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June 18, 2018 - 10:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business, news.

Press release:

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today revealed the details of the newly released Senate Farm Bill. The senators said the bill could benefit key Upstate New York industries, and urged their colleagues in the Senate to pass the bill as quickly as possible.

Senators Schumer and Gillibrand detailed several major areas in which the Farm Bill will be a major boost to Upstate farmers, growers, and producers, as well as other New York businesses, like Hickey Freeman. 

Schumer and Gillibrand said the newly announced bill reflects a variety of different priorities they pushed for on behalf of the New York agricultural community. Schumer said the bill will give New York's agricultural industry a shot in the arm, and vowed to preserve Upstate New York’s priorities as the bill goes through the legislative process.  

“The pending Senate Farm Bill is a major victory for Upstate New York and its large and vital agricultural community. It includes important positive provisions that should push this bill over the finish line,” Senator Schumer said. “Ensuring the passage of a Farm Bill focused on agricultural policy is vital for New York’s agricultural community and our economy as a whole.

"The bill makes further investments to help Upstate New York dairy farmers, boosts the rapidly growing organic sector, builds on New York’s burgeoning industrial hemp industry, and protects important New York jewels like Hickey Freeman from unfair foreign competition.

"While the bill does not contain everything that we fought for, it is ultimately a win for the farmers that are the heart of Upstate New York. Most importantly this bill will also help deliver immediate certainty for our farmers at a time when they need it the most."

“New York State’s farmers and producers are vital to our economy and they work day and night to feed millions of families across our country,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “After hearing from farmers and producers all across our state, I fought hard on the Senate Agriculture Committee from the very beginning to make sure this year’s Senate Farm Bill had New York’s best interests at its core.

"I will always fight to support New York’s agriculture community, and I was very proud to support this legislation in committee.”

New York Business Growth

Schumer fought to extend and fully fund the Wool Trust Fund program, which Rochester icon Hickey Freeman relies on for crucial import tax relief.  The program was created more than a decade ago to compensate the domestic suit industry for the competitive disadvantage that results from an unfair tariff inversion where the duty on the imported finished product is lower than the duty on the inputs used to make the product here at home.

Under the Wool Trust Fund program, U.S. manufacturers of wool clothing and fabric are eligible for a partial refund of duties paid on imports of wool inputs.  The Wool Trust Fund program also provides U.S. wool producers with funding for improvements in wool production methods and development of the wool market.

The conference report restores Wool Trust Fund payment levels for recent years when the program was underfunded and extends its authorization, through 2023. U.S. manufacturers and wool producers -- and their American workers -- would be hard hit by the elimination of the Wool Trust Fund program. Hickey Freeman has saved millions of dollars over the past few years through the program and this provision will ensure they receive the dollars they are owed. 

Conservation:

The Senators said the Senate Farm bill funds key environmental programs that are essential to farmers, like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).  These programs are voluntary conservation initiatives that farmers can utilize through the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to help them continue to be good stewards of the land.    

Agriculture and Farming/Growing:

Organic Farming:

The newly introduced Senate Farm Bill established mandatory funding of $11.5 million for the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP), which helps support farmers who want to become involved in the organic market by providing reimbursements of some of their annual fees for United States Department of Agriculture USDA organic certification. It includes an increase in critical funding for organic research through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative from its current level of $20 million to $50 million by FY2022.

Finally, the Senate version of the Farm Bill increases the authorization for the National Organic Program (NOP). Both Senators have been major supporters of this program that helps USDA protect farmers from having to unfairly compete against fraudulent organic imports while also helping to maintain consumer confidence in the USDA certified organic brand. This bill increases the authorization for the NOP to $16.5 million in FY2019, $18 million in FY2020, $20 million in FY2021, $22 million in FY2022, and $24 million in FY2023.

Specialty Crops

The Senate Farm Bill contained a number of provisions beneficial to Upstate farmers, but especially to farmers of specialty crops. New York produces a wide range of specialty crops (fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, herbs and spices, maple syrup, Christmas trees, etc.) that rank highly nationwide in terms of both production and economic value.

The Senate Farm Bill, according to Schumer and Gillibrand, provides vital funding to key programs that aid specialty crop producers, such as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Specialty Crop Research Initiative. These programs help provide support to New York's specialty crop industry in the form of robust research funding. 

Maple:

The Senate Farm Bill reauthorizes Schumer’s original legislation known as The  Maple Tap Act, which Schumer said is now officially called the Acer Access and Development Program. This provision will continue to help maple producers in the Hudson Valley and across Upstate New York boost their production and become more competitive with places like Canada, which produces 85 percent of the world's maple product.

The senators said, specifically, this provision provides an authorization for USDA grants to states that create programs to encourage individual and private landowners to open up their trees to maple tapping. Schumer's legislation would also provide grants to states to support market promotion, maple industry research and development, and education through leading institutions, like Cornell University.

Hemp:

Another important provision Schumer and Gillibrand fought to include was the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. Schumer, a cosponsor of the Hemp Farming Act, said the provision could help unlock Industrial hemp’s full potential as an agricultural commodity across Upstate New York by removing hemp from a federal list of controlled substances.

The senators said the bill will do four important things for farmers nationwide including in New York State:

  • Remove industrial hemp from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act;
  • Empower states to be the principal regulators of hemp;
  • Allow hemp researchers to apply for competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture;
  • Finally, it would make hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance.

Most importantly, the senator’s said this important provision would allow for New York’s agricultural community to grow industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity if they so choose, allowing New York growers more flexibility. 

Barley:

The bill directs the National Agricultural Statistics Service of USDA to document barley production in New York State. This would ensure that producers have the information they need to decide on future plantings.

The information would be valuable for growers because it would provide sufficient data for crop insurance companies to expand insurance offerings and eventually offer a malting barley endorsement.

Dairy:
The newly introduced Senate Farm Bill also includes major victories for Upstate New York dairy farmers and producers. The newly introduced Farm Bill invests in programs to help give much-needed relief to Upstate New York dairy farmers and producers.

The Senate Version of the Farm Bill includes a variety of helpful reforms including: an investment of $100 million to help improve the Federal dairy insurance program to help make the program work better for small to medium dairy farms; a provision waiving administrative fees for beginning, veteran, and underserved farmers; a provision continuing the vital changes made in the Omnibus Budget bill that allowed for the creation of new dairy insurance tools in the future; legislation introduced by Senator Gillibrand, The Dairy Premium Refund Act, which would return $77.1 million in insurance premiums paid by farmers for insurance coverage that did not work, while also establishing a milk donation program to reimburse eligible dairy organizations costs incurred for donating their milk.

PAWS

The newly introduced Senate farm bill also includes a vital provision called the Pet and Women Safety Act (PAWS) Act, which both Senators are currently cosponsors of.  This bill would help give victims of domestic violence and their pets greater access to safe sheltering options, as well as provide stronger legal protections of pets. According to the Humane Society, up to one-third of domestic violence victims delay leaving a dangerous situation, because they fear for the safety of their pets, and up to one-fourth return to an abuser due to concern for their pets.

Local Food Programs

The Senate Farm Bill creates a new Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) by combining the Value Added Producer Grants Program and the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. The value-added producers grant program helps dairy farmers that start producing artisanal cheese or apple growers that enter the hard cider industry.

The grants administered through the new LAMP program will continue to support strengthening our local food systems from rural farmers to urban consumers.

Water, waste disposal, and wastewater facility grants

The Senate Farm bill provides funding to support and strengthen rural water infrastructure. Funding to Rural Development programs like the Water, Waste Disposal, and Wastewater Facility Grant program will help families and businesses across Upstate New York and nationwide continue to have access to clean drinking water.   

Community facility investments

The Senate Farm Bill supports Community Facility investments to continue to help provide resources to construct hospitals, improve schools, while also improving fire and police stations across small towns in New York State. 

Rural Broadband

This year’s Senate Farm Bill includes a provision, based on Senator Gillibrand’s bipartisan Broadband Connections for Rural Opportunities Program Act (B-CROP Act), which would make grant funding available for rural broadband projects in high-need areas.

Gillibrand worked with her colleagues on the Senate Agriculture Committee to include this provision in the Senate Farm Bill, which would help encourage more high-speed broadband deployment to high-need areas by awarding grants in combination with the current loan funding available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Utilities Service.

Federal funds would target the highest-need rural and tribal areas, allowing for grants of up to 50 percent of a project’s cost, and up to 75 percent for remote, high-need areas, to be awarded in combination with the current loan funding available through USDA. The Senate Farm Bill also increases the annual funding level of the USDA broadband program to $150 million.

REAP Zones

The Farm Bill would reauthorize the Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zone designation for Sullivan County and the Town of Wawarsing in Ulster County. The REAP Zone program provides specialized technical assistance from USDA to assist in community development efforts, including rehabilitating rural housing, developing local and regional food systems, supporting rural entrepreneurs, small businesses, and infrastructure improvements to community facilities, water, and wastewater systems, and other similar projects that are critical to an area’s economic development. Senator Gillibrand worked with Senator Leahy (D-VT) and the Agriculture Committee to include this amendment in this year’s Farm Bill.

June 17, 2018 - 6:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in dairy farmers, agriculture, chris collins, NY-27, notify.

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Rep. Chris Collins and dairy farmer Dale Stein.

Americans should be encouraged to buy more milk, Rep. Chris Collins told a group of dairy farmers gathered at Stein Farms in Le Roy yesterday to hear about the congressman's plan to encourage the USDA to promote milk consumption, along with his thoughts on immigration and trade policy.

"Whether it's health or otherwise, just think 'drink milk' because right now our biggest issue in Western New York is a supply-and-demand issue," Collins said. "You know we had some of the yogurt plants shut down. We've all faced issues within the school lunch program and certainly, we'd love to be selling milk up into Canada. Their recent move on ultra-filtered milk and Class 6 milk just made it even worse."

Collins is among a dozen members of Congress who signed a letter to Agriculture Secretary George Ervin "Sonny" Perdue III asking the USDA to implement a marketing program similar to the "Got Milk" campaign of the 1990s and 2000s.

“Years ago, messages that resonated with all Americans included ‘Got Milk?’ and ‘Drink Milk, Love Life,’ and we saw some of our favorite celebrities with milk mustaches,” Collins said in a press release the coincided with yesterday's event. “The fact is, this type of marketing works.

"In recent years, we’ve seen an overall decline in milk consumption, which has created tough economic times for our dairy farmers and we are hoping Secretary Perdue can provide some additional help.”

Whether the "Got Milk" campaign was successful is disputed by marketing experts. The campaign, created in 1993 at the behest of California Milk Processor Board, an agency created by the State of California to assist dairy farmers, reportedly increased milk consumption in California during its first year but that data was based on consumer surveys. 

In 1995, Milk Processor Education Program, a dairy-industry-funded nonprofit, licensed the "Got Milk" campaign and rolled it out nationally.

While consumer surveys indicated similar results as reported in California, actual milk consumption data gathered by the USDA tells a different story. Per-capita consumption of fluid milk has declined across the nation from 210 pounds in 1993 to 159 pounds in 2014, when the campaign was discontinued.

Dale Stein said he supports any effort to get more Americans buying more milk or that expands the market for milk.

"I'm hoping that we can increase consumer usage of dairy, and it is increasing, but increase it more so that it brings the supply closer to being in balance," Stein said. "It doesn't have to be in balance with demand. If gets closer, the price comes up."

At the beginning of the year, milk was selling at $14 per hundred pounds. That's not a sustainable price, Stein said. At that price, Stein Farms can't stay in business and pass the multigeneration farm onto the next generation. Right now, the price is $17. That is sustainable.

"If we can get the $17 milk we can do well here," Stein said. "I don't need $20 milk. I'm not asking for high milk prices, I just need the consumer to use a little more dairy and if everybody did that, that would make the difference."

It's not like Americans aren't buying more milk products, as Stein said. When accounting for all milk products, including the categories with the most growth -- cheese and butter (it used to be yogurt, but that has receded a bit) -- then Americans are consuming more milk. Through 2016, per-capita dairy product consumption increased from 613 pounds in 2006 to 646 pounds.

One reason for the current oversupply of milk, Stein said, is that a few years ago, for a few short months, milk did hit $20, and even $25. Dairy farmers across the country thought they struck gold and invested in increased production. Now they're stuck with that production.

Stein said he can't reduce production. Low prices means he has to increase it -- makeup on volume what is being lost per unit -- so he can meet his high fixed costs. He pointed to a couple of giant tractors that he bought used. 

"You're looking at $650,000 standing there," Stein said.

"I have to have cash flow," Stein added.  "If the price isn't there, the only thing I can do to is sell more milk. That means readjust what I'm feeding the cows to make more milk. We do a lot of cost cutting, too, but there's only so far we can cut costs. So you, as an individual farmer -- if everybody agreed to make a cut -- we could do it, but you can't get an agreement across the country."

Collins also said he is looking to help dairy farmers through the new five-year Farm Bill, which is expected to come up for a vote in the coming week.

The Market Protection Program, part of the previous Farm Bill, hasn't worked for dairy farmers, Collins acknowledged. 

"Most dairies have not signed onto the basic insurance program," Collins said. "On the crop side, the insurance program, the margin programs have worked. When we get into a supply and demand where there is oversupply, it just does not work. The formulas don't work. I've been told, and I think some folks here who have looked at it would say, the dairy margin program in the new farm bill will provide an option, an insurance option, that in a day like today could provide economic support on the downside."

Another long-standing problem for dairy farmers is labor and Collins said he understands that in order to address dairy's labor shortage, there needs to be immigration reform.

Collins is a member of a Republican group in the House called the Freedom Caucus. The members refused to vote on the Farm Bill unless they could get a bill on the floor dealing with immigrant labor. He also acknowledged that while the bill would fix many of the problems faced by dairy farmers, it also isn't likely to pass.

"We are putting up a compromise immigration bill," Collins said. "The bad news is, there's no dairy in it."

However, he said the Freedom Caucus has been promised a vote in July that would address the year-round visa issue that has made it so hard for dairy farmers to hire and retain qualified dairy employees.

"We've talked about the undocumented workers having a three-year visa that would be continued and renewable on a two-year basis," Collins said.

This is all good news, said Dale Stein after the event was over. He's grateful to Collins going to bat for dairy farmers. Even if the immigration bill expected to go to the floor for a vote next week doesn't pass, just getting the bill to the floor is an accomplishment after years of a congressional stalemate on immigration.

"What he has done has forced votes on immigration," Stein said. "He's working with other Republicans and working bipartisan with Democrats. Now he's forced votes on immigration so that we can maybe get immigration settled and fix for farmers and everybody else.

"It's been left in limbo for too long. Congressman Collins, working with others, including the Democrats, is pushing to get this settled. I support him 100 percent on that."

The issue making farmers across the nation nervous is the talk of trade wars.

In his remarks to local farmers yesterday, Collins didn't back down on the tough talk and praised Trump for taking on allies and rivals alike on trade policy.

"Trump rightfully has called out Trudeau in Canada for their long-standing, non-free-market protection of their (dairy industry)," Collins said. "We can't get any dairy into Canada where we were selling ultra-filtered milk. They shut down about a year ago, Class Six. Now they're dumping powdered milk around the world. I mean it's just awful. My comment to the press was, 'we caught Canada and we caught Trudeau cheating.' It's not fair trade; it's not free trade."

He said nobody can win a trade war with the United States.

"I'm not sure what Canada will ultimately do, but I think Trudeau should realize he doesn't win a trade war with the United States," Collins said. "China doesn't win a trade war with the United States. Europe does not win a trade war with the United States. Trump is the first president to stand up and say we've been in a trade war 20 years and we're losing.

He said China's plan to retaliate against Trump's planned 25-percent tariff won't work.

"The problem is we don't export that much to China," Collins said. "They're talking about putting tariffs on goods that don't even get sold in China. Well, have a nice day. It's simply rhetoric on their part."

Many of the tariffs China is planning, however, will hit agriculture directly.

U.S. dairy farmers exported $577 million in dairy products to China last year, up 49 percent from the year before. Though Collins said "we can't get any dairy into Canada," but in 2017, Canada imported $636 million in dairy from the United States. And while Trump and his trade representatives continue to threaten to pull out of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), the largest international market for U.S. dairy is Mexico, which imported $1.3 billion in dairy from the United States, up 9 percent from the year before.

As a percentage of U.S. dairy production, the percentage of dairy going overseas has grown from 8 percent in 2010 to more than 14 percent today.

Soybeans, another important crop in Genesee County, is a product targeted for retaliation by China but rather than answer merely with tariffs, China is planning to buy from Brazil, which has the capacity to grow soybean production. Some U.S. trade experts fear the United States won't get that market back even if tariffs are lifted.

The USDA considers China a potentially huge market for U.S. farmers. Last year, China imported $26 billion in U.S. farm products. 

The ultra-filtered milk dispute with Canada is a fairly recent issue. The class of product, called Class Six, was created a couple of years ago, and it's not governed by NAFTA. The price of the product is set by global supply and demand and isn't regulated. This has depressed the price below what Canada considers acceptable for its highly regulated dairy market. It won't allow Class Six imports from the United States. Meanwhile, U.S. dairy farmers are looking to expand the market for its oversupply of milk.

After Collins finished his speech, Collins and the other visitors were invited to a table filled with WNY dairy products, including Perry's Ice Cream. After Shelly Stein finished filling bowls and cones for everyone, Collins talked with Dale and Shelly Stein and other farmers.

Shelly Stein brought up the trade issue. She said she's concerned about commodities being used in a trade war.

"That's us," she said.

At this point, The Batavian jumped in with some questions for Collins about trade.

We asked about his statement that the United States could win a trade war with China when it's a large market for dairy, soybeans, sorghum, beef, and other agriculture products.

We asked, "Is this really the right approach, to get into a trade war with trading partners that agriculture depends on?"

Collins said, "We've been in a trade war 20 years. This isn't new. We've been losing the trade war for 20 years. There's just never been a president to acknowledge it. It's been death by a thousand cuts. Look at the manufacturing that's not done here and here we have been in a war for 20 years. This isn't a new war. But Trump is addressing the war that we've been losing, battle after battle after battle. The rest of the world's been taking advantage of us, all but laughing at us behind our back, as they have taken advantage of us. Trump was elected to say, 'it's done.' They are going to attempt to flex their muscles. The retaliation tends to be on the ag side, unfortunately."

Later in his reply, he said, "Right now it's noisy and there are consequences and others are gonna flex their muscles in hopes of getting Trump to cave in and say, 'No, no, no, it's OK that you cheat.' He's saying, it's not OK that they cheat. But I will tell you, as I said, they depend on us at the end of the day, whether it's Europe, whether it's Mexico, whether it's China, or whether it's Canada, if they don't trade with the U.S., they suffer. We can make any products made in China. We have huge deficits there. We may pay a little more. You know, whether it's your dinnerware or your underwear, you may pay a little more if it's made here."

Trump often Tweets about the state of the economy, how well it is doing. Low unemployment, rising wages, and if you look over the past 20 years, the Gross Domestic Product has increased every year except for 2008 and 2009. In the past 20 years, U.S. goods and services exports have grown from $500 billion to $1.4 trillion.

So if the economy is doing well and growing, we asked Collins for evidence that we're losing a trade war.

"Well, we're losing the trade war because we're not making the products here," Collins said. "We have 6.3 million people that are unemployed that don't have the skills to be a software engineer or a welder or a machinist. The assembly line jobs have disappeared."

(NOTE: Some economists blame manufacturing job loss on automation. A Federal Reserve report says 800,000 jobs were lost to China but were replaced by jobs in other sectors, primarily service, construction, wholesale and retail.)

Collins said, "There's a whole lot of folks who have given up even looking for work." He added, "Our labor participation in the adult workforce is at an all time low."

(NOTE: The Trump Administration says workforce participation has grown during his term.)

For our next question, we pointed out the iPhone recording the conversation includes inputs from U.S. companies, including the glass face, which is made in New York. Some economists estimate a trade war will cost 400,000 Americans their jobs because they make things used in products manufactured overseas or rely on inputs, such as steel, that Trump plans to tax.

The Batavian asked, "We depend greatly on trade with China. China, rightly or wrongly, is part of the WTO (World Trade Organization). Isn't using the rules that have been created a better approach to deal with these trade issues than starting trade wars?"

"No, not when they pay $3 an hour (for labor) in China," Collins said. "If they're paying $3 an hour, we'll never get our manufacturing jobs back. And what you just said is some of the raw materials are made here. Why don't we make the whole phone here?"

Adam Smith and David Ricardo addressed that question 200 years ago. Countries benefit by trade because each can specialize and therefore create the best possible products at the lowest possible costs, raising everybody's standard of living. Ricardo called it "comparative advantage."

That's a little more detail than we provided Collins (we just mentioned Smith and Ricardo in broad terms), but Collins responded, "There's some 40 percent of the world's population, 2.8 billion people, living in China and living in India. We've got 320 million, and they're paying $2 and $3 an hour. If we're going to make something in the United States, we've got to deal with that unfair, untenable differential."

We pointed out, Chinese wages, as happens in all developing countries, have been rising, creating a bigger middle class, creating a bigger market for U.S. products, particularly farm products.

"Yeah, they go from $3 to $4, from $4 to $5," Collins said. "We still lose that piece of it. We've got to level the playing field or there is no future for our children and grandchildren and we need inflation."

At which point, Collins began to discuss why we need inflation to help retire the national debt.

"Inflation is something we desperately need in this country," Collins said. "The $20 trillion of debt against a $20 trillion economy that our children and grandchildren and the 10th generation that is with us here (referring to the Stein family) deserve better. What they deserve is paying off this $20 trillion of debt in cheaper dollars, which means inflation.

"We need 4 percent per-year inflation for the next 18 years. Compound it annually so that the $20 trillion of debt is the equivalent of $10 trillion. In 18 years, and as our economy grows and doubles in 18 years from $20 trillion to $40 trillion, our debt can actually go from $20 trillion to $30 trillion. So we have a green light of 75-percent debt to GDP. We have to have inflation at 4 percent a year or our kids don't have a future."

So we asked, "So you're arguing for a hidden tax on consumers instead of reducing spending?"

"We can't ever reduce spending to cut our debt," Collins said. "Anyone who thinks so is living in la-la land. We have to grow our way to success. We have to grow our economy and inflation is part of it.

"Anyone who thinks that with our deficits today that we can pay down our $20 trillion of debt is in la-la land," Collins added. "It can never happen. We have to grow to success, grow for our kids to have a future.

"Part of that growth is inflation, and what you saw under eight years of Obama with a fake economy of no inflation, the $20 trillion of debt is truly troubling. It's $20 trillion and it's growing and without inflation, our kids are going to be living in cardboard boxes under the bridge."

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June 13, 2018 - 11:20am
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, news, FFA, agriculture.

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Press release:

On May 29, Byron-Bergen Jr./Sr. High School held their first Future Farmers of America Awards ceremony since restarting an agriculture program after an absence of almost 50 years.

The presentation honored student members and their supportive FFA parents. Certificates of Appreciation were given to many community advisors and volunteers, and district personnel.

The FFA chapter’s student officers were recognized as a cohesive leadership team who have driven the growth of the new chapter: Garrett Sando (president), Cole Carlson (vice-president), Hallie Calhoun, Isabelle Stevens, Andrew Parnapy and Seth Sharp.

Greenhand FFA degrees, for senior high school students, were given to Jacey Donahue and all six FFA officers. Garrett Sando was named the Star Greenhand for 2018. Discovery FFA degrees for Jr. High School students were given to Caleb Carlson, Madelynn Pimm, and Rachel Best. Four students received Proficiency Awards: Cole Carlson (Beef Showmanship), Sando (Employment Interview), Parnapy (Creed Speaking), and Sharp (Agricultural Sales).

The ceremony marked the end of the beginning for the Byron-Bergen agriculture program and FFA chapter. It has been an amazing year for both, with about 15 students getting involved in the hands-on approach to learning offered in the new Introduction to Agriculture Science class, along with the Living Environment class.

Students marveled at the opportunity to learn about agriculture as a science course, and to be able to explore it even more deeply through FFA.

“Students are really excited and proud to participate in FFA,” said Byron-Bergen’s Cornell Ag-certified teacher Jeff Parnapy. “They love the teamwork and leadership activities involved.

"Our kids have stepped up and taken responsibility for making the decisions and doing the work necessary for the chapter to be successful, to raise funds, and to take part in the community.

"Our group attended the recent NYS FFA Convention in Rochester and got to meet students from around the state. We’re planning to participate at the State Fair and the Genesee County Fair later this summer.”

Parnapy says the chapter will begin active competition in statewide FFA contests this fall, and take part in more state and FFA District 9 events and trips next year.

He says FFA is undergoing a renaissance, with several local school districts starting new chapters. He also credits the school’s Advisory Committee — local volunteer farmers and animal science experts — for their help and guidance.

Parnapy will be attending professional development sessions in Animal Science this summer, with the hope of offering it as an additional class in the 2019-20 school year.

"We had a great first year bringing back Ag Education and FFA for the first time in so many years,” said Jr./Sr. High School Principal Patrick McGee.

“Kudos to Mr. Parnapy and our kids for getting this back off the ground. We truly believe that this program is going to continue to grow and be a viable part of the Jr./Sr. High School."

FFA is a national organization that makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. www.ffa.org

Top photo: Byron-Bergen’s FFA members at May’s NYS FFA Convention in Rochester. (l-r) Garrett Sando, Jacey Donahue, Isabelle Stevens, Rachel Best, Madelynn Pimm and Hallie Calhoun.

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FFA President Garrett Sando (right) with advisor and Ag teacher, Jeff Parnapy.

June 11, 2018 - 5:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Lamb Farms, agriculture, news, Oakfield.

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Janiya Sanchez and Alaina Evans, students at John James Audubon School #33 in Rochester, met a calf during a visit to Lamb Farms in Oakfield this morning.

About two dozen sixth-graders from the school visited the dairy farm to learn about how cows produce milk and other dairy products.

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Alicia Lamb told the students about how cows live on the farm and what they eat.

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Janiya Sanchez, like many of the students, found the smell of the barn unpleasant.

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Some of the cows enjoyed being petted.

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Tanasia Reid touches a cow for the first time.

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Kendra Lamb talks about feeding calves.

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June 7, 2018 - 8:45am

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For the second year in a row, Reyncrest Farm held Genesee County's annual dairy days and yesterday 630 kindergarten students attended from various surrounding schools in the county. 

As technology changes, family farms adapt differently with land resources. Every two years a different farm gets rotated, said Shelly Stein of the Agricultural Farmland Protection Board for Genesee County. 

Family member Kelly Reynolds said the farm has 15 full-time employees plus six family members, who work with 1,200 milk cows plus 1,100 young stock consisting of calves and heffers around the clock seven days a week on the farm.  

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June 5, 2018 - 1:21pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, cheesemakers, agriculture, dairy, trade, news.

Press release:

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today joined their Senate colleagues in urging United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to continue to ensure Mexico honors its existing trade commitments.

They want Lighthizer to fight back against the EU’s recent proposal to exclusively use common cheese names, like “parmesan,” “feta,” and “asiago” in Mexico.

According to the senators, through a recent trade agreement with Mexico, the EU is seeking to prevent cheese producers from exporting their products using common cheese names or geographical indications.

Schumer and Gillibrand argued that this would be a huge hit to Upstate dairy farmers as they look to continue to export cheese and compete for new markets.

“No matter how you slice it, Upstate New York’s cheese producers could lose a big chunk of their business if the EU successfully convinces Mexico to place geographic restrictions on cheese labeling,” Senator Schumer said.

"From Western New York to the Hudson Valley, cheese production is an important industry in Upstate New York, which is why I'm urging Ambassador Lighthizer to hold nothing back and use every tool in his disposal to protect U.S. cheese producers and ensure that Mexico continues to honor their existing trade commitments."

“This harmful proposed trade agreement between the EU and Mexico could hurt our farmers and rural communities by taking away export opportunities for New York cheese producers,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“We need to do everything possible to protect and promote New York’s dairy industry, which is already struggling in the face of historically low milk prices and other challenges, and I’m urging U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer to fight against any proposal that would hurt local cheese producers.”

Schumer and Gillibrand pointed out that Mexico is the largest export destination for American cheese, accounting for virtually one-third of the $1.3 billion in dairy products the United States exported to Mexico last year and that implementing geographic indications on cheeses could devastate New York’s cheese industry.

The senators explained that this is not the first time the EU has tried to claim cheese names based on geographic locations, in the same way, that the EU has argued that champagne can only be sold as "champagne" if produced in the Champagne region of France.

Among the labels sought by EU are muenster, feta, parmesan, fontina, gorgonzola and others. Schumer warned that if the EU succeeds in claiming those names, New York producers will no longer be able to export cheeses with their current names. They would have to export the cheese under a different name, meaning that producers could lose market share they have spent years fighting for.

A copy of the joint Senate letter to Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer appears below:

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

We write today expressing our concerns about Mexico’s recent trade negotiations with the European Union (EU) and the devastating impact these actions could have on American cheese exports to Mexico. On April 21, 2018, the EU and Mexico reached an agreement in principle to modernize their current trade agreement.

A summary of the agreement provided by the European Commission notes that Mexico agreed to protect 340 European geographical indications. While the final text of the agreement—and the full list of restricted names—has not been released, media reports indicate that Mexico has agreed to restrict food imports with names—most notably of cheeses—considered generic in the United States.

As you work to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we urge you to engage with your Mexican and Canadian counterparts to ensure that future trade policies do not limit export opportunities for American dairy farmers and processors. In light of Mexico’s proposed agreement with the EU, we are deeply concerned that American cheesemakers will be harmed by a reversal of their current access to the Mexican market, and will be denied the opportunity to sell products to Mexican consumers using common cheese product names that have been marketed for decades.

In addition, this threat to American dairy exports underscores and reaffirms the need for a renegotiated NAFTA that ensures strong market access for dairy exports to Mexico and Canada and addresses Canada’s trade-distorting Class 7 dairy pricing scheme.

Geographical indications link a product to a particular region, implying that the product possesses a certain quality or reputation associated with that locale. The EU has aggressively pursued restrictions for cheeses, such as feta (Greece), muenster (France), and parmesan (Italy), in their domestic and international trade policies. While these names are covered as geographic indications within the EU, they are generic in the United States and in numerous other countries around the world.

Mexico is the largest export destination for American cheese, accounting for roughly one-third of the $1.3 billion in dairy products the United States exported to Mexico last year. If Mexico grants European cheese producers exclusive rights to use common cheese names, as reports indicate it has agreed to do, American producers will lose market share they have spent years developing.

This policy change will have a detrimental impact on American cheese and dairy producers, who are already adversely impacted by Canada’s trade-distorting policies.

The 2015 Trade Promotion Authority statute—which is currently in force—included a principal negotiating objective on geographical indications:

“The principal negotiating objective of the United States with respect to agriculture is to obtain competitive opportunities for United States exports of agricultural commodities in foreign markets substantially equivalent to the competitive opportunities afforded foreign exports in United States markets and to achieve fairer and more open conditions of trade in bulk, specialty crop, and value-added commodities by [. . .] eliminating and preventing the undermining of market access for United States products through improper use of a country’s system for protecting or recognizing geographical indications, including failing to ensure transparency and procedural fairness and protecting generic terms.”

In order to meet this objective, the United States should engage with Mexico on geographic indication restrictions to ensure Mexico honors its existing trade commitments with the United States. American cheese exporters should be allowed to continue using common food names that Mexican consumers are familiar with.

Anything less would grant European producers access to the market share that American producers have developed over decades and unjustly award them the future growth opportunities of those products. We appreciate your attention to this matter and stand ready to work with you to protect American cheese exports.

May 24, 2018 - 5:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Pavilion, schools, education, agriculture, news.

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The Family Consumer Science students at Pavilion Senior High School and Middle School have been recognized for the creativity and hard work in coming up with a beef-based food product.

The competition was sponsored by the NY Beef Council and New York Agriculture in the Classroom.

The middle school students competed with students from eight other middle schools and took first place and the two, just two, seniors in the class, came in second in a competition among 21 high schools.

The $350 total in prize money was used to purchase a new Weber grill from Crocker's Ace Hardware in Le Roy.

The middle school students came up with a product they called Grabbables. It consisted of a meatball, Hawaiian roll, and mozzarella.

"It was really fun," said eighth-grader Alexa Wolcott, who was in charge of quality control for the middle school students.

"Well," added the group's CEO, Adeline Milligan, "you get food in the end."

The two classes were served a catered lunch yesterday of BBQ beef, baked beans, potato salad, and salad, courtesy the Beef Council.

The competition required the students to develop a recipe, determine a target market, come up with a marketing campaign and cost out their expenses and anticipated revenue.

"There's a lot to manage," Milligan said. "You learn what actually goes into running a business."

The competition is meant to be demanding, said Cindy Phillips, director of nutritional education for the Beef Council.

"This is a project that really challenges them to apply all of their classroom learning, from math to critical thinking, social studies, into an experiential project," she said.

Catherine Johnston, AKA "Miss J," is Pavilion's Consumer Family Science teacher. She said it was important to her to get her students involved in the competition because of the lessons they would learn.

"I really want to promote the fact that Family Consumer Science is the next step from ag," Miss J said. "We are the processors. We freeze things. We dry things. We can things. We learn all about food science in my class.

"I'm hoping students want to go into the new factories that are around here and become lab techs. There are a lot of job opportunities that go into this besides being a chef."

May 23, 2018 - 1:41pm

Press release:

Today, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer called on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to administratively fund the work being done at the Northeast Center For Occupational Safety And Health For Agriculture, Forestry And Fishing (NEC) on the National tractor rollover protection systems (ROPS) rebate program.

Schumer said ROPS is a vital program, especially considering that farm-related deaths are up to 800 percent higher than many other major industries, with tractor overturns being their most frequent cause at a rate of 96 cases per year.

“ROPS is a critical and cost-effective rebate program that provides important information to farmers across the country on how to find and install the right rollover bar for their machinery. It is imperative that the CDC does everything possible to fund this program to help ensure that farmers and growers have every tool possible to stay safe and succeed,”Senator Schumer said.

The ROPS program facilitates rebates in states with state-based funding to farmers to cover approximately 70 percent of the cost for a farmer to install a ROPS roll bar retrofit kit on their tractor. According to Schumer, the original grant funding for this important program is slated to expire in September, and the CDC has discontinued the funding mechanism to allow for the continued federal investment in this program.

“Keeping family farmers and farm workers who operate dangerous machinery safe must be a major priority. That is why I am the urging the CDC to restore funding for this critical farm safety program and the subsequent research,” Schumer said. “The work done by organizations like the NEC is exactly the type of work the federal government should be investing in: it’s cost-effective, informed by real industry experts, and helps save farmers’ lives every day.

"By slashing available funding to this life-saving organization, we jeopardize successful programs that are providing critical resources to farmers, like a 1-800 safety hot-line number and on the ground experts in rural communities, so farmers can access the ROPS Rebate Program, which helps farmers correctly install rollover bars on their tractors just in case the tractor flips over. We need to do everything possible to make sure we are investing in developing new safety solutions for our farmers and growers. and I will be doing everything possible to make sure this program, which puts farmers first, is protected.”

According to NEC Director, Dr. Julie Sorensen, the program has also been considerably cost-effective with recent economic assessments pointing to a $5 million savings in NY State due to deaths and injuries averted through the program.

As stated by Sorensen, “Senator Schumer’s support for the ROPS program and dedication to the farming community is so essential to ensuring the sustainability of one of our state’s most crucial industries.”

Schumer said the agricultural community is the lifeblood of Upstate New York, and that protecting the well-being and safety of farmers must be a major priority.

In response to the hazardous environment of working on a farm, the Northeast Center For Occupational Safety And Health For Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing launched an effort to create the life-saving ROPS Rebate Program, which covers approximately 70 percent of the cost for a farmer to install a ROPS rollbar kit on their tractor.

In most cases, this means farmers only pay $500 or less for this life-saving equipment that can otherwise cost up to $1,200.

NEC also provides information to farmers throughout the country on how to find and install the right rollover bar.

Since its inception in 2006, the NEC reports that more than 2,150 tractors have been retrofitted with protective structures in seven states, with more than 1,500 of those retrofits occurring in New York State alone. Farmers throughout the country benefit from the hotline and administrative support that is provided through CDC funding.

Furthermore, Schumer said, participants in New York reported 221 close calls and 19 serious incidents in which death or injury was likely without the protective ROPS structures. However, all of this critical outreach and infrastructure surrounding the ROPS program could come to an end if the CDC allows the federal funding for the ROPS program to come to a halt. Schumer said that this program is vital to farmers and growers, and that he will do everything possible to ensure that the CDC administratively funds the program so that the inroads the ROPS program has made can continue.

A copy of the Senator’s letter appears below:

Dear Director Redfield, MD:

"I write to bring attention to a problem which continues to threaten the lives of farmers and growers in Upstate New York and nationwide. As you know, farm-related deaths are 800 percent higher than many other industries, with tractor overturns being the most frequent cause of deaths on farms, at a rate of 96 cases per year. I commend and appreciate the great work being done at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to invest in tractor rollover protection systems (ROPS) and the continued safety of our farmers. However, it has come to my attention that the federal funding for the ROPS program through NIOSH is in jeopardy of coming to an end in September. Therefore, I urge you to work with the Northeast Regional Center in Cooperstown, New York, as well as other NIOSH Centers across the country, in order to administratively fund this important work that saves almost 100 lives a year across the country.

As you know, our agricultural community is the lifeblood of rural America, and protecting the well-being and safety of our farmers must be a majority priority. In response to the hazardous environment of working on a farm, the Northeast Center For Occupational Safety And Health For Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (NEC) launched an effort to create the life-saving ROPS Rebate Program, which covers approximately 70% of the cost for a farmer to install a ROPS rollbar kit on their tractor. In most cases, this means farmers only pay $500 or less for this life-saving equipment that can otherwise cost up to $1,200. NEC also provides information to farmers on how to find and install the right rollover bar. Since its inception in 2006, the NEC reports that more than 2,150 tractors have been retrofitted with protective structures in seven states, with more than 1,500 of those retrofits occurring in New York State alone. However, all of this critical outreach and infrastructure surrounding the ROPS program could come to an end if federal funding comes to a halt.  This is why I urge you to administratively provide funding to the ROPS program, so that the  important inroads the ROPS program has made can continue. 

During these challenging times for our agricultural communities, it is imperative that we do everything in our power to ensure that our farmers and growers have every tool available to succeed. In New York State alone, the ROPS program has been extremely effective in preventing tractor rollover deaths and injuries to our farmers and growers. Feedback from the agricultural community has been extremely positive, with participants in New York reporting 221 close calls and 19 serious incidents in which death or injury was likely without protective structures. This kind of success should be touted and continued, which is why I urge you to ensure that you continue to fund the great work done by the NEC and ROPS as soon as possible.     

I understand that in the current fiscal climate resources are constrained, and as always, I vow to stand with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) throughout the budget process. However, based on the critical importance of protecting the health and safety of our agricultural workers, I ask that you ensure that federal funding continues to flow to the ROPS program past September. I look forward to working with you on this important request."

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer

May 19, 2018 - 5:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, Stafford, news, business, Le Roy.

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Nancy Glazier and Garry Wilson led a group of farmers on a pasture walk Thursday on property Wilson rents off of Transit Road in Stafford to raise beef cattle.

Wilson said by fall he will have more than 70 head on the 200 acres he grazes.

Glazier, a small farm specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension, said the purpose the pasture walk was to review Wilson's practices and perhaps advise him on changes he's considering to make better use of the land and give the grass a chance to grow and rest.

"It's a good way to learn is when you walk and talk," Glazier said.

Wilson's farm is based on Warsaw Road in Le Roy, where he once raised horses. He switched to cattle about six years ago.

He sells the beef he raises from his farm. He said while it's not certified organic, it's all raised "natural" and the meat is butchered at three local shops.

"I have 600 pounds of fresh ground beef in my freezer right now that is 98 percent (lean) for $3.50 a pound. I sell it from the freezer like that. Great stuff."

During the walk, he told his fellow farmers that raising beef is "just a hobby." Later he explained, "It's a hobby because, yeah, I enjoy it. That's why I call it a hobby."

He said was raised around cows and farming is in his blood.

"I enjoy being outside every day in the sun," Wilson said. "Even in the middle of the winter in a blizzard. I enjoy going out and feeding the cattle."

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May 9, 2018 - 4:32pm

Information provided by Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Pavilion Central School.

Students at Pavilion Central School are being treated to a delicious BBQ beef lunch on Wednesday, May 23, in recognition of their achievements in the recent Top Cut Beef Contest.

The catered lunch is being provided by the New York State Beef Council and New York Agriculture in the Classroom.

Ag in the Classroom is co-hosting the lunch later this month because Pavilion students established three Tower Gardens (aeroponic systems) thanks to a Grow with Us grant from Ag in the Classroom. They are growing strawberries, lettuce, Swiss chard, tomatoes, basil and cucumbers.

Pavilion's eighth-grade Family Consumer Science students placed first in the Middle School Division of the Top Cut Beef Contest for their product, "Grab-A-Bull's Beefy Sliders."

It was the only school in Genesee County to place in the top five of the Middle School Division.

In the High School Division, Pavilion's 12th-grade Family Consumer Science class placed second for their "Gourmet Beef and Tatar Bites."

Both classes are taught by Catherine Johnston.

Pavilion won a total of $350, thus purchasing a Weber grill for their Family Consumer Science classroom.

A class taught by Kerri Richardson at the Agri-Business Academy at the Batavia Career and Technical Education Center received an Honorable Mention in the High School Division for their "Texas Beef Chili -- Chili con Carne."

About the Top Cut Beef Contest

Slow-roasted beef brisket sandwiches, flaming maple beef jerky, and a Texas chuck roast chili were just a few of the delicious recipes developed, tested, and tasted in the debut of the Top Cut Beef Contest for middle and high school students.

Students and teachers in grades six through 12 were exposed to beef production and nutrition with this experiential learning competition by developing a marketing strategy for a food product of their choice and design.

Every classroom was equipped with a "True Beef: From Pasture to Plate" DVD, the True Beef Educator Guide, lesson plans, and consumer guides to better understand the many cuts of beef and their best uses.

Schools were paired with a local beef producer who mentored the students through the process of beef production or supplied the beef necessary for the project. In this hands-on experience, students were exposed to careers in the beef industry and learned about safe food-handling practices.

Participants created beef-centric recipes which they made and tested with their target audience. Submissions included sandwiches, stews, meatballs, and even jerky.

The creativity with this contest was unlimited as students filmed their own commercials and designed websites to market their products.

One of the judges, Ken Krutz, manager of Empire Livestock and board member of New York Beef Council, said of the entries, "I was amazed at the talent and innovation our youth put into their projects. It was an honor to be a judge for the Top Cut Beef Contest."

A total of 30 entries were submitted for judging by a panel of beef producers and industry experts. Each entry was scored based on the product, the market analysis, the marketing plan, and the beef nutrition analysis.

The first-place classroom in each division received $250, second place earned $100, and third place earned $50; all receive a banner to display their achievement, and the first-place teams, like Pavilion's eighth-graders, are also receiving a catered barbeque lunch from the New York Beef Council.

New York State Beef Council thanked participating schools for increasing the agricultural literacy of their students. "It is our hope that they will grow an appreciation of New York’s food system and gain exposure to the many careers available in agriculture," the council stated.

(To enter your classroom in a future contest, or to volunteer your time as a mentor, please contact [email protected].)

Grow With Us Grant

Below is the letter Pavilion Central School teacher Catherine Johnston received from Katie Carpenter, director, New York Agriculture in the Classroom, regarding the Grow with Us Grant.

"Congratulations! You have been selected as a recipient of the Grow with Us Grant from New York Agriculture in the Classroom. Your grant application communicated your school’s need, interest, and commitment to providing healthy food and food system education to your students. The applicant pool for this program was deep and competitive; less than 25 percent of the submitted proposals were funded. You should be proud of your achievement in this difficult selection process.

You have been awarded three Tower Garden aeroponic systems.

Within the next week you will be receiving an emailed link. It will be important for you to thoroughly read the information about accepting the grow system, provide an accurate shipping address, and confirm your contact information. This will be essential to ensuring your grow system is shipped and received in a timely manner. Once this information is received, you will be provided additional information about the shipment of your grow system.

We are excited to work with you and your school as you extend your growing season throughout the entire school year. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns. Again, congratulations on your success in the Grow with Us Grant program."

May 8, 2018 - 10:34am
posted by Virginia Kropf in Plow Days, elba, agriculture, news.

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When the Esten family of Elba decided to organize a plow day 17 years ago in honor of their late father, they couldn’t have imagined how popular the event would become.

On Saturday and Sunday, the 18th annual Plow Days took place at the farm of John Torrey of Route 98, Elba, with close to 60 old tractors.

It was Louis Esten who came up with the idea for Plow Days, and in recent years his son and daughter-in-law Nick and Mandy Esten have done much of the work. It takes the better part of a week to move all of Torrey’s tractors out of the barn and set up for the event.

“We think it’s important for people, especially the younger ones, to see how things were done in the old days,” Louis said.

The lineup of red tractors on the front lawn attracted passersby each day, even someone from Erie, Pa., and Syracuse. Antique tractor collectors came from Genesee and several neighboring counties.

One of the oldest tractors to take part was Louis’s 1938 W30 McCormick Deering.

The Estens estimate they plowed nearly 75 acres of ground with the old tractors.

Top photo: Chuck Esten, of Albion, sits on one of his antique tractors with his grandsons, Benjamin, 5, and Joshua, 16, during Plow Days Saturday and Sunday. Esten’s brother Louis, of Elba, was instrumental in starting Plow Days 17 years ago.

Photos by Virginia Kropf.

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May 7, 2018 - 1:33pm
posted by Billie Owens in agriculture, education, GCC, news.

Press release:

On Thursday, May 10, starting at 9 a.m., more than 100 high school students from across the GLOW (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties) region will be participating in high-tech, agricultural career experience at Genesee Community College, hosted by The BEST Center.

The third annual Precision Agriculture Day at the College's Batavia Campus features a wide array of presenters from the industry who will share information on the latest technological, science, engineering, and agricultural trends including drones, embryo transfer, precision farming and processing, GPS/GIS, auto steering and robotics.

This emerging technology is anticipated to create new employment opportunities in the future. High schoolers from 13 districts across the four counties have the opportunity to discover more about these potential and exciting career pathways and will be checking out how these technologies are used in their own backyard of Western New York.

The Precision Agriculture Committee, chaired by Nathan L. Rudgers, senior vice president of Business Development at Farm Credit East,was formed in 2015.

The committee, comprised of local precision agriculture consultants, agricultural leaders, as well as high school representatives, has been providing guidance and input on the development of programs to address the educational and awareness needs of this growing field.

Advances in technology have resulted in agricultural systems collecting data and using it in multiple operations all controlled through a computer, tablet or smart phone. This technology has created education and training opportunities, but there is a lack of skilled workers.

Enter The BEST Center, which is working to provide multiple educational opportunities in this growing arena.

The BEST Center provides businesses and organizations with customized training solutions ranging from supervisory skills to technical training. The Center also offers numerous professional and personal development courses for individuals, including classroom and online opportunities.

May 7, 2018 - 11:29am
posted by Virginia Kropf in Circle B Winery, elba, agriculture, business, news.

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Growing grapes and making wines is probably the last thing Bob and Ingrid Bowen expected to be doing after retirement.

Even Bob can’t believe the turn of events.

He and his wife both worked at Xerox, but after their four boys went to college, Ingrid announced she wanted a horse.

That started the search for a farm in the country.

“John Mortellaro of Batavia was a family friend and he said he knew about a place near Elba,” Bob said. “The farm had been abandoned, the house was a mess and the place was overgrown, but my wife loved it.”

“It was pretty dilapidated,” Ingrid said.

The Bowens retired in 2011 and bought the farm, renovated the house, cleared the land and built a barn.

Then Bob started thinking about what to do with the land, and he has always liked wine and had made wine as a hobby. He realized Genesee County doesn’t have the kind of weather needed for grapes, but he went to Cornell, where they have a grape research facility and took a course on becoming a vintner.

“In 2012, we planted the vineyards with three grapes from Cornell with code names,” Bob said. “They were developed to grow in cold country. Our weather here is colder, because we don’t have hills and lakes to keep the temperature moderate.”

The first year, temperatures were down to zero, with a wind chill of minus 30, Bob said.

“We lost 120 vines and there was nothing we could do,” he said.

The Bowens already knew they didn’t want to rely solely on grapes, and had planted acres of apple, cherry, peach and apricot trees, along with blueberries and raspberries.

They hired Augie Katrencik, of Macedon, as winemaker. He has 10 years of experience in the business and has been a longtime friend of the Bowens.

On Sunday, the Bowen’s officially opened their winery at 6870 Norton Road with an open house.                   

The Bowens specialize in fruit wines, with apricot, peach, peach and honey, pear, pumpkin and spice, and Traminette* available now.

In June, they will have available blueberry, Dechaunac, Diamond, spiced apple and even tomato wine.

“If you’ve never tried tomato wine, you’re in for a surprise,” Bob said. “It doesn’t look like V8.”

Kim Shay, of Victor, said she loved it.

“It’s very good,” she said.

The idea came from Katrencik, who said his grandparents used to make tomato wine.

Later in the year, the winery will have red raspberry and blueberry.

The Bowens are thrilled to be the first winery in Genesee County and are purchasing everything they can for the business locally. This includes contracting with Hodgins Printing to make their labels.

Bob said they will be at the Downtown Batavia Public Market this summer and at the Genesee County Fair. He is in discussions with local retail liquor stores to carry their wines.

Circle B Winery will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. They can be contacted on Facebook, online [email protected] or by calling (585) 773-4473.

Top photo: Ingrid and Bob Bowen stand in their vineyard at 6870 Norton Road, Elba, where they estabished Genesee County's second winery. They held their premier open house on Sunday.

(*To find out more about Traminette the cold-hardy, fungal resistant, hybrid white grape developed by Cornell University, click here.)

CORRECTION: This story originally said the Bowen's winery is the first winery in Genesee County. Autumn Moon Winery in Bergen opened a couple of years ago.

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Visitors from throughout the area attended an open house on Sunday at Circle B Winery, the second in Genesee County. From left, Ken Winburn, of Phelps, Kim Shay, of Victor, Linda Wester, of Farmington and Joe Attinello, of Farmington, sample the wines.

Photos by Virginia Kropf.

May 2, 2018 - 10:37am

Press release:

Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer has recognized Cornell Cooperative Extension Executive Director Beverly L. Mancuso, as a Woman of Distinction at the 21st annual ceremony, for her outstanding contributions in enriching the quality of life for the community and beyond.

“Beverly has been widely recognized as an effective leader and a connector for community-based organizations to other partners and volunteers. This is a well-deserved honor to recognize Beverly’s efforts in our community, as well as her positive impact in the lives of so many residents. I wish her all the best in retirement,” Ranzenhofer said.

Mancuso has served at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Genesee County for 16 years, 13 years as executive director. She is responsible for the overall leadership of the organization, including programming for Leadership Genesee, 4-H Youth Development, Master Gardener Program and Agriculture. 

Mancuso started her career working in finance and physician practice management at two hospitals, then furthered her education at the Rochester Institute of Technology. For five years, Mancuso worked to enhance the experience of patients at the Genesee County Health Department.

Mancuso is expected to retire from the Cornell Cooperative Extension in June.

“I am honored to be recognized by Senator Ranzenhofer. I learned the importance of listening at an early age, and this skill has helped me during my career in both the public and not-for-profit sectors,” Mancuso said. “I am looking forward to the next great adventure.” 

Mancuso was a member of the inaugural class of Leadership Genesee in 2001, and she was recognized as an Outstanding Alumna years later.

She is currently a proud member of the Muriel H. Marshall Fund Planning Team. Mancuso has been actively involved in the community for years, including Kiwanis, Boy Scouts, Genesee Country Village, Parish Councils, and Office for the Aging Advisory Committee.

April 27, 2018 - 3:09pm
Press release:
 
U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer announced today that he is working directly with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and Senator Tammy Baldwin(D-WI) to urge U.S. trade officials to secure a level playing field with Canadian producers during the renegotiation of the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
 
According to Schumer, in recent years, Canada has established dairy pricing policies and has maintained high tariffs that have effectively created a “Dairy Wall” stopping most U.S. dairy products from accessing Canadian markets and distorting global trade. Dairy farmers and producers, like O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative Inc. in Batavia, Cayuga Milk Ingredients in Cayuga County and dairy producers in Wisconsin, have been severely hurt by Canada’s manipulative trade practices and it will only get worse without action.
 
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) from Wisconsin has also been a leader on lowering Canada’s dairy trade barriers, working closely with Senator Schumer.
 
“With Speaker Ryan’s and Senator Baldwin’s help, we now have a real opportunity to churn the tide and hopefully fix the unfair Canadian dairy trade barriers that have plagued dairy farmers and producers from the Finger-Lakes to Central New York to Wisconsin,” said Senate Democratic Leader Schumer.
 
“Our hardworking New York dairy farmers and producers across Upstate New York are the most competitive in the world, but they depend on stable and fair rules to compete in a global economy, to sell their dairy products, expand their business and create new local jobs – and right now, for dairy, Canada is erecting unfair barriers and not playing by the rules and the current NAFTA renegotiation must be used to rectify that.”
 
Schumer explained Canada has an unfair advantage over New York dairy farmers and producers. In addition to Canada’s 270 percent tariff on milk, a program called the “Class 7” pricing program, a market-distorting supply management system, has caused severe pain to New York dairy producers since it came into force last year.
 
In fact, Canada has used the Class 7 program to triple its milk powder exports in the past year by creating excess milk production capacity within Canada, then dumping the resulting milk powder onto world markets. To further prove this dumping exists, Schumer added that Canada’s dairy farmers are some of the highest paid in the world, yet Canadian dairy companies are still able to be among the lowest cost sellers of Class 7 products globally.
 
As U.S., Canadian and Mexican trade officials are closing in on a deal to revamp North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Schumer said working with Senator Baldwin and Speaker Ryan – who represents many dairy farmers and producers in their own state, represents a real opportunity to finally dismantle Canada’s market-distorting policies and ensure a level playing field for American dairy farmers and producers.
 
Schumer continued: “As trade officials near a deal to renegotiate NAFTA – a bipartisan issue President Trump, Senator Baldwin, Speaker Ryan and I agree on – we must make it a top priority to begin reversing restrictive dairy pricing policies in Canada that are hurting our dairy producers at their core, and now is a real opportunity to do just that.”
 
Schumer said that he has directly stressed the importance of securing meaningful changes in our dairy trade relationship with Canada to past and current administration officials, including President Trump, current United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton, and the U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft -- who have all committed to address this issue.
April 24, 2018 - 10:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, schools, education, news, alexander.

A pair of technology teachers in Alexander Central Schools think it's time to reintroduce agriculture into the curriculum of the high school and shared their plans Monday night with the school board.

"We live in an ag community but the kids seem distant from it because all of their food comes from factories," said Bob Hollwedel, who has been working on creating an agriculture program at the school with Aaron Forgnone.

Initially, the program will concentrate on field trips to ag-related businesses in the region.

Board members expressed an interest in seeing the high school start an FFA (Future Farmers of America) program.

Hollwedel said in their research they looked into it but decided it's too much to pursue right off the bat.

"We realized really quickly how there is a lot to that and you can get really deep, really quick," Hollwedel said. "We found we should start from something and then look at that as a separate element."

Board VP Richard Guarino was particularly excited about the prospect of reintroducing an ag curriculum into the high school and encouraged the teachers to work toward forming an FFA chapter. He said FFA teaches students a lot of important life skills, including public speaking, parliamentary procedures, and business.

"I am thrilled that we are bringing agriculture back to Alexander," Guarino said. "I don’t know when it left, I guess some time in the ‘80s. I think it’s great that it’s coming back. I like to think it’s not just cows and plows, which is what we used to say in FFA. It’s not just cows and plows. It is so many different businesses.

"I can still say it was in ag classes where I learned to fill out a 1040 ( U.S. Individual Income Tax Return form). No other other class in high school taught me the stuff I learned in agribusiness, so I’m thrilled."

April 23, 2018 - 4:26pm

Press release:

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today called on U.S. trade officials to secure a level playing field with Canadian producers during the renegotiation of the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Schumer said that in recent years, Canada has established dairy pricing policies and has maintained high tariffs that have effectively created a “Dairy Wall” stopping most U.S. dairy products from accessing Canadian markets and distorting global trade.

Dairy farmers and producers, like the 340 dairy farmers who make up Upstate Niagara Co-Op, which supplies O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative Inc. in Batavia, have been severely hurt by Canada’s manipulative trade practices and it will only get worse without action.

O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative Inc., with more than 400 employees and majority owned by Upstate Niagara, has already lost millions of dollars in contracts due to Canada’s actions “Dairy Wall.”

Schumer said that the time to secure a level playing field with Canada by expanding market opportunities and eliminating Canada’s unfair pricing policies – is now and we cannot let this opportunity go to waste.

“Our hardworking New York dairy farmers and producers like Upstate Niagara Co-Op’s 340 farm family members across the Finger Lakes and O-AT-KA Milk Products in Batavia are the most competitive in the world, but they depend on stable and fair rules to compete in a global economy, to sell their dairy products, expand their business and create new local jobs,” Schumer said.

“As trade officials near a deal to renegotiate NAFTA – an issue President Trump and I both agree on – we must make it a top priority to begin reversing restrictive dairy pricing policies in Canada that are hurting our dairy producers at their core, and now is a real opportunity to do just that.”

Schumer explained Canada has an unfair advantage over New York dairy farmers and producers. In addition to Canada’s 270 percent tariff on milk, a program called the “Class 7” pricing program, a market-distorting supply management system, has caused severe pain to New York dairy producers like Avon’s Anderson Farm and their fellow Upstate Niagara Co-Op dairies since it came into force last year.

In fact, Canada has used the Class 7 program to triple its milk powder exports in the past year by creating excess milk production capacity within Canada, then dumping the resulting milk powder onto world markets. To further prove this dumping exists, Schumer added that Canada’s dairy farmers are some of the highest paid in the world, yet Canadian dairy companies are still able to be among the lowest cost sellers of Class 7 products globally.

Anderson Farm is one of the 340 dairy farm members of the Upstate Niagara Co-Op, which is the majority owner of the O-AT-KA Milk Products facility in Batavia. More than 400 employees work at O-AT-KA. Upstate Niagara dairies throughout the Rochester Finger Lakes Region like Anderson Farm depend on O-AT-KA to purchase their milk to then manufacture and sell milk products for the domestic and international markets.

Since Canada’s implementation of Class 7, O-AT-KA lost $19 million in annual sales of Ultra Filtered milk (UF Milk), a product used to make cheese and other dairy products that it had been exporting into Canada. Moreover, the production of this UF milk for the Canadian market had accounted for 20 percent (about 180 million pounds) of all of O-AT-KA’s milk volume.

This severely undercut a $16 million investment made by O-AT-KA in 2012 to build a two-story addition at its Batavia plant to manufacture UF Milk to support its export business to Canada. When Canada unfairly cut off UF Milk imports and implemented Class 7, it dealt a significant blow to the local agriculture economy and was a factor in the current U.S. milk inventory imbalance that is contributing to now drive the price of milk down.

Schumer was joined by Jim Anderson, fourth generation owner of Anderson Farm, O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative Inc. President & Chairman John Gould, local dairy farmers, and elected officials.

Gould, who also owns an Upstate Niagara Co-Op dairy farm in Genesee County, said “Canada has a long history of erecting barriers to trade when it comes to dairy and the creation of Class 7 is an example of that. Canada's Class 7 market manipulation has caused harm to O-AT-KA Milk Products and their farm family owners, whose investments in serving legitimate customers in Canada have been blocked.

"As NAFTA is renegotiated, it is time that Canadian gamesmanship ends and a constructive agreement is reached that allows market participation and access under rules that all trading partners can follow. We thank Senator Schumer for his leadership and work in keeping this important issue top of mind as negotiations proceed."

As U.S., Canadian and Mexican trade officials are closing in on a deal to revamp North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Schumer said now represents a real opportunity to dismantle Canada’s market-distorting policies and ensure a level playing field for American dairy farmers and producers.

Schumer noted that he has directly stressed the importance of securing meaningful changes in our dairy trade relationship with Canada to past and current administration officials, including current United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, President Trump, Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. David MacNaughton, and the U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft who have all committed to address this issue.

Right now, products manufactured by O-AT-KA Milk Products include non-fat dry milk powder, buttermilk powder, whey powder, canned evaporated milk, butter, fluid condensed milk, iced coffee, nutritional beverages and other various drinks.

O-AT-KA has gross annual sales of more than $300 million and is a significant employer and economic development engine in Upstate NY’s dairy and manufacturing industries. Schumer said that in order for Upstate Niagara member dairies and O-AT-KA to continue to be global leaders, Canada’s rapacious dairy-related trade policies need to be addressed and that NAFTA represents a major opportunity to do so.

Here's Schumer's letter to Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative:

Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:

As the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations come towards a conclusion, I would like to again emphasize the importance of securing meaningful concessions from Canada to provide stable market access for our dairy producers. Securing meaningful and enforceable commitments that will allow U.S. dairy producers to compete with Canada’s on a level playing field should be a top priority in NAFTA renegotiations. As I have expressed to you many times, I strongly believe that we should not miss this opportunity to protect our dairy producers from Canada’s recent predatory trade practices.

As you know, Canada’s Class 7 pricing program, a market-distorting supply management system, has caused severe pain to New York dairy producers since it came into force last year. Canada has also maintained large tariffs on dairy products, including a 270 percent tariff on milk. New York’s dairy farmers and companies like Cayuga Milk Ingredients, O-AT-KA Milk, and Ideal Dairy Farm, rely on market-based trade with Canada for a significant percentage – millions of dollars – of their revenue. Not only are New York’s producers locked out of Canada’s ultrafiltered milk market, but in just a year’s time, Canada has used its Class 7 program to triple its milk powder exports, dumping powdered milk products into global markets and undercutting New York dairy producer’s exports. This Class 7 system is likely a violation of Canada’s World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments, but addressing it quickly through NAFTA renegotiation is needed, rather than waiting for years for a WTO determination. This Class 7 system should be dismantled through new NAFTA commitments.

In our discussions, you have committed to me that you would prioritize addressing this issue through NAFTA renegotiations. The President has also privately expressed to me his explicit desire to address this issue and has publically emphasized, many times, the unfair way that Canada has treated our dairy producers, noting just last month: “Canada must treat our farmers much better. Highly restrictive.”

Our hard working dairy producers are the most competitive in the world, but they depend on stable and fair rules to compete in a global economy. Again, I urge you to make meaningful and enforceable commitments that level the playing field for our dairy producers a top priority as NAFTA renegotiations conclude.

Thank you for your attention to this issue.

April 21, 2018 - 7:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, news, notify, Pok-A-Dot, batavia.

collinsibackdot2018.jpg

When Rep. Chris Collins is in Batavia around noon and has time to stop for lunch, he usually makes that stop the Pok-A-Dot. Today, he had with him Greg Ibach, undersecretary/marketing and regulatory programs for the USDA (center). Joining them for lunch were Dana H. Coale, deputy administrator of the USDA, and Peter Fredericks, associate market administrator for the Northeast Market Area for the USDA.

They had just come from Wyoming County where Collins hosted a roundtable discussion for dairy farmers. They then toured the Rudgers Registered Jerseys Farm in Attica.

Before lunch was served, Ibach spoke with The Batavian about a few issues that concern local farmers.

Farmers across the nation are nervous about new protectionist trade policies but Ibach expressed optimism that things will work out favorably for agriculture.

"I’m a farmer from Central Nebraska," Ibach said. "My children and grandchildren are our fifth and six generations to grow up on our family farm. Through the years, as we’ve seen great growth opportunities for export agriculture, we always seem to hit up against phytosanitary barriers, quotas, or tariffs that have limited our true potential to grow agriculture markets. We, as farmers in the Midwest, have always asked the government to do something about those barriers and of export markets. This is administration is trying to do something about it."

He said he understands the anxiety and shares the anxiety, he said, but progress with KORUS (the free-trade agreement with South Korea) and the reports he is getting on NAFTA negotiations are positive for farmers.

"I’ve got to believe the world still wants to be consumers of U.S. products," Ibach said. "If they understand that the ticket to be able to continue to ship to us is that they expand our opportunities, I think we will be successful here and I think we’ll see even higher growth rate for agriculture commodities down the road. We may have to suffer a little bit here in the short term but we will get the benefits in the long term."

Many farmers have specific complaints about NAFTA but few want to see the agreement torn up. Locally, farmers complain about limits on the Canadian dairy and produce markets. Ibach said he understands those concerns and believes they are being addressed in negotiations.

"I'm confident we will reach an agreement that is better for everybody," Ibach said.

Another big concern for local farmers is immigration. They continue to struggle to find a sufficient and stable workforce.

Ibach said its a concern shared by farmers and ranchers across the nation, especially when it comes to temporary worker visas for employees who need to be on their farms year around.

"We're trying to work with Congress and the Department of Labor to understand those needs," Ibach said. "Secretary (Sonny) Perdue has a senior advisor who works on this issue every day. We’re trying to try to help find programs and adjustments that can be made to address agriculture worker concerns."

One of Ibach's areas of specialty is expanding ag markets to the rest of the world and he said he sees great opportunity in Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam, India and Africa.

"The entire continent (Africa) is projected to have quick, high growth," Ibach said. "At the same time, they have a lot of poverty. We're just starting to see a middle class emerge. With their agriculture, just with them trying to feed themselves, there is room for us to work with them on that and have them accept the technology out there as far as biotech to allow them to grow themselves as well as be customers of ours."

Here's a press release from the office of Chris Collins about the dairy roundtable:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today hosted USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach for a dairy roundtable in Wyoming County and tour of Rudgers Registered Jerseys Farm. Collins and Ibach discussed the 2018 Farm Bill, NAFTA negotiations, and other issues that impact local dairy farmers.

“With the release of the Farm Bill and ongoing NAFTA talks, it is my hope that our region’s dairy farmers will soon see some relief,” Collins said. “Agriculture is the backbone of our region’s economy and it is essential that we implement policies that help our farmers succeed. I thank Under Secretary Ibach for traveling to my district to talk about important issues that face Western New York dairy farmers.”

“As a fifth generation farmer myself, I appreciate the many ways that Rudgers and other Western New York dairies contribute to their communities and the region,” Ibach said.“The American dairy industry faces challenges from a number of directions. USDA will continue to listen and work hand-in-hand with producers of every size and our Congressional partners, like Congressman Collins.”

This week, the House Agriculture Committee favorably reported the 2018 Farm Bill, which includes important reforms to the Margin Protection Program (MPP). This program provides critical protections to dairy farmers as milk and feed prices fluctuate, and proposed changes will allow farmers to receive more coverage at less cost.

The Farm Bill also strengthens investment in trade promotion initiatives, designed to build upon our current agriculture exports. This week Collins sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urging him to put an end to Canada’s Class 7 pricing program. As NAFTA negations continue, Collins pledged to work with the Trump administration to get rid of this program, which has created an unfair playing field and has essentially eliminated U.S. exports of certain dairy products. 

Additionally, Collins and Ibach discussed with farmers the unfair and complicated H-2A visa system that treats workers on certain types of farms different than it treats those on dairy farms. As a strong advocate for year-round legal work status, Collins and Ibach voiced commitment to finding solutions so dairy farmers can depend on a reliable and willing workforce.

Collins added: “I always enjoy meeting with our region’s dairy farmers and thank the Rudgers family for their hospitality and honest discussion about what we need to do to get this industry back on track. I look forward to continuing our work together on ways to strengthen and grow our dairy economy.”

April 20, 2018 - 1:45pm

Press release:

Join us as we walk Garry Wilson’s rented pastures where he grazes stocker cattle and discuss improvements.

Nancy Glazier, Small Farm specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension’s NWNY Team, will lead discussion at 8962 Transit Road, Stafford (approx. address) starting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 17.

Wilson will begin the discussion his objectives for the summer grazing season in regards to improvements, rotating the cattle through the pastures, and supplemental feed at the old railroad right-of-way. He has some ideas, but is open to suggestions.

We will end the evening at Garry’s home farm at 9420 Warsaw Road, LeRoy, for further discussion and refreshments. The evening is scheduled to end by 9 p.m.

Registration is required by May 15 for planning purposes. The cost for the event is $10 per person. To register contact Cathy Wallace at 585-343-3040, ext. 138 or [email protected].

March 23, 2018 - 2:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, michael ranzenhofer, business, agribusiness.

Press release:

Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer today announced his support for the 2018 “Growing Strong” Plan. The “Growing Strong” plan will help strengthen agribusiness and create new jobs in the agriculture industry by expanding markets, reducing production costs, and investing in the state’s leading industry.

“Family farms are a major contributor to our state and local economies. Implementing these initiatives will help the agriculture industry thrive and expand a workforce of more than 100,000 men and women. This new plan will help make it more affordable for New York’s 35,000 farms,” Ranzenhofer said.

The comprehensive legislative package of initiatives includes:

• Examine burdensome regulations: Direct state regulators to study existing state regulations that are harmful to farming, unnecessarily increase costs, and prevent farm success.
• Repeal the Highway Use Tax for farm-registered trucks, and exempt farmers from any proposal to add new “tolling” to enter New York City, as a way to bring more New York-grown products into the nation’s largest consumer market. New York is one of just four states that still imposes such a tax.
• Help farmers invest in facilities and buy equipment: S7851 provides a tax credit for dairy farmers to encourage investment in facilities and equipment that will allow them to take advantage of a growing demand for “value-added” dairy products, like flavored drinks, yogurts, and other products that can satisfy existing demand.
• Help farmers by giving them access to IDAs: S2388 authorizes industrial development agencies (IDAs) to provide technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers that grow, harvest, or produce agricultural products in this state. 
• Create a “Lifeline Dairy Energy Assistance Program” for dairy farmers struggling with a prolonged slump in milk prices, directing $10 million in existing NYSERDA funds to install high-efficiency lighting, pumping and cooling equipment, and to promote investment in energy-producing biomass generators and digesters. 
• Expand agricultural P-Tech education programs that help prepare students for increasing technology demands of farming careers, restore funding for Beginning Farmer Grants that was cut from the Executive Budget, and increase support to establish new chapters of school-based Future Farmers of America programs in response to growing interest in agriculture. In addition, the proposal expands opportunities for success in agriculture by creating a specialized education certificate to acknowledge student achievement and training in the field.
• Encouraging more women to pursue farming careers: S7843 authorizes the Department of Agriculture and Markets to conduct a study to identify obstacles and impediments that prevent more women from pursuing agricultural careers. Attracting new farmers to pursue farming careers in New York is critical, and continuing to focus the state’s efforts on encouraging growing sectors of the agricultural economy, like women-owned farm businesses, is a very important step in that direction.

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