 - 1:32pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, dairy farmers, agriculture, milk producers.

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 13 — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announces that signup begins June 17 for the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program, the cornerstone program of the dairy safety net that helps dairy producers manage the volatility of milk and feed prices, operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).

The 2018 Farm Bill allowed USDA to construct the new DMC, which replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy). This new program offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.

“In February I committed to opening signup of the new Dairy Margin Coverage program by June 17, I am proud to say that our FSA staff worked hard to meet that challenge as one of the Department’s top Farm Bill implementation priorities since President Trump signed it last December.” said Secretary Perdue. “With an environment of low milk prices, high economic stress, and a new safety net program with higher coverage levels and lower premiums, it is the right time for dairy producers to seriously consider enrolling when signup opens. For many smaller dairies, the choice is probably a no-brainer as the retroactive coverage through January has already assured them that the 2019 payments will exceed the required premiums.”

The program provides coverage retroactive to Jan. 1, 2019, with applicable payments following soon after enrollment. At the time of signup, dairy producers can choose between the $4 to $9.50 coverage levels.

The Farm Bill also allows producers who participated in MPP-Dairy from 2014-2017 to receive a repayment or credit for part of the premiums paid into the program. FSA has been providing premium reimbursements to producers since last month and those that elect the 75 percent credit option will now have that credit applied toward 2019 DMC premiums.

The Department has built in a 50 percent blend of premium and supreme alfalfa hay prices with the alfalfa hay price used under the prior dairy program to provide a total feed cost that more closely aligns with hay rations used by many producers. At a milk margin minus feed cost of $9.50 or less, payments are possible. With the 50 percent hay blend, FSA’s revised April 2019 income over feed cost margin is $8.82 per hundredweight (cwt). The revised margins for January, February and March are, respectively, $7.71, $7.91 and $8.66 – triggering DMC payments for each month.

DMC payments will be reduced by 6.2 percent in 2019 because of a sequester order required by Congress and issued in accordance with the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

DMC offers catastrophic coverage at no cost to the producer, other than an annual $100 administrative fee. Producers can opt for greater coverage levels for a premium in addition to the administrative fee. Operations owned by limited resource, beginning, socially disadvantaged or veteran farmers and ranchers may be eligible for a waiver on administrative fees. Producers have the choice to lock in coverage levels until 2023 and receive a 25-percent discount on their DMC premiums.

To assist producers in making coverage elections, USDA partnered with the University of Wisconsin to develop a DMC decision support tool, which can be used to evaluate various scenarios using different coverage levels through DMC.

More Information

All dairy operations in the United States are eligible for the DMC program. An operation can be run either by a single producer or multiple producers who commercially produce and market cows’ milk.

Eligible dairy operations must have a production history determined by FSA. For most operations, production history is based on the highest milk production in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Newer dairy operations have other options for determining production history. Producers may contact their local FSA office to get their verified production history.

Dairy producers also are reminded that 2018 Farm Bill provisions allow for dairy operation to participate in both FSA’s DMC program and the Risk Management Agency’s Livestock Gross Margin (LGM-Dairy) program. There are also no restrictions from participating in DMC in conjunction with any other RMA insurance products.

On December 20, 2018, President Trump signed into law the 2018 Farm Bill, which provides support, certainty and stability to our nation’s farmers, ranchers and land stewards by enhancing farm support programs, improving crop insurance, maintaining disaster programs and promoting and supporting voluntary conservation. FSA is committed to implementing these changes as quickly and effectively as possible, and today’s updates are part of meeting that goal.

For more information, visit farmers.gov DMC webpage or contact your local USDA service center. To locate your local FSA office, visit farmers.gov/service-locator.

June 12, 2019 - 5:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, farm workers, farm labor bill, video.
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This morning a group of farmers and farm workers gathered in the parking lot of Farm Credit East before heading to Albany to participate in a rally against a proposed bill that would give farm workers the right to join unions and restrict their working hours to eight hours a day and 40 hours a week.

June 6, 2019 - 10:33am
posted by Billie Owens in news, steve hawley, dairy, agriculture, Dairy Day.

Submitted photo and press release from Assemblyman Steve Hawley:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) proudly celebrated Dairy Day on Wednesday, June 5, in Albany, along with colleagues from both sides of the aisle, activists, advocates and farmers from around the state.

Hawley, a longtime member of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, is the former owner and operator of Hawley Farms located in Batavia.

“This marks one of my favorite days of the year in Albany as we come together, putting party and differences aside, to celebrate New York’s spectacular dairy industry,” Hawley said.

“I believe we have one of the premier dairy operations in the entire country as our milk is used in yogurt, cheese and ice cream and eventually shipped and sold across the United States.

"I take pride in being a strong advocate for dairy farmers and will continue to support their efforts in our state.”

June 5, 2019 - 5:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in kinderfarmin', agriculture, corfu, Reyncrest Farms, video.

 

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More than 600 students from every district in Genesee County visited Reyncrest Farms in Corfu this morning for the Farm Bureau's annual Kinderfarmin' Day, where kindergarteners get a chance to learn about where their food comes from and what happens on farms.

Formerly known as Dairy Days, when it focused on first-graders, it's been a regular event in Genesee County for more than 40 years, and Genesee County is the last county in the state still holding the event annually.

May 24, 2019 - 10:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, news, farm labor bill.

Farmworkers have the right to form unions and collectively bargain for wages and working conditions, a New York appellate court ruled this week in a decision that also denied the respondent in the case an opportunity for a hearing on the topic.

The ruling drew a swift rebuke from the respondent, the New York Farm Bureau. The Farm Bureau issued the following statement:

“We are extremely disappointed in the majority’s decision and the breadth of its ruling. The Appellate Court was considering the trial court’s decision on a motion to dismiss, which, if denied would have permitted Farm Bureau to fully litigate this case in the trial court.

"Instead, the majority of the court decided to make a far-reaching determination by declaring the right to collectively bargain as a “fundamental right,” on par with the freedoms of speech and religion. We believe that the majority’s conclusion is unsupportable and disregards decades of precedent.

"The court’s dissenting opinion exposed the flaws in the majority’s ruling and identified that the decision eliminates Farm Bureau’s right to defend the constitutionality of the statute in a trial court. 

"Speaking more broadly, if the legislature, and now the courts do not recognize the value of preserving a viable and economically sustainable food production system in the state, New York agriculture will continue to shrink under a mountain of mandates.

"Our rural economy and local job opportunities will suffer. And New Yorkers will find it harder to access New York grown food, instead, relying on food brought in from out of state, or worse yet, out of the country to feed their families. New York Farm Bureau fully intends to appeal the court’s ill-conceived ruling.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley also criticized the ruling.

“The New York state Appellate Court got this wrong. I’m deeply disappointed, both in the substance of the ruling and in the judicial overreach which prevents the New York Farm Bureau from appropriately litigating this case in trial court. Make no mistake, if the Court of Appeals doesn’t overturn this decision, it will mark the end of family farms in New York state, wiping out hundreds of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in economic impact and generations of time-honored tradition older than New York state itself. It’s imperative that the New York Farm Bureau’s appeal is successful,” said Hawley.

The issue is also part of a contentious dispute in the state Legislature over proposed changes in state labor law that, if passed as currently written, would give farmworkers the right to organize and also institute for farmworkers an eight-hour workday, and a 40-hour work week. These provisions, farmers, and farmworkers say would devastate the state's agriculture industry.

The ruling potentially takes away a bargaining chip from opponents of the bill by granting the bill sponsors one of the changes in law they are seeking.

State Senator Rob Ortt, the ranking minority party member of the Agriculture Committee was also unhappy with the ruling.

“After today’s ruling, the last thing we need to do is pass the Farmworkers Fair Labor Act, which goes far beyond today’s ruling, and adds even more regulations on the backs of those responsible for growing our food.”

The ruling, of course, was applauded by those who support labor unions for farmworkers.

“The court’s ruling today was unequivocal that denying farmworkers basic labor rights is flat-out unconstitutional, and farmworkers, like other workers, have the right to organize,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of NYCLU told the New York Law Journal. “The workers on whom we depend for the food on our tables have the right to be treated humanely and with dignity, like any other hardworking New Yorker.”

The Cuomo administration has recently openly supported the move to allow farmworkers to collectively bargain and Attorney General Letitia James said she supported the decision.

The state did not defend itself from the lawsuit filed three years ago by former farmworker Crispin Hernandez, leaving it to the Farm Bureau to represent farmers' interests.

The lawsuit challenged the State Labor Relations Act, passed in 1937, that granted broad rights for workers to organize but specifically excluded farmworkers.

Critics of the exclusion claim the exclusion has its roots in Jim Crow practices (not, at the time, unknown in New York, though generally thought of as practices in the early 20th century in the Deep South) that discriminated against blacks. That history factored into the plaintiff's arguments.

The case was heard by the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department.  The majority opinion as written by Justice Christine M. Clark.

The plaintiff's attorneys argued that the 1937 act denied their client equal protection under the law and infringed on a fundamental right to organize and collectively bargain and also violated New York's Constitution. A provision passed at a constitutional convention in 1938 afforded employees the right to organize.

Clark found that constitutional meaning of "employee" included farmworkers.

Indeed, there is nothing in the language of the constitutional provision to support the suggestion that the drafters intended for the term "employees" to be narrowed or limited in any way. Accordingly, when the term "employees" is given its natural and ordinary meaning, we think it clear that the constitutional right to organize and collectively bargain extends to individuals employed as farm laborers

In his lone dissent, Justice  Stan L. Pritzker noted that the constitutional convention was held a year after the labor act was passed so the framers certainly had a very clear understanding of the law as written and did not intend to include farmworkers in the constitutional provision allowing employees to organize.

He also did not include the right to organize in his list of fundamental rights even though the right to assembly (and by extension, according to prior Supreme Court cases, the right to free association) is part of the Bill of Rights. 

From his dissent:

Fundamental rights are those deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition. They include the right to marry; the right to have children; the right to decide how one's children will be educated; and the right to engage in private consensual sexual activity."

Fundamental rights also include the right to vote, the right to travel, the right of free speech and the right of a criminal defendant to appeal. One need only imagine and compare laws that would prevent farm laborers from exercising freedom of speech, voting, traveling, marrying, raising children or appealing criminal convictions to recognize the distinction and understand why a fundamental constitutional right is not implicated here.

Further, the inclusion of the right to organize and bargain collectively in the New York Bill of Rights does not, per se, confer upon it fundamental constitutional right status (citations omitted).

The dispute over whether the right to organize is a fundamental right is important because if it's a fundamental right, it would carry more weight than the 1937 law as passed by the Legislature.

The Farm Bureau will be able to appeal the ruling to the state's Court of Appeals.

May 20, 2019 - 2:13pm

Press release:

The Genesee Country Farmers' Market @ The Downtown Batavia Public Market opens for the season on Friday, June 7th, at the market's location on the corner of Bank Street and Alva Place in the Downtown Batavia Business District.

Market hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays with the season running from Friday, June 7th, through Friday, Oct. 25th.

"This year marks the fourth year of collaboration with BID (Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District)", says Market Manager Mike Bakos, "The Market will remain a three-day per week 'Grow-Your-Own' market, featuring the freshest locally-grown produce along with unique specialty items from local artisans.

"Vendors are excited about the upcoming market season with many of last year's vendors returning along with some new additions. The market will once again participate in the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), DUFB (Double-Up Food Bucks), NYS FreshConnect, WIC and Senior Farmer's Market Check Programs. Stop by and talk directly to the people that grow your food."

The market is committed to its Mission of "providing a family-friendly environment where the residents of the Greater-Batavia area and Genesee County can shop for fresh, locally-grown, produce and specialty artisanal items" -- and its Vision of "making the Genesee Country Farmers' Market @ The Downtown Batavia Public Market a WNY Destination."

Parties interested in joining the market to become a Seasonal Vendor or Day Vendor may contact Sharon Brent at (716)-560-0853 or by email at [email protected] or Mike Bakos at (716) 866-4958 or by email at [email protected].

Qualifying charities, service-groups, or 501c3 organizations that would like to participate in the market may obtain a FREE market stall by contacting the market at (716) 866-4958 or by email at [email protected].

May 20, 2019 - 2:06pm
posted by Billie Owens in agriculture, steve hawley, news, farmworkers, business.

Press release from Assemblyman Steve Hawley's office:

Following increasing pressure from Downstate lawmakers to overturn an 80-year law and allow farm workers to unionize, Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) is again calling for statewide public hearings to be conducted by the Assembly before any vote is proposed to make such a sweeping change to one of New York’s largest industries. 

The former owner/operator of Hawley Farms in Batavia was one of the first legislators to sign onto the Assembly Minority’s letter requesting public hearings on unionization.

“Growing up as a generational farmer in Western New York and eventually owning and operating our family farm, I am confident that unionization would harm our industry and force more family-owned operations to close,” Hawley said.

“Farming is unique in its demands, its work schedule, its earnings structure and its labor needs, and to impose blanket requirements to make it congruent with other industries simply may not work in the agricultural model.”

Hawley, a longtime member of the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee, has been in conversations with Chairwoman Donna Lupardo (D-Binghamton) to hold public hearings for several weeks.

“I suspect that the New York City lawmakers pushing this legislation have very little experience on a farm and we need statewide hearings to ensure that current farmers, their employees and members of the agriculture community are heard before any decisions are made,” Hawley said.

May 19, 2019 - 6:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in farm labor bill, farm labor, agriculture, news, notify, corfu, video.
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Sen. Rob Ortt visited Reyncrest Farms in Corfu on Friday as part, he said, of regular visits to farms in Upstate New York to learn more about the potential impact of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act.

He said he feels obligated to do it because the supporters of the bill, who have no farms or farmworkers in their districts, aren't doing it and they're not holding hearings on the bill in Western New York.

"We know that the sponsor is not visiting farms," Ortt said "She doesn't have a farm in her district. So I'm trying to fill that void to push back on some of these narratives that are being justified as to why we need to have this legislation in New York."

Ortt is the ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee. He's also a potential candidate for the Republic primary race in the 27th Congressional District.

Sen. Jessica Ramos, chair of the Senate Labor Committee, and a first-term representative from Queens, is the Senate sponsor of the bill. She did visit Genesee County a few weeks ago and met with farmers and farmworkers and tried to prevent the press from covering her visit. She heard from many farmworkers who said they didn't support the legislation because it would mean they would make less money.

The bill, as written currently, would give farmworkers the right to join labor unions, as well as mandate an eight-hour workday and 40-hour work week. Both farmers and farmworkers say it is the cap on work hours that will do the most economic damage.

Earlier this month, Ortt lead a roundtable discussion of the bill and afterward indicated a willingness to negotiate on both of those main points. Friday he said that willingness is based on the feedback he's getting from farmers who tell him, he said, that if passage of such a bill is inevitable, then can it at least be made less draconian?

So far, he said, he's seen little willingness by the sponsors to negotiate.

Reyncrest is exactly the kind of family-owned dairy farm that stands to be most severely hurt by the legislation if it passes as is, he said.

"They have three farmers, (ages) 28, 26, and 25 -- a new generation, right? The next generation of farmers here to keep this going," Ortt said. "But they need to be able to sustain each of those individuals. This farm needs to be profitable for all three of those family members and if they can't make it a go, maybe they're unable to continue on and that impacts consumers.

"That impacts folks here in New York State who want to buy their products from New York State farmers, who want to buy their products from locally grown farms, locally grown here in New York. And so every time we add onto the burden here, and especially when it's being done by people who haven't stepped foot on a farm, who don't understand the dynamics of what they're doing, now I think that should be a real cause for concern for all New Yorkers."

May 16, 2019 - 2:36pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, agriculture, chris collins, business, dairy.

Press release:

On Wednesday, Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) introduced legislation that would provide a short-term, one-time fix, to help the nonseasonal agriculture workforce.

"The Helping Labor Personnel (HELP) Farms Act" provides a solution for farmers across the nation, especially in the dairy industry, while Congress and the Department of Labor continue to modernize the H-2A program and allow visas be granted on an annual basis instead of seasonally.

“Under current law, the H-2A visa program does not help our struggling dairy farms, who live in constant fear of losing their workforce,” Congressman Collins said. “This legislation provides a temporary solution while Congress and the Department of Labor work together to find a bipartisan solution.”

This legislation requires the Secretary of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Secretary of State and Secretary of Labor, to collect applications for temporary work authorization for nonseasonal agriculture workers. This nonseasonal agriculture workforce must be sponsored by a United States employer who he/she has worked with for at least two years.

Upon approval of the application, the alien worker will be granted work authorization for two years along with his/her spouse and children. Additionally, protections are included for the sponsoring employer to ensure there are no consequences for employing an alien workforce due to an outdated and flawed H-2A visa program.

“There is not a single person representing dairy that does not understand we have a true crisis with the current system we have in place,” Collins added.

An alien worker who currently works in a nonseasonal agriculture occupation may be permitted to apply to this temporary work authorization program so long as they have not been convicted on felony charges of rape, kidnapping violent assault, sexual assault, or suspected of terrorism.

Alien workers who are currently being detained may also be given the opportunity to apply for this program.

A copy of the bill can be found here.

May 15, 2019 - 4:38pm
posted by Billie Owens in kinderfarmin', GC Farm Bureau, education, agriculture, news.

Press release:

Spring has arrived, and with it comes Genesee County Farm Bureau’s annual event -- Kinderfarmin'! This year, Kinderfarmin’ is being held Wednesday, June 5th, at Reyncrest Farm in Corfu.

Kinderfarmin’ attracts kindergarten students from every district in Genesee County and brings more than 600 students, as well as, teachers and chaperones together at a local dairy farm for hands-on learning stations and tours.

The event has been happening for more than 40 years and has become a staple for classrooms across our county. This winter, Kinderfarmin’ was even recognized by the American Farm Bureau Federation as an “Event of Excellence."

The bureau partners with more than 15 local businesses and organizations and more than 40 volunteers to provide a unique experience that is both fun and educational for all ages. They aim to highlight all the effort that goes into making our favorite dairy products, like milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and, of course, ice cream!

Event Details

Date: Wednesday, June 5 Time: 8 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Location: Reyncrest Dairy

9666 Allegany Road (Route 77)

Corfu, NY 14036

May 3, 2019 - 4:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in farm bill, agriculture, news, notify, Sen. Jessica Ramos.

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As odd as it might seem to most Western New Yorkers, Sen. Rob Ortt told a group of farmers, farmworkers, and farm supporters gathered for a roundtable discussion at Batavia City Hall on Thursday, stopping the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act from destroying Upstate farms may come down to the reasonableness of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

"His signature will have to be on this bill and then it will be his bill," Ortt said. "He will be the one with the legacy of what this bill will do to the largest business sector in the state. I think that will give him pause. I know in the past not many of us have thought of him as the voice of reason in Albany but as unusual as it might be, that might just be the case (with the farm labor bill)."

Assemblyman Steve Hawley said the idea of Cuomo doing the right thing for Upstate residents isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. He pointed to the recent fight over providing college benefits to Gold Star families. When Assembly Democrats rejected the proposal, Cuomo found a way to shift funds and get it done, Hawley said.

"The guy who is purportedly governor of the entire state and represents all of us could just be the key to all of this," Hawley said.

Ortt convened the roundtable to discuss the farm labor bill, he said, because Western New York farmers are not being heard by members of the Legislature because there are no hearings being held in this part of the state.

The bill, if passed, would give farmworkers the right to join labor unions, establish an eight-hour workday and a 40-hour work week, establish regulations for housing, and establish rules for workers' compensation.

Area farmers say the changes to the law would devastate them. Area farmworkers say the bill would diminish their incomes. Both say a 40-hour work week, in particular, would mean H2A workers, who can work anywhere in the nation, would stop coming to New York.

The Senate sponsor of the bill is Sen. Jessica Ramos, a first-termer from Queens who now chairs the Senate Labor Committee. Ramos visited Genesee County a couple of weeks ago and met with farmers and farmworkers in a meeting room at Genesee Community College and then at a Torrey Farms facility in Elba, where 350 farmworkers were on hand to talk with her. Both events were supposed to be closed to the press but The Batavian was at the event at Torrey Farms (see story and video here).

Sen. Michael Ranzehofer, who hosted the visit, said that while most of the conversations were in Spanish, to an individual, old, young, men, women, there was a consistent theme: the workers don't want to be restricted to only 40 hours a week.

That's a message that didn't seem to sway Ramos, Ranzenhofer indicated.

In a recent article, Ramos (who canceled a scheduled interview with The Batavian and has not rescheduled it) told the Queens Eagle that arguments that New York farmers would not be able to compete in the global market place of commodities if the bill passes are unpersuasive. 

“Farmers understand that there’s merit in treating their workers well, but of course like everything else there are great employers and there are very poor employers,” Ramos told the Eagle. “This bill is really about codifying rights that exist for every other worker in New York.”

Ramos cited her own experience in her parents native country of Colombia for supporting the bill.

“Farming is not foreign to me. When I’d go to Colombia as a little girl, I spent a lot of time picking coffee,” she said, adding that she has long advocated for labor rights. “That’s the reason I’m there. I’m not trying to do this from a perch down in Queens. I really honestly care to understand everyone’s perspective.”

Sen. Chris Jacobs observed that Ramos, "seems very set in her ways."

For local farmers, who represent them, however, Ramos, and Cathy Nolan, who is carrying the bill in the Assembly, are two out-of-touch Downstate legislators who have no farms, farmers, or farmworkers in their districts and have no business crafting agriculture policy.

"We've got to realize that we're less than 1 percent of the population in New York," said Kim Zuber, representing Monroe County Farm Bureau. "People don't really understand what we do and they don't understand the cost of doing business."

A couple of the farmers pointed out that they already comply with some provisions of the bill, especially when it comes to housing. Most farmers provide housing, including paid utilities, for their migrant workers. If their workers have an H2A visa, the Health Department regularly inspects farmworker housing and the farmers are held to pretty high standards.

"I just took my son to his new apartment in Buffalo," said one farmer, "and as I looked at it, I found at least a half dozen violations. I'm not saying it was a bad place, but an H2A worker would never be allowed in that house and I'm not exaggerating."

Sen. Rich Funke was pretty blunt.

"This is the single greatest attack on Upstate New York by Downstate politicians since I’ve been in office," Funke said.

In an interview after the meeting, Ortt expanded on his thoughts about the potential role Cuomo might have in protecting farmers and farmworkers from this legislation. He noted that, whether you support the effort or not, Cuomo has invested heavily in Western New York economic development. He clearly wants economic development in Upstate to be his lasting legacy and this bill, with its potential to devastate the Upstate economy, could undo all of the governor's efforts to bring industry back to Upstate.

"If all of the prognostications are true, this bill will kill the Upstate economy," Ortt said. "Does he want, after all the money and all the press and all the trips Upstate, for that to be his legacy? You know how it goes, everybody remembers the governor. The senators and the assemblymen come and go, but the governor is the one people remember when it comes to these long-term impacts. Does he want people to remember that it was the Cuomo administration and Governor Cuomo who signed this bill into law?

We asked Ortt if Ramos, given her attempts to avoid the media on her trip here and her unwillingness to answer questions about her bill, is really an honest broker with this legislation?

"Well, anytime you say 'no press' on a bill this big, it begs the question, 'why?' " Ortt said. "Why the secrecy? I mean, truthfully, what is she afraid of? To me, that's a red flag right there. Why no press? But I think what's also interesting is that at the first hearing in Morrisville she was there two hours late and left an hour early. So how much is she really listening?

As for the bill itself, we asked about the right for farmworkers to collectively bargain, especially given Ortt's statement earlier in the evening suggesting some sort of compromise could be reached on the bill. The Constitution guarantees the right to assembly, the right to free association, so shouldn't workers have the right to form unions?

"No one actually objects to their right to organize or collectively bargain," Ortt said. "Now that's coming from farmers. They told me that is not their objection, it's (that) we're also setting the conditions that might be negotiable and we're setting them in state law. For the farmer, he's saying, 'Well, not only are you allowing them to collectively bargain but then you're also setting several parameters that might be negotiable and you're taking that off the table because you're putting it in state law."

The main objection farmers have to the bill, Ortt said, is the eight-hour workday and 40-hour work week.

"To be competitive, you can't limit yourself to an eight-hour day," Ortt said. "The overtime really affects your bottom line. So they're saying maybe 60 hours for the hourly, and anything over 60 or 65 then you could do time and a half, and don't set a daily limit. Maybe those are points of negotiation. I don't know and I hate to negotiate against myself.

"If Senator Ramos or Senator Metzger or whomever, if they're willing to make a movement that's great, we can have a conversation," Ortt added later. "I haven't seen as of yet a sign that they're willing to make any move. So, you know, as the old saying goes, you know, 'don't negotiate against yourself.' "

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April 30, 2019 - 1:32pm

Press release:

WASHINGTON, April 30 – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today unveiled a groundbreaking report, A Case for Rural Broadband: Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies (PDF, 2.5 MB).

The report finds that deployment of both broadband e-Connectivity and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technology on farms and ranches throughout the United States could result in at least $47 billion in national economic benefits every year.

“Broadband and Next Generation Precision Agriculture are critical components for creating vital access to world-class resources, tools and opportunity for America’s farmers, ranchers, foresters and producers,” Secretary Perdue said.

“Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA is committed to doing our part to clear the way for nationwide broadband connectivity that will allow the next generation of precision agriculture technologies to thrive and expand.”

Download A Case for Rural Broadband: Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies (PDF, 2.5 MB). To see how Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies can work on farm and ranching operations, view the Connected Technologies infographic (PDF, 910 KB).

The report also finds that if broadband infrastructure and digital technologies at scale were available at a level that meets estimated producer demand, the U.S. economy could realize benefits equivalent to nearly 18 percent of total agriculture production. Of that 18 percent, more than one-third is dependent on broadband e-Connectivity, equivalent to at least $18 billion in annual economic benefits that only high-speed, reliable internet can provide.

For many years, USDA and the American agriculture industry have been actively researching the feasibility, usage and potential upside of Next Generation Precision Agriculture technologies. Until now though, the interdependency of these technologies and broadband e-Connectivity has not been evaluated.

The report released today explores this symbiotic relationship and quantifies the potential economic benefit of broadband buildout and the complementary adoption of connected agriculture technologies. Going forward, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will be engaged in multiple facets of infrastructure and technology deployment, including financing rural capital investments and supporting producers who are exploring which Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies are best suited to improve their operations and serve their customers.

In April 2017, President Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump.

These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. The Report identified Achieving e-Connectivity in Rural America as a cornerstone recommendation. The Administration has been executing this priority call to action through the American Broadband Initiative (ABI) (PDF, 647 KB), which reflects rural broadband build-out as one of President Trump’s directives to the Federal government. A Case for Rural Broadband: Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies (PDF, 2.5 MB) opens the next chapter in the USDA’s response to this call to action.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

April 30, 2019 - 12:58pm

Press release from Senator Mike Ranzenhofer:

State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Steve Hawley have called on the Governor to restore funding for local Ag Academy, through a program of targeted education funding, referred to as “Bullet Aid.”

“I was very disappointed to see cuts to various agriculture programs," Ranzenhofer said. "The Genesee County Ag Academy provides a unique opportunity to students who are looking for a hands-on experience in agriculture education.

"I am hopeful that the Governor realizes how crucial these programs are and allocates the necessary funding. We are respectfully requesting $100,000 for the Genesee County Agriculture Academy, through the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership."

“New York’s agricultural industry is one of the strongest in the nation, having been realized through a robust and consistent investment in young aspiring farmers and producers in our state budget," said Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia). "To cut funding that empowers future generations of young people interested in farming would devastate the industry and hinder our labor pool. Genesee County is undoubtedly a production hub in our state and the Genesee County Agricultural Academy is the centerpiece of teaching and innovation.

"The $100,000 we are seeking for this institution is readily available through discretionary bullet aid and I implore Gov. Cuomo to make the right decision for New York agriculture.”

This agribusiness program began through funding that Senator Ranzenhofer secured in 2013. Since then, the program has received funding in the budget through local agriculture assistance. For the first time in recent history, the Governor has $5 million to be given out at his discretion, for local education programs.

The 2019-20 budget was passed on April 1st.

April 24, 2019 - 1:16pm

Press release:

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now accepting online applications for funding through the new ReConnect Rural Broadband Pilot Program.

These funds will enable the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service. Insufficient service is defined as connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second download and 1 megabit per second upload.

ReConnect funding applications can be submitted now at reconnect.usda.gov.

“Reliable, high-speed broadband internet e-Connectivity is critical for economic prosperity and quality of life in the 21st century, from education to health care to agriculture to manufacturing and beyond,” Secretary Perdue said.

“We at USDA are very excited to begin accepting applications for funds from this new and innovative program, which will bring critical infrastructure investments to homes, farms, ranches, schools and health care sites in rural America.”

Congress first appropriated funds for the new Rural e-Connectivity Pilot Program, known as ReConnect, in 2018. The program will be a proof-of-concept, enabling USDA to create and implement innovative options for rural connectivity by providing various financial packages to our customers.

In this first round of funding, USDA is making available at least $600 million in rural broadband projects, through $200 million in grants, $200 million in loan and grant combinations, and $200 million in low-interest loans. The application deadlines for each of these funding packages are as follows:

  • May 31, 2019, for projects seeking federal funds from the grants-only package;
  • June 21, 2019, for projects seeking a combination of federal loans and grants; and
  • July 12, 2019, for projects seeking low-interest federal loans.

This $600 million appropriation from Congress more than doubles federal funding available through USDA’s longstanding broadband programs. Future rounds of funding for ReConnect will be announced later this year.

For additional information about the ReConnect program, see page 5981 of the Feb. 25, 2019, Federal Register (PDF, 230 KB) and page 64315 of the Dec. 14, 2018, Federal Register (PDF, 286 KB).

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump.

These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure, including rural broadband infrastructure, is a cornerstone recommendation of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

April 18, 2019 - 1:24pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, agriculture, trade.

USDA press release:

Washington, D.C., April 18 -- U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today that a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement panel found that China has administered its tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) for wheat, corn, and rice inconsistently with its WTO commitments. Contrary to those commitments, China’s TRQ administration is not transparent, predictable, or fair, and it ultimately inhibits TRQs from filling, denying U.S. farmers access to China’s market for grain.

This panel report is the second significant victory for U.S. agriculture this year, and, together with the victory against China’s excessive domestic support for grains, will help American farmers compete on a more level playing field. 

“This second important victory for the United States further demonstrates that President Trump will take all steps necessary to enforce trade rules and to ensure free and fair trade for U.S. farmers. The Administration will continue to press China to promptly come into compliance with its WTO obligations,” said Ambassador Lighthizer.

China’s grain TRQs have annually underfilled.  USDA estimates that if China’s TRQs had been fully used, it would have imported as much as $3.5 billion worth of corn, wheat and rice in 2015 alone. 

“Making sure our trading partners play by the rules is vital to providing our farmers the opportunity to export high-quality, American-grown products to the world,” said Secretary Perdue. “Today’s announcement is another victory for American farmers and fairness in the global trade system. We will use every tool available to gain meaningful market access opportunities for U.S. grains and other agricultural products.”

Background:

Upon accession to the WTO, China made commitments specific to its administration of TRQs, including the commitment to administer its TRQs in a transparent, predictable, and fair basis, using clearly specified administrative procedures and requirements that do not inhibit the filling of each TRQ. In August 2017, the United States requested that the WTO establish a dispute settlement panel to consider whether China administers its TRQs for long-grain rice, short- and medium-grain rice, wheat, and corn in a manner inconsistent with its WTO commitments. 

Today’s panel report agrees with the United States that China administers its TRQs in a manner inconsistent with its Accession Protocol obligations, through its eligibility criteria, allocation and reallocation procedures, public comment process, and processing restrictions. In addition, China allocates a significant portion of each TRQ to a designated state-trading enterprise (STE) and does not subject the STE to the same rules applied to non-state trading enterprises applying for and importing grains under the TRQs. Each finding individually established that China’s TRQ measures are inconsistent with its obligations. 

Compliance with WTO rules will lead to market-oriented TRQ administration and improved access for U.S. and other exporters, overall creating a more level playing field.

April 17, 2019 - 6:14pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, agriculture, news.

(Washington, D.C., April 17) -- U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today that the government of Tunisia and the United States have finalized U.S. export certificates to allow imports of U.S. beef, poultry, and egg products into Tunisia.  This announcement follows meetings between U.S. and Tunisian officials on the safety and wholesomeness of U.S. beef, poultry, and egg products.

“President Trump continues to prioritize the opening of new markets for U.S. agricultural products, and we welcome Tunisia’s agreement to begin imports of U.S. beef, poultry, and egg products,” said Ambassador Lighthizer. “New access to the Tunisian market is an important step in ensuring that American farmers and ranchers can continue to expand their exports of U.S. agricultural products.”

“I'm convinced that when the Tunisians get a taste of U.S. beef, poultry, and eggs, they're going to want more. These products coming into Tunisia are safe, wholesome, and very delicious,” said Secretary Perdue. “At the direction of President Trump, USDA remains committed to opening up new markets across the globe. While we continue to supply Tunisia’s domestic animal proteins sector with quality U.S. grains and oilseeds, I have no doubt that U.S. beef, poultry, and eggs will only help increase competitiveness and consumer choice within Tunisia.”

In 2018, U.S. exports of agricultural products to Tunisia exceeded $264 million. Over 90 percent of exports were corn, soybeans, or corn and soy products.  Initial estimates are that Tunisia would import annually $5-10 million of beef, poultry, and egg products from the United States, with additional growth over time.

More details on requirements for exporting to Tunisia are available from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Export Library.

April 12, 2019 - 2:28pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, agriculture, 2018 Farm Bill.

Press release:

(Washington, D.C., April 12, 2019)— U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the implementation status of the 2018 Farm Bill. President Trump signed this Farm Bill into law on Dec. 20th, 2018 and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) promptly began implementation of key programs.

USDA held several listening sessions with stakeholders and the public, specific to each agency’s respective mission areas.

“At USDA we are implementing the 2018 Farm Bill as quickly as possible. We know the programs that are renewed and updated in this farm bill are critical to farmers, ranchers, and producers as they plan for the future,” said Secretary Perdue. “Our mission areas have all held several public listening sessions, both formally and informally, to receive stakeholder input.

"Our goal is to have programs that function best for the people that we serve. We have made progress in new Farm Bill provisions, and look to implement programs that are customer service focused and economically efficient. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are diligently working on behalf of all of USDA’s customers.”

Implementation Progress: 

TITLE I – Commodity Programs

  • Dairy Forward Pricing Program: On March 1, 2019, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published a final rule reauthorizing the Dairy Forward Pricing Program in the Federal Register.
  • Class I Skim Milk Price: On March 11, 2019, AMS published a final rule implementing the Class I Skim Milk Price provision in the Federal Register.
  • Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy): On March 22, 2019, Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that dairy producers who elected to participate in the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy Cattle Program in 2018 can now retroactively participate in the MPP-Dairy for 2018.
  • Dairy Margin Coverage Program: On March 28, 2019, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) revised monthly price survey reports to include prices for high-quality alfalfa hay in the top five milk producing states to be utilized in the new Dairy Margin Coverage feed calculation.
  • FSA will begin offering reimbursements to eligible producers for MPP-Dairy premiums paid between 2014-2017 by May 1.
  • The Office of the Chief Economist has entered into an agreement with the University of Wisconsin to develop a Dairy Margin Coverage decision tool that will be available to producers by May 1.
  • FSA will open sign-up for the new Dairy Margin Coverage Program beginning June 17, providing coverage retroactive to January 1, 2019, with applicable payments following soon after enrollment.
  • Emergency Conservation Program (ECP): On April 4, 2019, FSA announced several changes to ECP as provided by the 2018 Farm Bill, including increasing the payment limit from $200,000 per person or legal entity per natural event to $500,000.
  • On April 4, 2019, FSA announced that socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers or ranchers are now eligible for up to 90 percent ECP cost share of their total allowable cost.
  • Noninsurance Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP): On April 8, 2019, FSA announced that producers now have a one-time opportunity until May 24, 2019, to obtain buy-up coverage for 2019 or 2020 eligible crops for which the NAP application closing date has passed. In addition, qualified military veteran farmers and ranchers are now eligible for a service fee waiver and premium reduction.
  • Marketing Assistance Loans (MAL): On April 10, 2019, FSA announced the 2019 Marketing Assistance Loan rates for wheat, feed grains, oilseeds, rice and pulse crops. Relative to 2018-crop MAL levels, the 2018 Farm Bill increased the national loan rates for most of these commodities for each of the 2019-2023 crops.
  • Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) Programs: FSA will open ARC/PLC elections for the 2019 and 2020 crop years beginning in September 2019.

TITLE II – Conservation

  • Conservation Innovation Grants: On March 26, 2019, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) state offices began publishing notices of funding availability for the Conservation Innovation Grants state competitions.
  • Agricultural Conservation Easement Program: On March 27, USDA published an announcement regarding the availability of $450 million for wetland and agricultural land easements that will help private landowners, tribes, land trusts and other groups wanting to restore and protect critical wetlands and protect agricultural lands and grasslands.
  • Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP): On April 5, 2019, NRCS announced the next deadline for CSP applications to be raked and considered for funding this year is May 10, 2019. It includes higher payments for enhancements that include cover crops, resource conserving crop rotations, and advanced grazing.
  • Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP): On April 9, 2019, NRCS determined that RCPP projects with agreements entered into prior to September 30, 2018, may continue to enter into new RCPP-CSP contracts with eligible producers, which will be administered under the new CSP authority.
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program: This program operates through a continuous signup process. Applications may be submitted throughout the year. At the state level, NRCS has periodic funding cutoff periods when applications are evaluated for selection.

TITLE III – Trade

  • Agricultural Trade Promotion and Facilitation Funding: On February 7, 2019, the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) allocated more than $204 million in Market Access Program and Foreign Market and Development Program.
  • Food for Progress: On March 26, 2019, FAS announced $155 million funding opportunity for the Food for Progress program.
  • McGovern-Dole School Feeding Program: On March 26, 2019, FAS announced $191 million in a funding opportunity for the McGovern-Dole School Feeding Program.
  • Local and Regional Food Aid Procurement: On March 26, 2019, FAS announced up to $15 million funding opportunity for Local and Regional Food Aid Procurement.
  • Cochran Fellowship Program 2019: On March 26, 2019, FAS announced the availability of $1.8 million for the Cochran Fellowship Program.

TITLE IV – Nutrition Programs

  • Simplified Homeless Housing Costs: On February 8, 2019, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) issued an informational memorandum on Simplified Homeless Housing Costs.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training: On March 6, 2019, FNS issued an information memorandum on the Employment and Training provisions, including those that are self-executing.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): On March 7, 2019, FNS issued an information memorandum for the self-enacting provisions of the SNAP Provisions of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.
  • Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP): On March 8, 2019, FNS issued the information memorandum for CSFP and the exception for temporary monthly certification periods.
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR): On February 14, 2019, FNS held an in-person consultation with tribal leaders to discuss a variety of topics regarding FDPIR, including Farm Bill provisions. On April 5, 2019, FNS issued an informational memorandum to announce the availability of FDPIR administrative funding for two-years at the State/Indian Tribal Organization level. 

TITLE V – Credit

  • Modified Micro Loan Limits: On March 7, 2019, FSA implemented a change to allow agricultural producers to receive both a $50,000 Direct Operating Microloan and a $50,000 Direct Farm Ownership Microloan. Previously, agricultural producers were limited to a combined total of $50,000.
  • Increase in Percent of Guarantee for Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers: On March 7, 2019, FSA increased the percent for new guaranteed loans to any beginning or socially disadvantaged agricultural producer to 95 percent.
  • Increased Loan Limits: On April 11, 2019, FSA announced that eligible agricultural producers have access to higher loan amounts, to better provide them with the credit needed during this period of lower market prices and numerous natural disasters.

TITLE VI – Rural Development

  • Cushion of Credit Program: On December 21, 2018, Rural Development informed all the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) borrowers of the new provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill affecting the borrower’s participation in the Cushion of Credit Program.
  • American Broadband Initiative: On February 13, 2019, Rural Development released the American Broadband Initiatives Milestones report, describing how the Federal government is partnering with the private sector expand rural broadband.
  • Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training Program: On April 1, 2019, the Rural Housing Service began soliciting applications for the Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training Programs.
  • Council on Rural Community Innovation and Economic Development: The Council is the successor to the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. The Council held its first call on April 8, 2019, to coordinate rural community innovation and economic development across the federal government.
  • Rural Water and Waste Water Technical Assistance and Training Programs: On April 1, 2019, the Rural Utilities Service published a Notice of Solicitation of Applications in the Federal Register.

TITLE VII – Research and Related Matters

  • Matching Fund Requirements: On March 20, 2019, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) published the updated matching requirements chart on its website, sent an update to all stakeholders via the weekly NIFA Stakeholder Update. Relevant future RFA’s will include updated matching requirements.
  • Indirect Cost Limitations: On March 20, 2019, NIFA published the updated indirect cost rate requirements by program chart on its website. Relevant future Requests for Applications (RFA’s) will include updated indirect cost rate requirements.
  • The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP): On April 5, 2019, NIFA published the Request for Applications (RFA) for BFRDP.
  • Barley Estimation Program: On March 7, 2019, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) established that New York will be added to the Barley estimation program.
  • Nominations of Members: On March 28, 2019, the Request for Nominations of Members for the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board, Specialty Crop Committee, Citrus Disease Subcommittee, and National Genetic Resources Advisory Council published in the Federal Register.

TITLE VIII – Forestry

  • Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 Amendments – On March 14, 2019, the Forest Service announced the changes and the extension to 2023 of these provisions.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: On March 22, 2019, Under Secretary Hubbard and Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen held a public listening session to receive stakeholder input on 2018 Farm Bill provisions regarding national forests and grassland.

TITLE IX – Energy

  • Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program: On April 1, 2019, the Rural Business and Cooperative Service posted an Administrative Notice to the Rural Development web site implementing the Farm Bill provisions for Section 9003 administratively. The Administrative Notice applies to all existing active 9003 program applications.

TITLE X – Horticulture

  • Hemp: On February 27, 2019, AMS issued a Notice to Trade regarding the hemp provisions in the Farm Bill and on March 13, 2019, AMS held a listening session on the hemp provisions in the Farm Bill.  The 2018 Farm Bill extended the 2014 Farm Bill provisions for hemp production by 12 months to allow USDA to complete the required rulemaking process, and USDA intends to issue regulations in the Fall of 2019 in order to accommodate the 2020 planting season.  For the 2019 planting season, the 2018 Farm Bill provides that States, Tribes, and institutions of higher education can continue operating under authorities of the 2014 Farm Bill.
  • Specialty Crop Block Grant Program: On March 7, 2019, AMS announced the availability of approximately $70 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
  • National Organic Standards Board (NOSB): In March 2019, AMS issued a Call for Nominations for the NOSB that included 2018 Farm Bill provisions that will lead to a more diverse candidate pool for the NOSB.

TITLE XI – Crop Insurance

  • Specialty Crop Insurance: On March 6, 2019, Risk Management Agency (RMA) created a dedicated Specialty Crop website to fulfill the requirements of the 2018 Farm Bill. The website lists specialty crop liaisons by Regional Office and provides a link to the 2019 Specialty Crop Report as well as a link to archived prior reports.
  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher: On March 12, 2019, RMA implemented the new definition for the Whole Farm Revenue Protection program that extends the time for new beginning farmer and rancher eligibility from 5 years to 10 years for the sales closing dates after the passage of the farm bill. 
  • Multi-County Enterprise Units: Starting with sales closing dates after the passage of the farm bill RMA is offering a new endorsement for farmers. Producers of corn, grain sorghum, soybeans, cotton, canola, peanuts, rice, barley, wheat, and sunflowers now have the option to combine acreage in one county that does not qualify for enterprise units with crop acreage in another county that does qualify. The option offers flexibility and a low-cost option for producers.
  • Yield Cups: RMA has fully implemented yield cups that provide producers with an election to limit the decrease in actual production history (APH) to not more than 10% of the prior crop year’s APH. This prevents abnormally low yielding years from dramatically impacting a producers APH and stabilizes insurance guarantees.

TITLE XII – Miscellaneous

  • Agriculture and Food Defense: The Office of Homeland Security has commenced a series of events to educate the Intelligence Community on threats to agriculture and the collection of information on emerging threats.
  • United States Drought Monitor (USDM): The Office of the Chief Economist has initiated a thorough review of the data being used in the USDM, the geographic coverage of data collection sites, and other climatological data that will improve the USDM.
  • Agriculture Wool Apparel Manufactures Trust Fund: The Wool Apparel Manufacturing Trust Fund application period closed March 1, 2019.  FAS reviewed 38 affidavits and is on course to issue payments by the statutory deadline.
  • Pima Agriculture Cotton Trust Fund: The Pima Agriculture Cotton Trust Fund application period closed March 15, 2019.  FAS reviewed 8 affidavits and is on course to issue payments by the statutory deadline.
  • U.S. Grain Standards: On March 5, 2019, AMS posted a Notice to Trade announcing the restoration of certain exceptions under the U.S. Grain Standards Act.
  • Acer Access and Development Program: On March 12, 2019, AMS announced the availability of funding under the Acer Access and Development Program.
  • Peanut Standards Board: On March 19, 2019, AMS published in the Federal Register a notice requesting nominations to the Peanut Standards Board. The notice adds South Carolina as a part of the Virginia/Carolina peanut producing region for purposes of appointments to the board.
April 12, 2019 - 8:38am
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, batavia, elba, news, farmworkers, video, Sen. Jessica Ramos.

 

Video Sponsor

 

Sen. Jessica Ramos, a first-term state legislator from Queens, and sponsor of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act visited Batavia and Elba yesterday to meet with farmers and farmworkers at the invitation of Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer.

In the morning she and Ranzenhofer hosted a discussion with more than a dozen area farmers and some of their workers in the foyer of the Call Arena at Genesee Community College. That event was closed to the press and a reporter who showed up was asked to leave.

In the afternoon, Ramos visited the Torrey Farms Big-O onion packing facility in Elba and when The Batavian arrived, we were not asked to leave and were able to obtain exclusive coverage of the event. We were unable to interview Ramos at the event because of a scheduling conflict but expect to be able to talk with her soon.

At yesterday's event, we spoke with farmworkers and farmers and were told repeatedly that farmworkers do not favor the farmworkers bill because they fear it will mean fewer hours and less money.  

Farmworkers said they understand the weather-driven variability of farm work and they said that it is critical to their ability to making a living that they be able to pack in as many hours in a week as they can when the sun is shining. They depend on the income to take care of family members back home, their families here, to pay mortgages, send kids to college, and fund their own business-ownership dreams.

Farmers said that if the proposed overtime laws pass, they will be forced to reduce hours worked by their employees and that their migrant employees, who don't have ties to the area, will likely leave for nearby states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, where they can work as many hours as they want.

UPDATE 11:20 a.m.: Sen. Ramos canceled our interview scheduled for this afternoon.

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