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agriculture

July 26, 2019 - 2:37pm

Press release:

Congratulations to the Genesee County 4-H members who participated in the 4-H Livestock Shows at the 2019 Genesee County Fair.

4-H Beef Show

  • Senior Showmanship – Caleb Carlson
  • Junior Showmanship – Audrey Dorman
  • Novice Showmanship – Thomas Keele
  • Master Showman – Caleb Carlson
  • Supreme Female – Makayla Sugg
  • Reserve Supreme Female – Shianne Foss 
  • Champion Beef Steer – Autumn Mathisen
  • Reserve Champion Beef Steer – Shianne Foss
  • Champion Dairy Steer – Maggie Winspear
  • Reserve Champion Dairy Steer – Justin Deleo 

4-H Dairy Cattle Show

  • Novice Showmanship – Colton Walczak
  • Junior Showmanship – Jacob Beideck
  • Intermediate Showmanship – Maggie Winspear
  • Senior Showmanship – Amelia Brewer
  • Master Showman – Amelia Brewer
  • Champion Ayrshire – Amelia Brewer
  • Champion Grade – Annalise Sybertz
  • Champion Holstein – Bing Zuber
  • Champion Brown Swiss – Bing Zuber
  • Champion Jersey – Maggie Winspear
  • Supreme Champion – Bing Zuber
  • Reserve Supreme Champion – Bing Zuber
  • Best Bred and Owned – Jillian Brewer

4-H Dairy & Meat Goat Show

  • Novice Dairy Goat Showmanship – Levi Miller
  • Junior Dairy Goat Showmanship – Jade Winn
  • Senior Dairy Goat Showmanship – Gabe Winn
  • Master Dairy Goat Showman—Jade Winn
  • Best Udder—Gabe Winn
  • Best in Show Dairy Doe—Shane Coast
  • Novice Meat Goat Showmanship – Levi Miller
  • Junior Meat Goat Showmanship – Campbell Riley
  • Senior Meat Goat Showmanship – John Riley
  • Master Meat Goat Showman—John Riley
  • Champion Meat Goat Doe—Lily Haacke
  • Champion Boer Doe—John Riley

4-H Sheep Show

  • Senior Showmanship – Becky Kron
  • Junior Showmanship – Hunter McCabe
  • Novice Showmanship – Makayla Sugg
  • Master Showman—Becky Kron
  • Supreme Champion Ram – Becky Kron
  • Supreme Champion Ewe – Brendan Pimm
  • Champion Market Lamb – Makayla Sugg
  • Reserve Champion Market Lamb – Ben Kron

4-H Hog Show

  • Senior Showmanship – Dillon Weber
  • Junior Showmanship – Brendan Pimm
  • Novice Showmanship – Thomas Keele
  • Master Showman – Dillon Weber
  • Champion Market Hog – Makayla Sugg
  • Reserve Champion Market Hog – Thomas Keele
  • Supreme Champion Gilt – Thomas Keele
  • Reserve Supreme Gilt – Jillian Weaver

4-H Market Animal Auction Poultry Show 

  • Champion Pen of Chickens – Evan Winspear 
  • Reserve Pen of Chickens – Jillian Brewer
  • Master Showman – Teagan Mathes
  • Champion Project Pen of Chickens – Teagan Mathes
  • Reserve Project Pen of Chickens – Teagan Mathes

4-H Market Animal Auction Goat Show

  • Champion Market Goat – John Riley
  • Reserve Champion Market Goat – Riley Smith
  • Master Showman – John Riley
  • Champion Project Market Goat – Tyler Jirovec
  • Reserve Project Market Goat – Clare Mathes

4-H Market Animal Auction Lamb Show

  • Champion Market Lamb – Makayla Sugg
  • Reserve Champion Market Lamb – Madelynn Pimm
  • Master Showman – Brendan Pimm
  • Champion Project Market Lamb – Makayla Sugg
  • Reserve Project Market Lamb – Brendan Pimm

4-H Market Animal Auction Beef Show

  • Champion Beef Steer – Cole Carlson
  • Reserve Beef Steer – Caleb Carlson
  • Master Showman – Cole Carlson
  • Champion Project Beef Steer – Cole Carlson
  • Reserve Project Beef Steer – Shianne Foss

4-H Market Animal Auction Dairy Steer Show

  • Champion Dairy Steer – Bing Zuber
  • Reserve Dairy Steer – Chase Zuber
  • Master Showman – Carolyn Sybertz
  • Champion Project Dairy Steer – Bing Zuber
  • Reserve Project Dairy Steer – Chase Zuber

4-H Market Animal Auction Hog Show

  • Champion Market Hog – Becky Kron
  • Reserve Market Hog – Cody Carlson
  • Master Showman – Becky Kron
  • Champion Project Market Hog – Cody Carlson
  • Reserve Project Market Hog – Thomas Keele

For more information about the Genesee County 4-H Program, contact the 4-H Office at [email protected] or 585-343-3040, ext. 131. 

July 19, 2019 - 5:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Fair, agriculture, video. 4-H.
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July 18, 2019 - 1:07pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, farm labor bill, agriculture.

A Statement from Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) on Gov. Cuomo signing the Farm Labor Bill into law July 17:

“The largest farm in New York City is a seasonal pumpkin patch but that didn’t stop radical politicians from dictating how our farms should operate. This disastrous legislation, ironically signed in a place with no farms, has the potential to single-handedly destroy family farming in New York as we know it.

“To make matters worse, the newly-created Wage Board, stacked with more big-labor, big-union interests than actual farmers, can unilaterally alter the labor laws how they see fit moving forward.

“Altering the maximum number of hours allowed per week or reversing the ‘no strike clause’ at any moment, goes completely against the farming industry’s standard practices where crop yields, weather patterns and labor needs are consistently fluid. If a farm can’t operate because of unavoidable weather conditions or  because workers are mandated time off – the repercussions will be devastating.

“What these big-city politicians don’t understand is that our family farms are always under the gun since our growing season is virtually half of California and Florida – making reliable labor, many times seven days of week, a necessity.

“As the former owner and operator of our family farm in Batavia, I know first hand how devastating this could be to our industry. As a former president of the Genesee County Farm Bureau and 14-year member of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, I’ve spoken with many farmers and producers about this bill and its devastating effects unlike the New York City politicians who crafted this disaster. Their concerns were voiced yet ignored.

“Our family farms are not corporations, they are not run by money-hungry business people, they are ordinary families like yours and mine who have learned this art from prior generations and intend to pass it on to their children. It’s what they love, and I will always stand behind them to fight these new regulations in any way I can.”

July 17, 2019 - 4:47pm

Today, July 17, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act (S6578/A8419). It was voted on and passed by the New York State Assembly and Senate last month.

Proponents claim the new law will extend basic labor protections to New York State’s farmworkers by allowing them the right to collectively bargain and get overtime pay.

It was sponsored by Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Senator Jessica Ramos, both of Queens.

Western New York farmers and lawmakers were among those who lobbied against the legislation, citing the devastating impact it could have on family farms and agriculture, the primary economic driver of the region.

Upon its passage in the Senate in June, Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer said: "This is just another example of Downstate legislators who do not understand the Upstate economy. This will impose hundreds of millions of dollars in mandates onto farms who are already struggling. Simply put, it is going to eliminate jobs and put farms out of business."

For the complete post with reactions after the Senate passage of the bill, click here.

Below is a press release sent this afternoon from Grow NY Farms on the Governor's signature today creating the new law.

For months, hundreds of farmers and farmworkers spent countless hours seeking to find a balance with elected officials on measures that will change working conditions on farms across New York State. However, the measure that ultimately passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor on July 17 did not address the challenges and needs of farmers and farmworkers.

This measure does not create a path that will assure an economically viable New York agriculture industry, and the four fixable flaws within this bill will likely drive more family-owned farms out of the state or out of business. Worst of all, farmworkers will feel the impacts the most because their work hours will be restricted and their income reduced.

Grow NY Farms has been seeking to correct four fundamental flaws contained in the new legislation (Assembly Bill No. 8419 and Senate Bill No. 6578). Modifications include:

  • Applying a standard wage rate for farmworkers who decide to work on the prescribed day of rest.
  • Expanding the family farm definition to include close relatives such as aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.
  • Modifying the composition and timeline of the wage board.
  • Preserving secret balloting for both farmworkers and farmers.

“New York's farmers have been at the table from the beginning asking for a workable solution, a bill that would provide the balance agriculture would need to sustain itself as an important job creator and food provider in this state. Common ground should have considered what farms can afford and the opportunities our employees will lose as a result of this law. In the end, our reasonable requests were cast aside, even though there was support for a moderated bill from legislators on both sides of the aisle. What was also dismissed by many of New York's leaders is the dignity and respect our farm families have long provided to the men and women we need and work alongside every day. While the final legislation signed by the Governor is certainly better than the original version of the bill, it will still lead to significant financial challenges for farmers and the continued erosion of our rural communities,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau president and dairy farmer in Madrid.

"It is upsetting that state lawmakers have placed rural New York at a serious disadvantage in our ability to compete in the market place and provide economic opportunities for our employees. This new law failed to take common sense into account, and in turn, will place Upstate further behind in its ability to grow our farms and economy. Our farms and farmworkers deserved better for all that they provide this state,” said Brian Reeves, of Reeves Farms in Baldwinsville and president of the New York State Vegetable Growers Association.

“Long Island has a proud tradition of being a source that New Yorkers turn to for fresh food, wine, flowers, landscape plants and more. Our farms have also provided good, quality opportunities for our employees to get job experience and support their families at home and abroad and have the potential to advance their careers. Sadly, those days are numbered as the farm labor bill will force dramatic changes on agriculture as we know it. It won’t just be our farm families and employees who will suffer, but our customers who value what it means to buy “Grown on Long Island.” Unfortunately, by the time that the legislators who voted for this misguided bill realize the damage they have done to the agricultural industry on Long Island and the rest of the State of New York, it will be too late. This is a sad day for all of us,” said Karl Novak, president of the Long Island Farm Bureau.

“Dairy represents New York’s largest agricultural industry. Our farms must operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in order to care for our cows and produce fresh, nutritious milk. We certainly appreciate that legislators who listened to the many voices expressed by stakeholders in trying to negotiate a bill fair to everyone, but we were disappointed in language added in the final hours that has the potential to both negatively impact the long-term viability of our farms and the earning potential and livelihood of our workers,” said Jon Greenwood, president of Northeast Dairy Producers Association and dairy farmer in Canton.

“My family has a long history of supplying fresh fruit to our Hudson Valley community every year, and we have seen our business diversify into building a cidery, but we are worried that the tradition we have built is now in jeopardy with the signing of this legislation. We are proud of our workforce and the benefits we provide them, but the massive increase in labor costs coming down the pike because of this new law will make it difficult to sustain the business that has lasted for generations and one that I hoped to continue. I’m afraid this could be the breaking point for our orchard and many like ours across the state,” said Sarah Dressel, of Dressel Farms in New Paltz and Chairperson of the New York Apple Association’s Board of Directors.

“Today’s job market is competitive, and many farmers provide their workers with optional days of rest, sick and holiday pay, and other benefits. I appreciate New York’s effort to ensure all farms are doing this, however, by limiting worker hours, we are taking away opportunity that many are seeking. Employees do not want to work simply to live – they enjoy farming and want to save for their families and their future. This bill does not include fixes that are needed to help our farms and farmworkers thrive. The reality is clear, our workers will pack their bags and seek opportunity in another state,” said Jose Iniguez, vice president of Lamont Fruit Farms in Waterport and former farmworker.

“This spring, New York’s family farms faced some of the toughest planting conditions we’ve seen in years, and continue struggling to compete against regional and national competitors. Our challenges have been compounded due to recent actions by state officials who have endorsed policies that are fundamentally changing our businesses and threatening the viability of New York’s farm community.  We are urging the Governor to fix several flaws in the Farm Labor bill in order to support the future of New York’s growers, harvesters and dairy producers,” said David Zittel, president of Amos, Zittel and Sons in Eden.

“The Farm Labor will bring about unintended, yet devastating changes to our state’s agriculture sector. The farmworkers who work side-by-side with farm owners and their families want to see this industry continue to grow and diversify, and they understand they are big part of each of our farms’ success. However, this legislation will force many growers and dairy producers to lay off workers or cut hours in order to remain competitive. Far worse is that some will make the difficult decision to cease farming – and New York’s consumers will see prices increase and their source of fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products diminish. We want to grow our farms, employ more staff, and continue providing the best workplace possible for our workers. The Governor must fix several flaws in this legislation in order to support the more than 30,000 farms across Upstate and on Long Island – and without action, he will be sacrificing those who were counting on him the most,” said Dale-Illa Riggs of The Berry Patch in Stephentown and President of the NYS Berries Association.

For a full list of Grow NY Farms campaign supporters, visit: GrowNYFarms.com

July 13, 2019 - 2:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in video, Genesee County Fair, agriculture.
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The Genesee County Fair for 2019 is open.

Friday was preview night, a kind of soft open. 

June 20, 2019 - 7:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in news, farm labor bill, agriculture, business.

From Senator Michael Ranzenhofer:

The New York State Senate passed the “Farm Workers Bill.” State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer (R-C-I, Amherst) voted against it.

Senator Ranzenhofer has issued the following statement:

“Today’s passage of the Farm Workers Bill is devastating to our local farms. It does not take into consideration the economic and practical realities of farming. I have heard from and met with both farmers and farm workers who have shared the crippling impact this legislation would have on them.

“This is just another example of Downstate legislators who do not understand the Upstate economy. This will impose hundreds of millions of dollars in mandates onto farms who are already struggling. Simply put, it is going to eliminate jobs and put farms out of business.

“Furthermore, I am disappointed that such a critical bill would be introduced at the last minute and not ever be considered by the Senate Agriculture Committee or reviewed by the public.”

From Senator Rob Ortt, ranking minority member of the Senate Agriculture Committee:

“Tonight’s passage of the Farmworker Labor Act is disappointing and further displays the disconnect between state Democrats and Western New Yorkers. For months, I toured farms across western New York and spoke about this legislation with hundreds of workers, employees and community residents.

Employers and employees alike pleaded that this bill would destroy small family farms. With New York State farm closure rates already triple the national average, this legislation will grow the closure rate and devastate the number one economic driver in New York.

My chief concern when Democrats took over the entirety of state government was that Upstate would be ignored. Incredibly, it has gone further than that and Upstate is now being attacked by radical New York City regressives. Their willing accomplices include Democrats from the rest of the state, the Business Council, and the State Farm Bureau, who – sadly – should have all known better.

From Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

"My administration has proudly fought for working men and women across the board, from raising the minimum wage to strengthening worker protections in nail salons and the home healthcare industry. We believe all workers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect -- period.

"Over the weekend, I issued a reformed farm workers bill of rights, which guarantees farm workers will finally be granted basic rights to protect them from abusive and exploitive working conditions.

"With the passage of this legislation, we will help ensure every farm worker receives the overtime pay and fair working conditions they deserve. The constitutional principles of equality, fairness and due process should apply to all of us. I am proud that, with the help of my daughters' years-long advocacy on this critical issue, we got it done."

From Grow NY Farms:

For months, New York’s agriculture community worked with a purpose to meet a fundamental goal of developing farm labor legislation that would protect the combined interests of farms and farm workers. We negotiated in good faith with many majority lawmakers who were interested in hearing from those who would be directly impacted by the legislation.

Political realities meant we had to come to find a middle ground that was mutually beneficial.

We thought we had achieved that goal with a bill that while posing significant challenges for a struggling Industry, it was a vast improvement than where we started. Unfortunately, there were some flaws thrown into the legislation in the final days of this legislative session that made the bill unacceptable. Despite the passage of this flawed legislation (S.6578/A.8419), we have not given up on finding a way to fix those flaws.

These flaws include:

1.       A requirement that wages paid on the seventh consecutive day of work – are based on an overtime rate -- if a farmworker waives their right to a day of rest.

2.       The definition of family fails to recognize the role of close relatives such as aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins – and would make their participation in farm activities subject to the new statute.

3.       The creation of a wage board lacks New York’s key agency expert on agricultural issues – the State Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets.

4.       Elections involving the ability to form a union lack the integrity of a secret ballot.

At this time, we believe it is in the interest of all parties to continue working together to address these flaws and move forward with legislation that farmers, farm workers and the labor community can mutually embrace and reflect the spirit of the dialogue and discussion that has taken place in recent months.

It is also important to note the significant role played by all the farmers, farm workers and lawmakers who worked to build consensus on this issue.

Grow NY Farms represents a coalition of more than 50 New York farms, organizations, and local businesses. To learn more, visit www.GrowNYFarms.com.

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 21, 2019 - 12:27pm
posted by Holland Land Office in agriculture, Gardening, history, Lecture.
Event Date and Time: 
June 20, 2019 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Kathy Woika, a Master Gardener from Bethany, NY, will be speaking on Victory Gardens. Learn something new and help improve your own garden with this exciting program. Ms. Woika will begin at 7pm and the program is $3 per person and $2 for museum members.
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.
Video Sponsor

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.

farmaghearingmay2019.jpg

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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