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Randy Starr, fifth-generation farmer in Pavilion, passes away at age 73

By Howard B. Owens
randy starr
Randy Starr, a fifth-generation family farmer, bailing hay on his farm in Pavlion in 2011.
Photo by Howard Owens.

J. Randolf "Randy" Starr, 73, a fifth-generation farmer in Pavilion with an affection for running his family farm in some old-time ways, using older equipment, passed away on Sunday.

The Batavian wrote about Starr in 2011, and he explained his preference for older equipment (not that he rejected everything new) and taking a common-sense approach to farming.

"I always thought the old-timers knew what they were doing, Starr said. "Work hard, keep your nose clean, and you’ll be all right. This is just the way we go. It’s the way we do it. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody else in the world, but it seems to work for us all right.”

Starr was born in Batavia in 1949, the son of George and Isabelle Rudgers Starr.

The Starr Farm on Starr Road in Pavilion celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2018.

The farm was started by Noah Starr, Randy's great-great-great grandfather, a Dutch immigrant who bought 270 acres in Pavilion from the Holland Land Office in 1818.  He built a log cabin on the property when he first settled it.  His son started construction on the first part of the current Starr home in 1890.

Randy was born to be a farmer.  

After graduating from Pavilion High School, as did his wife, Cindy, he attended Alfred College in order to earn a degree in agriculture.

"For some foolish reason, I wanted to be a farmer all my life, and now here I am." Starr said in 2011. "I’m 61 years old. Was that the right move or not? Who knows?"

At the time of the article in 2011, Starr farmed 125 acres, growing wheat, barley, hay, oats and black beans. He also raised about 80 head of cattle.

Starr said he found the older equipment less of a hassle than a lot of modern equipment farmers use.

"My tractor breaks down, and their tractor breaks down; theirs is maybe a $50,000 fix, and mine is a piece of baling wire and something I can keep it going with."

He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Cindy Wellman Starr; his children, Christopher Starr and Sarah (Timothy) Kingdon; grandchildren, Evan and Collin Kingdon; sisters-in-law, Debbie Starr, Ann (Duane) Stehlar; special friends, Judd (Janet) Ewell, along with many nieces, nephews and dear friends.

For his full obituary, click here.

randy starr
randy starr

Hawley tours Upstate Niagara, supports local farmers

By Press Release
Hawley upstate niagara
Submitted photo of Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia) outside Upstate Niagara’s Facilities

Press Release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia) toured the Upstate Niagara Cooperative’s O-AT-KA Milk Product facilities in Genesee County on August 17. 

Upstate Niagara is a farmer-owned dairy cooperative that owns eight manufacturing facilities making products such as milk, cream, butter, cottage cheese, yogurt, evaporated milk, and specialty beverages, along with employing more than 1,500 people in New York. Hawley is proud to see local businesses helping to support the region and state’s number one industry, agriculture. 

Hawley took the time to meet with management and staff at Upstate Niagara’s facilities including Director of O-AT-KA Operations, Joe Steinocher.

“We were honored to host Assemblyman Hawley at our plant here in Batavia. O-AT-KA Milk, a subsidiary of the Upstate Niagara Cooperative, employs about 450 people and receives milk from many of its 260 local farmer-owners,” said Steinocher about Hawley’s visit. 

“On our tour, we had the pleasure of showcasing the many great things our team continues to accomplish each day. We also highlighted the areas in the plant where we have grown through investment and discussed many of the challenges facing us in the future. We hope Assemblyman Hawley found the tour enlightening and will think of the economic impact O-AT-KA and Upstate Niagara have on Batavia and surrounding communities when he returns to Albany for the next legislative session.”

“Agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy and cooperatives like Upstate Niagara are leading the charge,” said Hawley. “It is always great to see local businesses making an impact in our community and throughout our state. I will always support our local businesses, farmers, and agricultural industry in Albany.”

Fielding tasty lessons at Elba Central School

By Joanne Beck
Elba girl in cafeteria
Elba Central School has been bringing a farm-to-school program to life, from local farms to the school district campus cafeteria, as a "real-world scenario" in which school leaders are hopefully teaching their kids to make healthy choices as they learn and grow, Superintendent Gretchen Rosales says.
Submitted photo.

It may be summertime, but there’s no break from working on Elba Central School’s farm-to-school program, Superintendent Gretchen Rosales says.

In fact, much of the program’s produce is planted, harvested, and sold — via a farmers market added onto the campus this year — right now. Thanks to state and federal grants from the Department of Agriculture and Governor Hochul's office, Elba students have been able to plant, harvest, learn about, prepare, cook, and most deliciously, enjoy their own healthy foods.

“Agriculture is the backbone of Elba, of Genesee County, our state, and the nation.  This is a great way to see our interconnectedness as a community and as a whole,” Rosales said to The Batavian.  “Elba is a culturally rich community, and I am certain that as we embark upon this project, we will learn so much more from each other.”

Elba first began working with Katie Metzler and Kathy Allen from Porter's Farm last year, when students visited the Elba farm weekly to harvest, wash and prep items for the school's salad bar.

Elba kids at Porter Farms
Elba Central students get hands-on lessons about selecting, planting and harvesting their own produce at Porter Farms.
Submitted photo

“Some items they picked included tomatoes, peppers, onions, melons, lettuce, and spinach. We also sent them with apples, pears, and green beans. At Thanksgiving, we donated some winter squashes and other seasonal items for their Thanksgiving feast,” Metzler said Monday. “We’re not sure of specifics yet for this year, but we are planning on doing something equivalent to meet their needs. Our hope is to have the students get as much hands-on time at the farm as possible. We are happy to collaborate with faculty and admin at Elba to provide such a hands-on experience for these students. Hopefully, our partnership will continue to grow each year and potentially with other districts in the area as well.” 

After their selections were made, the students would work with Elba’s agriculture teacher, Tracey Dahlhaus, to wash and prep the produce.  They also brought their own egg-laying chickens onto campus so that students could collect the eggs and sell them.  

“We would like to use them in our food options in the cafeteria as well,” Rosales said. “Planning focused around growing our own food. Building a greenhouse is part of this plan.”

Next came the funding. The district applied for a USDA Farm to School grant and was awarded $100,000 this year to "support planning, developing, and implementing farm-to-school programs that connect students to the sources of their food through education, taste tests, school gardens, field trips, and local food sourcing for school meals,” Rosales said.

The school district plans to use the funds to continue the work that it began last year in its food science course.  Applying for the grant was the chance to look at what a true farm-to-school could  look like if there were no limitations on funding,” she said.  “Our agriculture students and Mrs. Dahlhaus have talked about wanting a greenhouse since our program started four years ago.  Personally, I have always valued the community connection that naturally comes from harvesting one's own produce.  The shared responsibility of a community garden came to mind.”

And community it is. Students, staff, faculty, local farmers and customers have come together to plant fruits and vegetables, grow their own produce, harvest, cook, support local businesses, supply healthy food sources, and come together to actually “break bread” as a community, Rosales said.

Elba kids in cafeteria
Submitted photo

The nice part about the grant, she said, is that lessons are for all students — in grades UPK through 12.  Little ones will be learning how to make their own healthy snack choices and then how to cut foods safely to make those snacks, while older kids will learn more advanced skills and nutritional components of meals, plant science and international cooking.

One facet seems to springboard onto another, and they're evolving the offerings all the time, Rosales said.

“We would like to produce our own maple syrup. Our students can expect to try many new foods in the cafeteria,” she said.  “Mrs. Walcazk (the new nutrition coordinator who just took over for retiring Lisa Crnkovich) has been busy working on new recipe ideas for the students, including hot breakfast choices, expanded salad buffet options, soups, and pasta.”  

Future goals are to build the school district’s own greenhouse and to have cooking classes and shared meals in the evenings, she said. Another grant, this time for $150,000 from a Healthy Eating initiative, will go toward those expenses. 

Another big component of this effort has been the use of surveys, asking students about their food preferences to determine which fruits and veggies to incorporate. Berries and watermelon? A big yay. Cauliflower? Not so much, she said. Kids definitely preferred fresh raw vegetables more so than cooked. The response rate over the summer has been about 60 percent so far. 

Elba boy with apple
Submitted photo

And what would an agriculture program be without a farmers market? It seemed a natural fit, and one that fits nicely onto the school campus once a week throughout summer and into fall. 

“The school is the center of the community, so holding it at ECS just makes sense.  We have invited all of our farming students and entrepreneurs to sell their goods.  Students have expressed an interest in selling flowers, eggs, potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, maple syrup, and honey.  We are starting small and will see how it goes,” Rosales said.  “It is important for Elba to have a farmers market, and we hope to provide a great service to our community.  Mrs. William's civic readiness class and Lauryn Hawkins (middle schooler) Full Hearts Club have started an Elba food pantry. So again, more connections are being made. I am hopeful that we can include fresh produce in the pantry as well.”

The Elba Betterment Committee will also be involved with the pantry, so that's yet another community member participating, she said. 

The district’s agriculture program, with Dalhaus and the Future Farmers of America students, has accomplished a great deal the last four years from the farming perspective, Rosales said, plus new hire Hanna Erion as a Family and Consumer Science teacher to further expand programming. 

“Food production and food science is a booming industry in our area, which is natural considering that so much food is sourced right here,” Rosales said.  “Schools have an obligation to teach students about these industries and to prepare them for the future.  Although agriculture plays an important part, there are so many facets involved.  There is a production component, but also a business and finance part, as well as a culinary perspective.  It is also about showing our students the process of seeing something through from start to finish, about trial and error and looking at how to best solve a problem from different sides.

“Farming and production are collaborative in nature: our students have to learn to communicate and problem solve as a team.  That is why this grant is so important to us; it is not just the funding. The funding provides critical learning opportunities.”

Alleghany Farm Services celebrates 40 years of hard work, family, and good customers

By Howard B. Owens
Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
Thursday's Ribbon Cutting at Alleghany Farm Services. From left, Brian Cousins, president of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, Chad Klotzbach, Dianne Klotzbach, Drew Klotzbach, Harriett Klotzbach, Morgan Wagner, and Craig Wagner.
Photo by Howard Owens.

"Hard work and a good wife" is the answer that quickly came to mind to Drew Klotzbach when asked why a company he founded 40 years ago with a backhoe and a bulldozer is still going into its second generation of ownership.

Now Alleghany Farm Services uses the most advanced equipment in the business to precisely install farm field drainage systems, laying more than five million feet of pipe a year, and now employing more than 30 people in the Town of Alabama and in Delaware.

Located at 7342 Alleghany Road in Basom, Alleghany Farm Services celebrated its four decades in business with a party, equipment and history displays, a back-hoe "certification" practice for kids, and an adult backhoe competition, along with a catered lunch and ice cream.

The company remains a family venture.

"We bring my 94-year-old grandmother out," said Chad Kotzbach, Drew's son and now the managing partner. "She does a lot of our mailers, and that keeps us busy."

The other big secret to success, Drew said, is the customers.

"The customer base too, and especially agricultural customers, are great people to work with," Drew said. "Yep, that's really what's made us grow is a great customer base," Chad added, "It's about relationships. This is a relationships business."



Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
Chad Klotzbach with some of the historical artifacts related to Alleghany Farm Service and drainage tiles.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
Chad Klotzbach shows off an old drainage tile.  Drainage tiles were introduced to the U.S. from Scotland at a farm in Seneca County in 1838.  They were once made from fired clay, with the pipes shaped around a worker's calf (which Klotzbach is explaining).  Installing clay, and later concrete, drainage tiles, was labor intensive. Nearly 60 years ago, plastic, corrugated pipe was introduced, which can be laid in long layers, and now are placed precisely in farm fields with GPS technology.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
Children who visited Alleghany Farm Services on Thursday could operate a backhoe with the assistance of an experienced adult.
Photo by Howard Owens.
Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
Photo by Howard Owens.
Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
The adult backhoe competition involved removing basketballs from the top of traffic cones, dumping them in a bucket, and then trying to place the balls back on top of the cones. 
Photo by Howard Owens.
Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
Photo by Howard Owens.
Allegheny ribbon cutting 40th anniversary
Photo by Howard Owens.

Batavia butter arrives in Syracuse for annual State Fair sculpture

By Press Release
batavia butter
Photo courtesy the American Dairy Association North East.

Press release:

More than 800 pounds of butter has arrived at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, N.Y., as construction of one of Central New York’s best-kept secrets and most beloved attractions gets underway – the 55th Annual American Dairy Association North East Butter Sculpture, sponsored by Wegmans.

Over the weekend, sculptors Jim Victor and Marie Pelton began to create the annual sculpture, a process that will take approximately 11 days on-site to complete.

“For 55 years, the butter sculpture has been an iconic, can’t-miss attraction that has entertained millions of fairgoers,” says John Chrisman, CEO of the American Dairy Association North East. “This unique tradition pays tribute to our hardworking dairy farm families who work 365 days a year to sustainably and responsibly produce milk.”

The butter used for the sculpture comes from Batavia-based producer O-AT-KA Milk Products and is out of specification for retail sale for a variety of reasons, so American Dairy Association North East works with the sculptors to put it to good use by creating a beautiful piece of art.

Following its 13-day stint at The Fair, the butter will return to Western New York, where it will be recycled into renewable energy at Noblehurst Farms, a dairy farm in Pavilion, N.Y. Noblehurst Farm’s vast recycling program turns over 500 tons of food waste from supermarkets, universities and schools each month into enough energy to power the farm and over 300 local homes. The recycling program not only reduces the farm’s carbon footprint, it diverts all of that food waste from landfills, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Last year’s butter sculpture was “Refuel Her Greatness,” and it celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Title IX.

American Dairy Association North East will unveil the 55th Annual Butter Sculpture to the media on Tuesday, August 22nd, the day before The Fair officially opens.

Tenney unveils three-pillar ag and tax plans to boost 'potential of rural communities'

By Press Release

Press Release:

File photo of 
Claudia Tenney

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-24) unveiled her agriculture plan and tax plan that work to support small and locally owned businesses and family farms across New York’s 24th District.

Earlier this month, Tenney visited multiple family farms and local businesses in Cayuga County and Wayne County to discuss their concerns and the Congresswoman’s efforts in Congress to support our farming and business community. To outline her work to support our NY-24 producers and employers, Tenney unveiled her three-pillar agriculture plan and tax plan. 

Her agriculture plan focuses on supporting NY-24 specialty crops, bolstering New York’s dairy industry, and protecting American farmland from foreign interests. Her tax plan centers around her work on the House Ways and Means Committee to build on the successes of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, revitalize our communities, support our families, and ensure essential taxpayer protections.

“Small businesses and family-owned farms will always be the backbone of NY-24’s economy,” said Congresswoman Tenney. “I’ve toured numerous small businesses and farms across the district to learn more about their daily operations and the challenges they face. It is imperative that we put forward policies in Congress that address these concerns and deliver lasting results for our community. Today, I released my agriculture plan and tax plan to highlight my efforts to unleash the potential of our rural communities and to give farmers, producers, and small business owners the certainty and opportunities they need to succeed.”

To view Tenney’s full Agriculture plan, click here.

To view Tenney’s full Tax plan, click here.

Protecting birds and bees shouldn't have to cost farmers, consumers: local farmer speaks up

By Joanne Beck
seed maggot
Textbook photo of a seed corn maggot.

The Birds and Bees Protection Act is a seemingly simple enough and all-natural sounding title that most anyone would be for it, wouldn’t they?

Well, not everyone. Shelley Stein, CEO of Stein Farms in Le Roy, said she had to speak up as a farmer and "a person who understands the ramifications of policy on our farmers, and our consumers, and what this is going to mean to the economy of Genesee County."

Stein has stood up against the act, now approved by the state Senate and Assembly and is awaiting signature by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

What it is
The county legislature chairwoman has her work cut out for her, not only going against a bill meant to protect nature’s precious wildlife, but also against a purported expert extolling the virtues of a Cornell University study to back up the move to prohibit the “sale, distribution or purchase by any person within the state of corn, soybean or wheat seeds coated or treated with pesticides with the active ingredients clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran, or acetamiprid,” as of Jan. 1, 2027.

In the simplest layman’s terms, Stein’s position is for coating the seeds in the ground with chemicals to kill maggots that wreak havoc with the crops and allow farmers to continue with their current soil management practices that encourage earthworm activity. Once the crop emerges from the ground, she says, the chemical does not harm the birds and bees in the air waiting to pollinate and feed.

If they did not treat the seeds and maggots were allowed to grow, farmers would have to more aggressively till the soil, destroying the earthworms and related best soil management practices they’ve had in place, she said, and more pesticides would potentially be used in the air to save the crops.

What does all this mean for the end result — the crop and the consumer? Potentially less harvest and more expensive produce.

Stein wrote a rebuttal to the "Times Union" after it endorsed the act and urged the governor’s approval.

Why it's important for NYS and specifically Genesee County

Shelley Stein 2023

"New York farmers have only one shot each year to grow a crop of corn or soybeans, and waiting under the soil are insects like the seed corn maggot that love to gobble up seedlings before they emerge," she said in her opinion piece. "Coating minute amounts of neonic pesticides on corn and soybean seeds is a proven practice to keep the maggots away and assure a successful crop — but legislation passed this year would take this tool out of New York farmers’ toolbox."

Things to consider with this bill: it’s being touted as a “first-in-the-nation” measure, one that hasn’t passed in any other state. Why is that? Stein believes she has at least part of the answer. And it isn’t that the other 49 other states have less knowledge about “neonics” being used on the crop seeds. The same senator who was involved with this measure on the West Coast is now leading the charge in the East. 

"It's an important topic for farmers in New York State to win because we're the only state that these neonics will be taken away from in the U.S.," she said. "And I will just say this, it's really an alluring title of this bill. You know, Saving the Birds and Bees Protection Act. Yeah. Everybody would say well, that's a great idea. Sure, a really great idea. And we believe, as farmers and as an agricultural community, that we can absolutely do that and still be able to mitigate losses of crops and do this to the seed corn maggot. And it's the same maggot that takes its bite out of soybeans as well.

"And so this is the senator who brought this forward; he represents a portion out of Manhattan. And I believe that he thinks, according to the title, I think he thinks it's a great idea. He doesn't have any committee assignments that have to do with food and agriculture. And when the  Natural Resources Defense Council tried to do the same thing in California, California got wise and they turned him down. And so he becomes this champion, even though his district doesn't grow any corn or soybeans."

Background study #1
What about that in-depth Cornell University study that showed no economic benefits to users or provided safer, effective alternatives rather than the neonic coatings (pesticides) on corn, soybean and wheat seeds?

This assessment is based on averages, Stein said, and not on individual farm risk assessments.  

"A catastrophic loss on one farm means everything to that farm business, yet statistically, it gets lost in the shuffle when averaged over all farms," she said.

She used her own dairy farm as an example of items to be assessed, and that cannot be "averaged away" with risk factors "and expect to have sufficient feed for my herd."

Those considerations include relative seed corn maggot threat level in each of her fields, the date of planting and field soil temperatures, and the market price of feed -- corn grain and silage, and soybean meal -- to replace potential loss of crops.

Who's involved
There is quite a list of advocates for the ban, including the Sierra Club, the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Environmental Advocates of New York, Clean + Healthy, the New York League of Conservation Voters, National Audubon Society, the Bee Conservancy and Physicians for Social Responsibility of New York.

New York beekeepers claim they have lost more than 40 percent of their bee colonies largely due to neonic pesticides. The bill’s sponsor, Senator Brad Holman-Sigal, represents the 47th district in Manhattan and is a staunch supporter of banning the seed pesticide use in a string of platforms he has run on and endorsed for rights pertaining to the environment, civil liberties, LGBTQ, child victims, housing, transportation, public education and seniors.

The New York Farm Bureau has led a coalition of opponents in urging lawmakers to reject the bird and bees proposal, as it is counter to New York's sustainability goals within the New York Climate Action Council and will force farmers to use less environmentally friendly means of pest control, as Stein said, including increased tillage and airborne pesticides.

Treating the seeds, however, is environmentally superior to aggressively tilling the soil -- making more trips across the field -- to destroy maggot habitats, Stein said, which requires fossil fuels and releases carbon to the atmosphere. Best soil management practices "help make soil more fertile, more robust, if you allow earthworms to do their jobs," she said.

Pollinator experts have also identified other issues impacting pollinators, she said, such as bee parasites, malnutrition, declining habitat and diseases, "that are far more significant than judicious pesticide use."

Background study #2
Stein also pointed out that there is another Cornell study that has been ignored by politicians. The first one was done "only on economics, and it used averages. The second study that was done by Elson Shields, who's an entomologist, so he's the Bug Guy ... it is the study that's actually practical in the field," she said.

That field study, related to the seed corn maggot, corn crop and economic viability of using untreated seeds, was performed in 2021.

Research data collected in controlled studies during 2021 at the Cornell Musgrave Farm located in Aurora showed that in corn production following a cover crop, seed corn maggot economically damaged 54 percent of the non-insecticide seed-treated plots ranging from 11 to 62 percent stand losses.

These losses would be economically devastating to a farmer, where the farm loses yield on 54 percent of their acreage, ranging from $40 to $400 per acre.  Since predicting which fields will be attacked by seed corn maggot prior to planting is difficult and imprecise, the prevention of yield losses ranging from $40 to $400 per acre on a third of the acreage "easily compensates and is economically justified for the $5 per acre cost of the insecticide seed treatment for all acres," the study stated.

"Given that conservation practices such as reduced tillage and planting cover crops to reduce erosion and runoff are not only encouraged but also incentivized in New York State, it is important to understand that in the absence of these seed protectants, farmers may revert to planting fewer cover crops to avoid losses to seed corn maggot," it stated.

Go HERE for the full study. 

Final word
The Batavian asked Stein if politicians -- Gov. Kathy Hochul at this point in time -- are equipped to be making this type of decision for farmers and those that depend on them.

"The (Environmental Protection Agency) allows this practice in every other state in the nation, except for the actions of New York State, and there are those that would tell you that New York State doesn't want any agriculture anymore on our lands, which doesn't make any sense, because agriculture is New York State's number one industry as far as the economy goes, and land use goes. There's a push for high-quality local affordable food. This bill takes that away from us as well," Stein said. "Do I believe that Governor Hochul is well equipped to be making this final vote? Here's what I know. The governor represented our area as a congressperson. She is well aware of what our economy in the center of the state is based on. And she knows the negative impacts of the policies of the Democratic Party and the toll that it's taken on agriculture. I find it hard to believe that she would put one more nail in our coffin."

Photo: Smoke 'n' meat

By Howard B. Owens
smoke 'n' beef

Photo by Alison Lang, on Goodman Road, Alexander, who noticed the juxtaposition of dense smoke hanging over Genesee County from Canadian wildfires and beef cattle in a field.

Schumer: Affordable dairy products, jobs depend on passage of Farm Bill

By Howard B. Owens
Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
Sen. Charles Schumer addresses the press about the Dairy Margin Coverage program and the 2023 Farm Bill at Har-Go Farms in Pavilion on Monday.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Sen. Charles Schumer traveled to Har-Go Dairy in Pavilion on Monday to warn that without passage of a 2023 Farm Bill, a program that helps dairy farms stay in business could expire in September.

Dairy Margin Coverage, a kind of insurance program that is taxpayer-subsidized but also funded by fees paid by dairy farmers, helps keep milk and cheese prices stable for consumers.

“Loss of the program,” Schumer said, "would cause huge supply chain disruption and market panic, which means less available milk. The price of milk would go way up. So even if you don't even have a farmer in your family, even if you don't even know a single farmer, you will be hurt if this program goes out because the price of milk will go up and all the other things that milk is used in would go up as well. The cost of milk could potentially double."

DMC is a voluntary risk management program for dairy farmers. It pays producers the difference in the price of milk, which is regulated by the federal government, and the cost of feed. It helps ensure that dairy farmers don't suffer catastrophic losses if feed prices rise unexpectedly.  Feed for dairy cows is a commodity with prices set by global markets.  Any sort of international crisis, whether political or environmental, can cause prices to spike.

"We don't want these small farmers to be buffeted about and actually put out of business by international forces that are beyond their control," Schumer said.

Schumer noted that employers such as HP Hood and O-AT-KA Milk Products, along with other businesses in Genesee County that are dependent on the dairy industry, employ more than 1,000 people locally.

"And we all know that milk from happy, healthy Uupstate New York cows tastes better than the milk from anywhere else in the nation," Schumer said.

The Farm Bill, which is renewed by Congress every five years, is in jeopardy because of greater partisanship, with harder lines being drawn, in Washington, Schumer said.

"There's a group of people who just want to just cut all the spending across the board," Schumer said. "Instead of just looking at where the waste is, and keeping good programs like this one. Usually, we prevail. But this year, things are pretty hot in Washington. That's why I'm here. I'm making a big push to make sure this program is sustained."

Shelley Stein, a dairy farmer in Le Roy and chair of the Genesee County Legislature, said maintaining the DMC is critical to the survival of the area's dairy farms, and the cost of the program is just a sliver of the overall spending authorized by the Farm Bill.

"Ninety-eight percent of the Farm Bill is used and directed to programs that feed people in America, and only two percent of that entire bill goes into farm programs,” she said. “So, only two percent of the spending goes to make sure that we can feed the rest of America."

Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
John T. Gould, President and Chairman of the Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc. Board of Directors and Owner of Har-Go Farm.
Har-Go is a 250-head dairy operation on South Street Road in Pavilion.
He said, "The critically important Dairy Margin Coverage which provides an effective safety net for New York dairy farmers.  Over the last several months, farmers have struggled to make ends meet, and the Dairy Margin Coverage program has helped to bridge that gap.  An on-time farm bill will ensure that this vital program does not lapse and can continue to help dairy farmers when they need it most.”
Photo by Howard Owens
Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
Sen. Charles Schumer shakes the hand of Genesee County Legislature Chair Shelley Stein and says, "Shelley's a Republican. I'm a Democrat. You hear about a lot of the partisan stuff in Washington. But this is a metaphor. We're not going to let partisanship get in the way of supporting our farmers." Stein responds, "You're right."
Photo by Howard Owens.
Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
Sen. Charles Schumer posses with the Gould family following his press conference in Pavilion on Monday. Har-Go Farms is a fifth-generation dairy farm.
Photos by Howard Owens.
Chuck Schumer Har-Go Dairy Farm Bill 2023
"And we all know that milk from happy, healthy Uupstate New York cows tastes better than the milk from anywhere else in the nation." -- Sen. Charles Schumer
Photo by Howard Owens.

Oxbo of Byron announces expansion in Wisconsin

By Press Release
Oxbo acquires H&S: Oxbo CEO Roel Zeevat and Chris Heikenen

Press Release:

Oxbo is expanding its presence and product portfolio in the hay and forage industry, through acquiring H&S Manufacturing in Marshfield and Clintonville, Wisconsin. The acquisition is designed to foster high-quality, customer-focused product innovation, to ensure customer service, and to strengthen the Oxbo and H&S position in the global hay and forage market.

“H&S products complement Oxbo’s industry-leading hay and forage merger product line; adding H&S to Oxbo’s hay and forage business allows us to better serve our mutual customers now, and in the future,” commented Joe Perzia, COO of Oxbo.

“The H&S high quality products, dealer network, manufacturing facilities, and dedicated management and employees supplement our existing hay and forage business and will help us grow in this critical market
segment,” stated Roel Zeevat, Oxbo’s CEO.

“We knew an acquisition by Oxbo would deliver enhanced value for our customers. Oxbo’s commitment to reliability, innovation, and customer service are a perfect fit for H&S products and customers,” commented Chris Heikenen, former owner of H&S Manufacturing.

Over the last 30 years, Oxbo has continued to grow through acquiring manufacturers in specialty agricultural markets. With each acquisition comes Oxbo’s commitment to drive customer value through innovative products and industry-leading customer service. 

“The acquisition by Oxbo is an exciting next step for the H&S brand; I’m confident Oxbo’s customer-focused mindset will benefit our customers as we grow the business together,” said Craig Harthoorn, president of
H&S, who will remain onboard and manage the newly expanded hay and forage business unit for Oxbo.

With the addition of H&S, Oxbo continues to Optimize farming together and aims to be the clear customer choice in the hay and forage market.

H&S will continue operating at its existing facilities. Customers will continue to purchase products and parts from their existing H&S or Oxbo dealer.

Going forward, and in partnership with its dealer network, Oxbo will further optimize the offering for its customers in all regions served. “We are committed to serving our valued customers,” said Zeevat.

Oxbo operates seven additional manufacturing facilities around the globe including its global headquarters in Roosendaal, the Netherlands, and operates 13 sales and service locations.


Celebrating Dairy Month: it takes 'a lot of labor and love'

By Joanne Beck
Addison Kaberle, Maggie Winspear, back, Amelia Brewer, Ian Kaberle
Members of Elba's Future Farmers of America, front row, Addison Keberle and Maggie Winspear, and back row, Amelia Brewer and Ian Keberle, celebrate Dairy Month after a proclamation presentation during the Genesee County Legislature meeting Wednesday at the Old County Courthouse. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Things aren’t what they used be on the dairy farm where Ian Keberle has worked since being a kid, he says. Though just 18, the Elba student has witnessed the dawning of technological miracles.

“Everything’s robotic now, like, we just installed a 72-cell robotic rotary parlor that only requires one person to manage it,” Ian said in the lobby of the Old County Courthouse in Batavia. “So the amount of automation that has been involved in the dairy industry is just astounding. I don’t think many people realize that it’s not just a job. For many dairy farmers, it’s a lifestyle. This is what my family chose to do, and this is what we love doing.”

Ian and three fellow Elba students and members of Future Farmers of America had just been upstairs in Genesee County’s Legislative chambers for a photo and reading of a proclamation for June’s Dairy Month.

All four students are active on dairy farms, with three of them working at Oakfield Corners Dairy, a division of Lamb Farms, on Batavia-Elba Townline Road in Oakfield. 

For anyone that thinks farming is strictly a male pursuit, Ian’s peers can counter that notion. Maggie Winspear, 17, is in her third year of FFA.

“It's really important to get the attention from people that don't know a lot about dairy and get them to understand why we love farming so much and why we do what we do,” Maggie said. “And it's just a connection, you make a connection with the animals and the people. And it's always fun working and just coming to work at a farm.”

Ian, 18, and his younger sister Addison also work at Oakfield Corners, where their dad is a manager. While her brother will graduate this year and plans to study agribusiness in college, Addison, 15, is taking care of the clinical aspects of the job.

“I work at the calf facility, I mainly do vaccinations with them. I kind of held out a little bit here and there. I'm still kind of too young to do a lot of major activities,” she said. “Some days, it's easy. Some days, it's hard. It's kind of a mixture.”

The Batavian asked Ian what he’d want the public to know about the dairy industry it might not otherwise understand.

“It’s not just a way to make money; it’s wonderful to see the effects that you have in the community providing a good nutritious dairy product on the tables of everything,” he said.

In October last year, the Elba FFA Chapter competed in the National FFA Dairy Evaluation and Management Competition in Indiana, and Ian was one of two members awarded national gold individually, and Amelia Brewer was one of two members awarded national silver individually.

Amelia is also in her fifth year and has worked on her family’s Post Dairy Farm, also on Batavia Elba Townline Road, “for my entire life,” she said. She has no plans to slow down after going to college.

“It's been in my family for five generations. I'm hopefully going to be the sixth generation,” Amelia said. “So I've just grown up in the industry, and I've grown a passion and a love for it. So it's what I'm going to pursue in the future, and it's something I'm pursuing now.

“I would like to come back to our farm, but I also would like to set up a creamery on our farm and bring another ag tourist stop because I believe that it's very important to give people the opportunity to see where their products are coming from and get to experience what goes into making those products, because a lot of labor goes into the dairy industry, a lot of labor and love.”

The proclamation states:

WHEREAS, the Dairy Industry has contributed to the development and prosperity of our community since the earliest formation of Genesee County, and

WHEREAS, since 1937 the rich history of Dairy production and its producers has been recognized across our great nation in an effort to savor the natural goodness in one of the most wholesome agricultural products, and

WHEREAS, dairy farmers and farm workers strive to produce wholesome dairy milk which is used to make delicious dairy products like yogurts, cheeses, butter, sour cream and ice creams that provide health benefits and valuable nutritional     benefit to residents locally, regionally and globally, and

WHEREAS, in 2014 the fourth-graders at Byron-Bergen Elementary School began the push and later saw signed into law, the recognition of YOGURT as New York State’s official snack, and 

WHEREAS, the Dairy Industry in Genesee County is a significant contributor to the economy of our County, its Bread and Butter, allowing our landscape, citizens and businesses to flourish, and

WHEREAS, as of May 2021, the USDA Food Box Program sent over 176 million boxes to our hungry neighbors brimming with high quality Dairy products to fill a nutritional need nationally yet sourced locally. Now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Genesee County Legislature does hereby proclaim the Month of June 2023 as DAIRY MONTH and extend our thanks to the dedicated men and women who produce world-class dairy products enjoyed nationwide.

Borrello disappointed in passage of bill that bans pesticide seed treatment

By Press Release

Press Release:

Following the Senate’s passage of S.1856, “The Birds and Bees Protection Act,” Senator George Borrello issued the following statement: 

“I am deeply disappointed at the Senate’s passage of this bill which will ban neonicotinoids (“neonics”), which are seed treatments that contain extremely small amounts of pesticides. 

The use of this innovative technology has helped farmers optimize crop yield and quality and allowed them to greatly reduce the large-scale spraying of older, more toxic, and environmentally harmful pesticides. Pesticide application rates will increase by an estimated 375 percent per acre.

Neonic safety for bees and other pollinators has been confirmed by studies and the product has been registered for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). 

This attempt by legislators to override the DEC’s regulatory authority and expertise in this area is reckless and sets a dangerous precedent. Ultimately, if this misguided bill is signed into law, it will be another blow to New York State farmers whose livelihoods have been under attack by this Legislature over the past three years. 

Multi-generational family farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with other states because of the continuing and unreasonable mandates, costs, and regulations that are being heaped on them. I strongly urge my colleagues in the Assembly to reject this harmful and unjustified measure.”

Byron-Bergen FFA brings agriculture to the elementary school

By Press Release

Press Release:

Justin Deleo led a cow past the playground and across the Byron-Bergen Elementary School campus as part of the annual Farm Day celebration. Justin and his cow were joined by goats, pigs, ducks, chickens, rabbits, tortoises, horses, more cows, and hundreds of Byron-Bergen Elementary School students. 

Farm Day was created as a tool to introduce the school community to the agricultural economy surrounding the campus. Despite the rural setting, many Byron-Bergen students do not know a lot about working farms.

“It is important to ensure that elementary students have a general understanding of the domestic animals and plants which surround them in their communities,” said High School Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor Jeffrey Parnapy. “Farm Day also creates interest and curiosity in agriculture, which leads to exploring agricultural career choices.”

Justin is President of the Byron-Bergen FFA Chapter and a member of the Genesee County 4-H Dairy Club. “I like teaching people about agriculture,” said Deleo, who emphasized safety. “Everyone has different animals here so it’s important to learn how to be safe. A cow is not like a dog. If you run up to a cow, it might kick you, and you could really get hurt.”

Students moved from tent to tent with excitement. Older students ran with full-grown goats on leashes as though they were dogs, while baby goats were held on students’ laps like cats. Younger students delighted in petting ducks and bunnies as pigs snuffled the ground, completely unaware of the interest they generated. 

Third-grade students Leanna Dietz and Brooklynn Sandow excitedly discussed the pigs who looked like piglets but were full-grown. Fellow third-grade students Naomi Allen and Scarlett Smith liked the bunnies the best, and Emily Davidson’s favorite animal was the German Shepard K-9 Officer from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation visiting with a handler and Byron-Bergen alumnus Officer Fay Fuerch.

Over by the playground, Cocoa, a Nigerian dwarf goat, and her two kids, Sandy and Potato, were also crowd favorites. “We use the goats for milk,” said sixth grader Riley Boland. “One time, we made ice cream.” Her family has a hobby farm that includes Lavender Orpington chickens.

Nearby, eighth-grade FFA member Michael Holley displayed eggs in different sizes, shapes, and colors while younger students guessed what kind of animals might have laid them. “I’m showing the younger kids how the eggs are produced and what we feed the chickens,” said Michael, who oversees letting out and bringing in the chickens daily at his family’s farm.

Michael was eager to participate in Farm Day, as was seventh-grade student Ava Williams. She let the younger students pet her cow, Lucky. “I have been working with him for the last few weeks, and he loves to be outside,” she said.

“I think Farm Day is valuable,” said eighth-grade FFA member Taylor Lundfelt. “It’s an informative day. It’s a good day for kids to learn.”

While the cows and pigs are the stars of the show, Farm Day is not all about animals. Students learned the difference between hay and straw, touched and compared different kinds of animal feed, and were given baggies with sunflower seeds in peat moss pellets, ready to be planted at home.

“Our students love to come to Farm Day because not only do they recognize the high school kids, but they love to look at the animals and ask questions,” said third-grade teacher Colleen Hardenbrook. “It’s a great opportunity for us to get outside and connect with the community.”

A student poses with a baby goat
Justin Deleo leads his cow past the Elementary School playground
A student runs a goat across the grass
A student looks at chickens

Photos courtesy of Gretchen Spittler

Volunteers pivot to make Kinderfarmin' a success in midst of air quality advisory

By Howard B. Owens
kinderfarmin 2023

Even dairy farmers know how to turn lemons into lemonade.

Volunteers had to act quickly Wednesday to reconfigure their annual Kinderfarmin' event at Hildene Farm in Pavilion after air quality concerns caused superintendents at eight of the 10 scheduled schools to cancel field trips.

"Agriculture never stops," noted organizer Natasha Sutherland, and neither do kindergarteners. 

But students at the schools that didn't make the trip to Hildene got the important message about the connection between dairy farms and the milk they might pour over their cereal in the morning.

"We're excited that many volunteers were able to pivot with us because the idea was thrown out very quickly that we could take the day to the students," Sutherland said. "I've got volunteers driving milk and swag bags to schools. There are also virtual dairy tours available on the internet that they are currently watching."

Hildene Farm, with 1,250 dairy cows, hosted the event last year, too. The event takes about 100 volunteers to run with the typical participation of 10 school districts and more than 600 students.

The smaller group of children this year at the farm meant that each child got more individual attention and could spend more time at each of the educational stations set up on the lawn.

"The kids are getting so much more one-on-one impact and exposure," Sutherland said. "I'm hoping that the day is so much more impactful because they're getting everything truly catered to them as individuals. It's exciting to see their little faces light up, and the kids that are here are truly enjoying every bit of that."

Sutherland said the event builds lifetime memories for the children who attend.

"It is the highlight of the year for these kindergarten students," Sutherland said. "It's not just about dairy. It's about the whole breadbasket that is Western New York. We've got beef producers, we've got sheep, we've got goats, we've got lambs, we've got rabbits. We've got people spinning wool, and we've got giant articulated tractors for children to sit in. Today is all about connecting kids to their food."

Genesee County is the last county in the state that still hosts a Kinderfarmin' event as originally designed, with a visit to a dairy farm that includes hands-on educational activities that are also fun for the kids, Sutherland said.

"Everyone's kind of morphed it into something else, but we're the last one that still keeps it completely school focused, completely focused on the kindergarteners sticking to the core curriculum," Sutherland said. "We work really hard to make sure that these kids get the originally intended day as education first and foremost, not just play."

Photos by Howard Owens.

kinderfarmin 2023
kinderfarmin 2023
kinderfarmin 2023
kinderfarmin 2023

Longtime tradition of ag district review continues to ensure 'farm protections'

By Joanne Beck


Only one person spoke during a public hearing about Genesee County’s Agricultural District 1 Wednesday, and it was the organizer of the hearing, Director of the county Planning Department Felipe Oltramari.

He explained the process and importance to conduct reviews and hearings for Ag Districts, which occur every eight years for each of four different districts.

“It’s a very well-known program, it's been around since the 70s. It benefits the farmers and gives them the right to farm protections from the state. So it's a voluntary program that landowners enter into, and we administer. It's an eight-year term that they have to agree to, so this is their one chance to move their property in or out of the district," he said after the hearing and county Legislature meeting. “It’s fairly common for there not to be any speakers because it's not very controversial and protects the farmland, protects the farmers from being able to do the things that farmers need to do without fear of lawsuits and things … it's mostly protection from nuisance lawsuits or from regulations that a town government may place upon them that wouldn't allow them to continue their operations.”

The public hearing was about the review and modifications “for the folks who have asked to be removed and the folks that have asked to be put back in,” he said.

District 1 includes the towns of Alexander, Batavia, Bethany, Darien, Pembroke and Stafford. There are 69,193.97 total acres, and of those, 17,119.86 are owned by farmers, and 7,514.13 are rented by farmers. Since the last review, 1,507.13 acres have been added and 414.82 removed.

Oltramari asked the Legislature to adopt a resolution stating that the public hearing was conducted and the ag district review “has been determined to have no significant effect on the environment after preparing and evaluating a Short Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), and "WHEREAS, the Committee on Public Service does concur with the recommendation of the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board. Now, therefore, be it RESOLVED, that the Genesee County Legislature does hereby approve of the adoption of the proposal for the continuation and modifications of Agricultural District No. 1 in the Towns of Alexander, Batavia, Bethany, Darien, Pembroke, and Stafford as recommended by the Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board for a period of eight years."

District Review Worksheets were mailed to the 1,200 landowners listed under District 1 on January 22, 2023, allowing them to make modifications to their land’s status and requesting information about their operation, Oltramari said in the county planning report

Owners responded to the mailed worksheets by either returning the included paper form, completing a web-accessible form, or calling the Planning Office. Of the 1,200 worksheets sent, 49.5 percent (596) were returned or had a response recorded.

Returned worksheets account for 64.6 percent of the parcels and 68.3 percent of the acreage. The return rate was higher than the 2015 review, which had a return rate of 40.2 percent, he said.

Altogether, farms account for 39,507 acres (58 percent) of the District. This data analysis is incomplete, however, as the calculations include only a partial estimate of the data attributable to the 50.5 percent of the landowners who did not respond to the mailing.

As a result of the review, 48 properties consisting of 1,440 acres were added to the District, and 220 properties totaling 2,589 acres were removed from the District. These modifications account for a net loss of 1,149 acres or a change of -1.7 percent, the report stated

In accordance with the Department of Planning’s process to revise the Agricultural Districts, properties of less than 2.5 acres without apparent farm-related activities and large-scale non-farm-related commercial properties received a targeted mailing which specified that if they did not respond, the parcel would be removed from the Agricultural District.

As part of this process, 144 targeted mailings were sent out, and 103 parcels totaling 124 acres were removed due to no response being received. These removals account for 4.8 percent of the acreage removed from the District.

Smart Growth, Farmland, Comprehensive Plans
The County has adopted a Smart Growth Plan, an Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan, and a Comprehensive Plan. The renewal of Agricultural District No. 1 “will be in harmony with the long-term goals of agricultural protection and the economic growth strategies contained within these plans.” The benefits and protections afforded farm operators enrolled in the Agricultural District program help to meet the long-term goals of these plans and are integral to their strategies.

Genesee County’s Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan (adopted in 2001 and updated in 2017) prescribes a plan of action to boost the economics of local farming. At its core are a series of land use and economic incentives designed to address the bottom line of farm operations. The benefits of the Agricultural District program help to achieve these goals as an incentive to keep lands in agricultural production, the plan states.

The Plan’s second recommendation is to “reaffirm the importance of existing agricultural districts, especially with regard to water and sewer extensions.” The 2017 update found that “Extension of water and sewer infrastructure has been effectively controlled through the County’s Smart Growth Plan, which, as noted above, respects the importance of Agricultural Districts. Recognizing the impacts of extended infrastructure into Agricultural Districts, "the Genesee County Legislature adopted the Smart Growth Plan in May of 2001 to prevent new waterlines from encouraging the development of prime agricultural areas in the County," it states.

What does the renewal of ag districts mean for the county? It gives a boost by "maintaining a financial incentive to keep prime agricultural land in agriculture," the report states. 

Local Comprehensive Plans
All of the Towns with lands in Agricultural District No. 1 have adopted Comprehensive Plans. According to the planning report, the adopted plans indicate "a strong desire in these communities to preserve and protect agricultural lands and their rural character." These local plans include:

  • The Town of Alexander’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted in 2003) indicates a strong desire to preserve and protect agricultural lands and their rural character.
  • The Town of Batavia’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted in 2017) supports agricultural land uses by stating goals to “promote the continued economic viability of agriculture,” “preserve a large, contiguous area of high-quality farmland to ensure a viable land base for continued agricultural production in the Town,” and “reduce the potential for conflict between farmers and non-farming neighbors.”
  • The Town of Bethany’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted in 1997 and amended in 2007) indicates that “many residents support the preservation of viable agricultural activity.” The Plan encourages the “development of new agricultural related businesses” and states that “Residential and other developed land uses should be appropriately sited so as to minimize potential conflicts with agricultural activities.”
  • The Town of Darien’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted in 2005) states a goal to “Provide for the protection of farmland for agriculture as an important environmental, economic, and aesthetic component of the community, and consider the impacts on agriculture in all actions of the Town.”
  • The Town of Pembroke’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted in 2007) provides an objective “to ensure that agricultural land in the Town is protected and remains a viable economic opportunity,” and the Town lists these as action items: “Utilize cluster development and planned unit development practices in rural areas, implement existing land uses ratios to restrict the subdivision of land in viable agricultural areas, and study and inform agricultural Businessmen/ Landowners about the benefits of land trust easements to preserve agricultural land.” The future land use map within the plan identifies the majority of the land in Agricultural District No. 1 as Agricultural and Agricultural/Residential.
  • The Town of Stafford’s Comprehensive Plan (adopted in 2007 and revised in 2009) states as a goal to “Support and protect agricultural lands” and “recognize the importance of farming to the character, economy, and spirit of the Town.” The Plan recommends the Town consider “adopting a local ‘right to farm’ law.

The Town of Batavia is the only municipality with lands in Agricultural District No. 1 that has a locally adopted and State certified Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan. The Plan, adopted in 2010, identifies one of its actions to create an Agriculture Production Zone, stating, “The Town should establish a zoning district that establishes agriculture as a priority use and limits the extent of non-agriculture development.”

Agricultural District No. 1 has met its intended goal, the report summarizes, and in conjunction with the other three Agricultural Districts in Genesee County, it has formed the foundation for the County’s future actions toward agricultural protection and enhancement.


Top file photo of Felipe Oltramari, by Joanne Beck, and image above provided by Felipe Oltramari as part of the Planning Department report.

Genesee County announces the first countywide Farmland Protection Workshop

By Press Release

Press release:

Genesee County, in collaboration with Genesee Valley Conservancy, Western New York Land Conservancy, and Genesee Land Trust, has announced that the Agricultural & Farmland Protection Board will be accepting pre-applications from landowners interested in being considered for New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets Farmland Protection program or other state and federal farmland protection initiatives that may become available in the future.

The Farmland Protection program buys conservation easements on the State’s most productive farmland.

The program is completely voluntary, and the seller retains ownership of the land and can continue farming the property. However, the land will have permanent restrictions on commercial, residential, and industrial uses.

A workshop will be held on Tuesday, May 2, from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. at Genesee County Building 2, located at 3837 W Main Street Rd, Batavia, to provide landowners with information about the program. All interested landowners must attend this workshop prior to submitting an application. If any interested landowners cannot attend, contact the County Planning at [email protected] or (585) 815-7901 to inquire about making arrangements.

The State Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program reimburses farmers up to 87.5 percent of the value of the development rights on their land. Three land trusts serve Genesee County and can submit applications for this grant funding. All farmers wishing to apply to the State program must complete a reapplication with their respective land trust. Pre-applications will be evaluated by the land trust and will consider the amount of development pressure, quality of soils to be protected, and farm viability. The highest-scoring pre-application(s) will be invited to have full applications submitted to the program. These pre-applications may be used to select eligible farms for other future state and federal farmland protection programs. The Genesee County Planning Department, the Genesee Valley Conservancy, the Western New York Land Conservancy, the Genesee Land Trust, and the Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District work cooperatively to manage the pre-application phase.

The pre-application process will be open year-round for interested landowners in the County but will be reviewed annually by each Land Trust. The full application deadline to the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets has not yet been announced, and there is no guarantee the State will release a funding opportunity this budget year. However, establishing a pipeline of interested farms is crucial to demonstrating funding needs and critical to leveraging other non-state funding. 

For more information on the New York State Farmland Protection program, visit:

Tenney supports unsuccessful attempt to override Biden's veto of waterways rule change

By Press Release

Press release:

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-24) voted to override President Biden’s veto of H.J. Res. 27, a bipartisan resolution to overturn the Administration’s deeply flawed and burdensome “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule. The legislation passed by a vote of 227-196 but failed to achieve the two-thirds necessary for a veto override. 

President Biden’s overly broad WOTUS rule would redefine the Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of a “navigable” waterway to include small seasonal streams, small ponds, and even large amounts of groundwater. This vague and overreaching rule would drastically expand the government’s authority, increasing its power over farmers and producers throughout New York’s 24th Congressional District.

In January, Tenney and 195 House Republicans sent a letter to the Biden administration calling on it to reconsider this damaging rule. Tenney was also an original co-sponsor of H.J. Res. 27, which passed the House in February and the Senate in March, both with bipartisan support. The resolution, passed under the Congressional Review Act, would nullify Biden’s WOTUS rule. President Biden vetoed the resolution earlier this month. 

"With his veto of H.J. Res. 27, President Biden proved once again that he continues to prioritize far-left activists over our nation's farmers and landowners," said Congresswoman Tenney. "Earlier this month as part of my Farm Bill Listening Tour, I met with farmers and producers across New York’s 24th District, who expressed concerns that Biden's WOTUS rule was overly broad and poorly defined. Our region’s farmers are among the best stewards of our natural environment, and they should be viewed as important partners in conversation efforts. Instead, this bill targets them with even more regulations, which are overly burdensome and will drive up costs at a time of already soaring inflation.” 

Photo: File photo by Howard Owens.

Genesee County 4-H Goat Club participates in Goat Bowl

By Press Release


Press release:

The Genesee County 4-H Goat Club participated in the Regional 4-H Goat Bowl Contest on Saturday, April 1, at Oakfield-Alabama School. The club was very well represented at the event, with sixteen club members participating. Goat Bowl is a Jeopardy-style competition that tests participants' knowledge of goat facts, including breeds, judging, nutrition, and more. 4-H youth from across Western New York participated in the contest.

Genesee County Goat Bowl Results:

  • 1st Place Senior Team: Lily Haacke, Riley Henning, Clare Mathes, Brooke Frega
  • 1st Place Junior Team: Ellie Mangino, Layla Baker, Riley Smith, Levi Miller
  • 2nd Place Cloverbud Team: Jase Miller, Mya Mangino, Lexton Baker
  • Honorable Mention Juniors: Juliet Miller, Liam Baker, Adeline Mangino, Eleanor Hudson, Jamison Smith

Congratulations to all of the 4-H members who competed in the contest, and special thanks to 4-H Goat Club Leader Joanna Miller, for all of her hard work organizing the event.

The Genesee County 4-H Program is a youth development program for youth ages 5-18.  New 4-H youth members, adult volunteers and clubs are always welcome to join.  For information about how to join the Genesee County 4-H Program, please contact the 4-H Office at [email protected] or (585) 343-3040 ext. 101.  Enrollment information is also available on our website at




Immigration reform tops the list of concerns during Tenney's farm tour stop in Batavia Tuesday

By Howard B. Owens


Dairy prices and substitute labeling, crop insurance, support for specialty crops, soil health, nutrition programs, agricultural research, inflation, and invasive species were all topics that farmers in the region brought to Congresswoman Claudia Tenney Tuesday at the Old Courthouse in Batavia,

Tenney, who has been representing Genesee County as part of the redrawn NY-24 since January, made Batavia the first stop on a tour of the district to discuss potential provisions in the 2023 Farm Bill.

Congress passes a new Farm Bill every five years. The Farm Bill is most notably known for providing crop insurance and other assistance to farmers to deal with the nature-driven inherent risks of agriculture and the trade barriers that often make selling their commodities more difficult.  But it also deals with a host of other issues related to farming.

While all of those topics were discussed, the topic most often broached by speakers on Tuesday was immigration.  Farmers are tired of seeing their workers fear deportation, and they want to increase the labor supply to help them remain productive.

"I've been involved with immigration and immigration issues since the Reagan administration," said Kim Zuber, owner of Zuber Farms in Byron. "Our first Hispanic employee, back in 1980, the first kid we got was 21. He had a green card, and he became a citizen through the Reagan administration. I've been in Washington many, many times, and this is a political football by the left and right, and we pay the price. They practically make criminals of us on the question of papers. We are sick of being in the middle of this political football. We really would appreciate it if somebody would stand up and say, 'Enough.' These people are our fellow human beings. Sure, surely, bad people come across the border, but the people who work on these farms are supporting themselves and their families. They're good people. They got families and kids just like us. It's just sad. We are sick of being the football between the left and the right."

Natasha Sutherland, from Stein Farms in Le Roy, was the first speaker of the day and, after talking at length about dairy prices and the regulations that control them, opened the immigration discussion by noting that there are people entering the country on a daily basis, risking their lives, to provide for their families.  Often these farmworkers are supporting families they left behind. 

"These people deserve to live and work without fear of deportation," Sutherland said.

The next speaker, Pat McCormick, reiterated some of Sutherland's points.

"We need to improve," he said. "We need to be able to get the farmworkers that we need here and have the paperwork they need so that they're not afraid to go to the hospital and not afraid to go to the grocery store."

He added, "They are a vital part of our community and are a vital support to their people back home, so we need to fix that problem." 

Another farmer spoke about one of his workers who witnessed a murder and was initially afraid to speak to authorities for fear of deportation. Eventually, he did provide evidence that helped get the killer convicted, but the farmer said farmworkers shouldn't have to face that kind of fear.

"It brings people to tears," he said. "These guys and girls are people. They're one of us. They deserve more respect than we give them."

Tenney Supports Immigration Reform
In her closing remarks, Tenney told the farmers she heard their concerns about immigration and is seeking to address it.  In an interview with The Batavian after the meeting, Tenney said she supports providing a pathway for undocumented farmworkers to stay in the country without fear and that she would particularly like to help dairy farmers help their workers here on H2A visas stay in the country all year long. She also supports an increase in immigration from Mexico and South America so long as it's legal, protects the safety of Americans, and ensures farmers are getting workers who work hard and obey the laws of the country.

She acknowledged the need for more workers but said it's also essential -- especially in New York where farmers are facing increased costs because of new overtime rules and the threat of unionization -- to lower the costs for farmers to retain the workers they have.

"These visa programs are really just a bureaucratic disaster right now for them," Tenney said. 

She explained, "What we're trying to do in the Farmworker Modernization Act is come up with a way to make (the H2A visa program) a year-round program, to make the touchback point, the consulate of (their home) country, which would be in New York State. That touchback would be to go and renew the visas and make it a more streamlined process. We would still go through all the criminal records. The farmers would be given some security as to the types of people that are coming to work in their operations. And it would provide us with some oversight as opposed to now, where we sort of have people in the shadows. We want to make sure good, hardworking people who are willing to come here, do the hard work, and that we can actually do it in a more streamlined fashion that is less cost costly to the farmers."

Asked about the fact that oftentimes Republican politicians oppose providing a pathway for undocumented workers to remain in the country, who are the kind of experienced workers farmers want to keep. Tenney said she is sympathetic to the frustration expressed by those views because she personally knows people who have waited 20 years to come into the country and become citizens through a documented, legal process.

But she also understands that people who came here to work and are working, are the kind of people we should want in the country.

"They're not coming here across the border to human traffic, to traffic drugs, to engage in surveillance," Tenney said. After accusing the Chinese of sending people to the U.S. to engage in surveillance, she continued, "We want to make sure that we provide a legal path so that the farmers are protected, the farmworkers are protected, and we know that the people who are working on these farms are productive and are no threat to American citizens in any way. They will ultimately at least have a path to legalization if they're not already legal."

Tenney is aware of the shortage of workers in the U.S. economy and understands the complexity around the issue of a large number of prime-working-age men not joining the labor force and said, yes, immigrants can help bridge that gap.

"We are seeing a great need, not just in farming, but across every sector," Tenney said. "We need people to come and work and create growth in our economy. Without growth, we're not going to deal with our deficits, we're not going to deal with the needs that we have."

While she supported the Farmworker Modernization Act, she thinks Republicans can and will come up with a better reform bill.

"Republicans are for allowing legal immigration," Tenney said. "We want the rule of law to be respected, and I think a lot of illegal immigrants don't know any better, to be honest with you, because they're being trafficked."

She blamed cartels for pushing illegal immigrants, including children, into the country in order to disrupt border security, even on the northern border.

"Nothing is more disheartening than my visit to the border and seeing just how much control the cartels have," Tenney said. "The confusion, the chaos, the large numbers coming across, the lack of ability for the Customs and Border Patrol to really handle this (is disheartening)."

There is a middle ground on immigration reform, she said, that doesn't involve lawlessness. There can be a sensible plan that respects the rule of law, and she believes that is what farmers are looking for.

Some economists project the U.S. is short about one million workers. Tenney said she isn't opposed to a million immigrants entering the company to fill jobs so long as it is legal. 

"That's something that we have to negotiate, but I think there is a very few numbers of people who are against having more people come into the country legally," Tenney said. "There's a very small number that may think this is a burden on taxpayers. I look at (immigrants) as people who are going to produce growth, and if we're producing growth, and we have a larger output and more labor, you're going to see us prosper. We're going to be able to cut down our deficit and actually bring more prosperity. I see growth as the answer."

Photos by Howard Owens.  Top photo: Rep. Claudia Tenney speaking during opening remarks.



Assemblyman Steve Hawley spoke briefly about the budget deadlock in Albany and how the deadlock is costing taxpayers money.

"They are intransigent," Hawley said. "They are refusing to do anything about bail reform or spending $240 billion a year of our taxpayer money. Every day that we were in Albany, 213 senators and assembly members cost you and me $40,000 a day. We've been there six days looking at not one budget bill, that's a quarter of a million dollars. Now, that pales in comparison to $240 billion, but a penny is a penny, and a dollar is a dollar, and there is a quarter of a million dollars being paid to individuals getting nothing done. It is tragic."


Natasha Sutherland, Stein Farms.


Seating in the Old Courthouse was nearly filled with farmers from throughout the region, most of whom did not speak during the meeting. Among those in attendance was Daniel Swyers, a dairy farmer from Perry.


While Tenney asks a farmer a follow-up question, County Legislative Chair Shelley Stein listens.

Tenney announces Farm Bill listening tour with stop in Batavia on April 4

By Press Release


Press release:

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-24) today announced her upcoming Farm Bill Listening Tour to hear directly from constituents about issues impacting our agriculture industry in New York’s 24th District.

Every five years, Congress passes legislation that sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policies. This legislation is commonly called the “Farm Bill” and will be considered this year by Congress. Tenney is hosting a series of roundtables to hear directly from farmers and producers about issues facing the agriculture industry in New York’s 24th District.

New York’s 24th District is the largest agriculture and dairy district in the Northeast, producing dairy, beef, crops, wine, apples, and more. In addition, Wayne County ranks third in the nation for apple production.

“As your voice in Congress, it is essential that I hear directly from you about the issues facing our community,” said Congresswoman Tenney. “Our sprawling district, the largest agriculture-producing district in the Northeast, is home to so many hardworking farmers who feed our community, state, and nation. I am committed to hearing from them about their top priorities as we prepare for the consideration of the 2023 Farm Bill. I will always be a tenacious advocate for our region’s agriculture community.”

Please see the schedule below for upcoming roundtable sessions. Those interested in attending should use this link to RSVP. If you cannot attend an in-person session, you can also submit your views virtually using the same link above.

Western New York Farm Bill Roundtable
Tuesday, April 4th, 10 a.m. Old Courthouse
7 Main St., Batavia

Central NY & North Country Farm Bill Roundtable
Wednesday, April 5th, 10 a.m. Oswego County Legislative Chamber
46 E Bridge St., 4th Floor Oswego

Finger Lakes Farm Bill Roundtable
Thursday, April 6th, 10 a.m. Phelps Community Center
8 Banta St., #100, Phelps

Photo: File photo by Howard Owens.

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