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May 5, 2020 - 5:46pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement announces that a public teleconference of the Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers (ACBFR) will be held to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on beginning farmers and ranchers.

The public conference call will be held on May 19 at 2 - 4 p.m. EDT. To listen to the discussion, call toll free 866-816-7252 and use conference ID 6188761.

To share written public comments for the committee’s consideration, email [email protected]. Written comments must be received by May 18. For more information, see the Federal Register Notice.

Authorized by Congress in 1992, the Advisory Committee on Beginning Farmers and Ranchers advises the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture on ways to develop programs to provide coordinated assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers while maximizing new farming and ranching opportunities. The committee also works to enhance and expand federal-state partnerships to provide financing for beginning farmers and ranchers. Learn more about this advisory committee at the OPPE website.

For further information, contact Maria Goldberg, USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement, at [email protected] or at (202) 720-6350.

May 5, 2020 - 10:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, pembroke, business, Buffalo East Technology Park.

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) Board of Directors will consider a proposed $3 million mixed-use project at the Buffalo East Technology Park in the Town of Pembroke at the GCEDC’s May 7 board meeting.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting will be conducted via conference and online at www.gcedc.com.

The proposed $3 million project by J & R Fancher Property Holdings LLC would include a 32,254-square-foot, three-story facility to be constructed on two acres in the park.

The project will add 17 market-rate, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors, and an interior space comprised of four spaces for commercial tenants, as well as indoor parking and a fitness center.

This is the third project with a residential component that is seeking incentives from the GCEDC board in 2020. The addition of 17 market-rate apartments would bring the total number of new residential units to 82 in the County. The capital investment of the residential projects is $31.6 million.

J & R Fancher Property Holdings LLC is requesting approximately $615,924 of property, sales, and mortgage tax incentives. The project is estimated to produce $5.50 of economic impact for every $1 of proposed incentives.

If the project’s application is accepted, a public hearing would be held in advance of a final resolution for project incentives.

May 4, 2020 - 4:03pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today applauded the announcement that agricultural producers, for the first time, are now eligible for the Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance programs. 

“America’s farmers, ranchers, and producers need the same help that other American businesses need during this unprecedented time,” said Secretary Perdue. 

SBA’s EIDL portal has been closed since April 15. However, the Agency is able to reopen the portal today, in a limited capacity, as a result of funding authorized by Congress through the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act.

The legislation, which was signed into law by the President one week ago, provided additional critical funding for farmers and ranchers affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In order to help facilitate this important change to EIDL Loan and EIDL Advance assistance eligibility, SBA is reopening the Loan and Advance application portal to agricultural enterprises only.

For agricultural producers that submitted an EIDL loan application through the streamlined application portal prior to the legislative change, SBA will move forward and process these applications without the need for reapplying.

All other EIDL loan applications that were submitted prior to April 15 will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis.

May 1, 2020 - 1:10pm

Press release:

The Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA) today announced that farms and co-ops located across Upstate New York have donated more than 34,000 pounds of milk, beef, fruit and vegetables to fellow New Yorkers in need. 

In addition to the NY-sourced milk and food, packets of crayons and coloring books for kids have also been donated, and were made available to families today, May 1, at Senator Jessica Ramos’ district office in East Elmhurst, Queens.

The following donations were made possible by a partnership between Senator Ramos and a number of New York State farms:

  • 300 pounds of beef donated by La Casa De Leche Farm (Livingston County) and the Northeast Dairy Producers Association.
  • 1,700 gallons of milk donated by Dairy Farmers of America.
  • 20,000 apples equaling 5,700 pounds donated by Farm Fresh First Inc., which markets NY apples from more than 100 apple growers throughout the state.
  • 14,000 pounds of onions, 8,000 pounds of potatoes and 4,000 pounds of cabbage donated by Torrey Farms Inc. (Genesee County) and the New York State Vegetable Growers Association
  • 2,880 pounds of blueberry and vanilla parfait yogurt donated by Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc., a dairy cooperative located in Western New York.
  • 575 packs of Prang Crayons made with soybean oil donated by the New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association, along with coloring books sponsored by New York dairy farmers and donated through American Dairy Association North East.

On Wednesday, a truck left Western New York packed with beef, vegetables, fruit, yogurt, crayons and coloring books. The truck stopped at Dean Foods in Rensselaer County to pick up 1,700 gallons of milk and arrived in Queens yesterday.

Many areas in Senate District 13, including Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona and parts of Woodside and Astoria — are considered food deserts, making it difficult to obtain fresh meals. Additionally, there are few local food pantries that remain open in the area as many residents have fallen ill with COVID-19. 

The donations of food, milk, crayons and coloring books were distributed to families in need today. A hot meal distribution will also take place on Saturday, May 2 at Senator Ramos’ office. 

“In addition to the unspeakable loss of life caused by the coronavirus pandemic, two additional devastating tragedies are unfolding during this crisis — a spike in hunger as the economic pain takes its toll, and the breakdown of our food supply chain,” Senator Ramos said.

“We cannot have hungry families in New York City, and farmers Upstate dumping their product because they cannot sell it. Together with our farmer partners, we created our own network, and we will convert our district office into a food distribution hub to provide our neighbors with fresh produce and meals.” 

Northeast Dairy Producers Association Vice Chair and Owner of La Casa De Leche Farm (Livingston County) Keith Kimball said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all -- our families, our businesses and the greater New York community.

"By pooling resources and working together to adapt to unprecedented market disruption, we’re able to get milk, beef and produce in the hands of those in need. I’m proud to partner with farmers, co-ops and processors across the state to make this donation a reality, and thankful to Senator Ramos for hosting the event for families in Queens.”

Maureen Torrey, co-owner of Torrey Farms Inc. in Genesee County, said, “Thanks to the passionate employees on our family farm and our dedicated truck drivers, we’re able to donate 26,000 pounds of vegetables to families in need, including onions that Senator Ramos helped us plant last year.

"This public health crisis has changed life as we know it, but what we’ve learned is that no matter where you live -- Buffalo, Plattsburgh, New York City and everywhere in between -- we’re all New Yorkers -- and together We are New York Tough.” 

(File photo of Maureen Torrey taken in 2013.)

Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA) is an organization of dairy producers and industry partners committed to an economically viable, consumer-conscious dairy industry dedicated to the care and well-being of our communities, environment, employees and cows.

May 1, 2020 - 12:45pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, Tompkins Insurance Agencies.

Submitted photo and press release:

Tompkins Insurance Agencies is pleased to announce that Nick Mroz has been recently hired as a commercial insurance account executive.

He will serve the Western New York region out of the agency’s Batavia office at 90 Main St. 

Mroz has 17 years of experience in the financial services and Insurance industry. He was formerly employed by Five Star Bank.

Mroz holds his Life & Health and Property & Causality insurance licenses, and FINRA series 6 and 63 securities licenses. 

He attended Pierce Community College in Tacoma, Wash., and served in the Army.

Mroz and his family reside in Medina, where he is a member of the Medina YMCA, American Legion, and VFW.

May 1, 2020 - 12:18pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, tompkins financial corporation, covid-19.

Press release:

ITHACA -- Tompkins Financial Corporation (NYSE American:TMP), parent company of Tompkins Bank of Castile, Tompkins Insurance Agencies, and Tompkins Financial Advisors, has reported record year-to-date and first quarter earnings.

Tompkins Financial Corporation Reports Cash Dividend

Tompkins Financial Corporation announced today that its Board of Directors approved payment of a regular quarterly cash dividend of $0.52 per share, payable on May 18, 2020, to common shareholders of record on May 11, 2020.

Tompkins Financial Corporation Reports First Quarter Earnings

Tompkins Financial Corporation announced net income attributable to common shareholders of $7.9 million, or $0.53 per diluted common share for the first quarter of 2020, compared to $21.0 million, or $1.37 per diluted common share, for the first quarter of 2019. Results for the first quarter of 2020 were negatively impacted by current economic stress resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, which contributed to the $16.3 million provision for credit losses recognized during the quarter under the new current expected credit losses (CECL) accounting standard. Refer to "Asset Quality" section for further discussion of the impact on the Company's financial statements upon adoption of this new accounting guidance.

"These are clearly unprecedented times for our country and our communities. I am extremely proud of the exceptional way the Tompkins team has stepped up to the current environment by addressing the specific challenges of our clients and communities who are facing hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though these are unprecedented times, Tompkins enters this environment well prepared to face the many challenges and difficulties we are all dealing with as a result of the pandemic. Over recent years, we have invested significantly in digital technologies to improve capabilities that allow our customers to bank remotely. We have also invested significantly in our internal systems, which allowed nearly 100 percent of our non-retail employees to transition quickly and securely to remote working environments with limited disruption to our business. Furthermore, we entered 2020 with a strong financial position, coming off a year of record earnings per share in 2019, and with our 2019 Risk Based Capital Ratio at its highest level since 2014."

SELECTED HIGHLIGHTS FOR THE FIRST QUARTER:

Despite the decline in earnings from the prior year, there were several favorable trends noted during the first quarter of 2020, including:

•       Total loans of $4.9 billion were up 3.1 percent over March 31, 2019

•       Total deposits of $5.4 billion increased by 8.4 percent over March 31, 2019

•       Noninterest bearing deposits of $1.4 billion increased by 5.6 percent over March 31, 2019

•       Net interest margin was 3.44 percent for the first quarter of 2020, up from 3.34 percent for the first quarter of 2019, and 3.43 percent for the fourth quarter of 2019

NET INTEREST INCOME

Net interest margin was 3.44 percent for the first quarter of 2020, up compared to the 3.34 percent reported for the first quarter of 2019, and 3.43 percent for the trailing quarter ended Dec. 31, 2019. The improved net interest margin year-over-year was largely driven by lower other borrowing balances and funding costs, primarily in other borrowings. Net interest income of $53.0 million for the first quarter of 2020 was up 2.0 percent compared to the first quarter of 2019.

NONINTEREST INCOME

Noninterest income represented 26.4 percent of total revenues in the first quarter of 2020, compared to 27.2 percent in the first quarter of 2019. Noninterest income of $19.0 million was down 2.3 percent compared to the same period in 2019. Noninterest income in the first quarter of 2019 included a one-time incentive payment of $500,000 (pre-tax) related to our card services business.

NONINTEREST EXPENSE

Noninterest expense was $45.7 million for the first quarter of 2020, which was up 3.5 percent from the same period in 2019, and in line with the fourth quarter of 2019. The increase in noninterest expense from the same period last year was mainly related to higher salaries and wages in the first quarter of 2020, largely reflective of merit increases awarded in 2019.

 INCOME TAX EXPENSE

The Company's effective tax rate was 19.4 percent in the first quarter of 2020, compared to 21.0 percent for the same period in 2019.

ASSET QUALITY

Asset quality trends remained strong in the first quarter of 2020. Nonperforming assets represented 0.46 percent of total assets at March 31, 2020, down slightly from 0.47 percent at Dec. 31, 2019. Nonperforming asset levels continue to be below the most recent Federal Reserve Board Peer Group Average1of 0.56 percent.

Net charge-offs for the first quarter of 2020 were $1.2 million compared to $3.5 million reported in the first quarter of 2019. Net charge-offs of $1.2 million in the first quarter of 2020 was largely related to a single credit, while the first quarter of 2019 included a $3.1 million write-down of one credit, both in the commercial real estate portfolio.

The Company adopted Accounting Standards Update (“ASU”) 2016-13, “Financial Instruments – Credit Losses (Topic 326): Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments” (“CECL”), effective Jan. 1, 2020. The Company recorded a net increase to retained earnings of $1.7 million upon adoption of the new standard. The transition adjustment at Jan. 1, 2020 included a $2.5 million decrease in the allowance for credit losses on loans, and a $0.4 million increase in the allowance for credit losses on off-balance sheet credit exposures, net of the corresponding $0.4 million decrease in deferred tax assets. The provision for credit losses for the first quarter of 2020 was $16.3 million, increasing the allowance for credit losses to $52.4 million at March 31, 2020. The increase in the first quarter of 2020 was not a direct result of specific credit risks currently identified in the loan portfolio; rather, the increase was largely a result of the impact of the current economic shutdown related to COVID-19 on economic forecasts and other model assumptions relied upon by management in determining the allowance.

The allowance for credit losses represented 1.06 percent of total loans and leases at March 31, 2020, compared to 0.81 percent at Dec. 31, 2019, and 0.84 percent at March 31, 2019. The ratio of the allowance to total nonperforming loans and leases was 170.74 percent at March 31, 2020, compared to 126.90 percent at Dec. 31, 2019, and 175.51 percent at March 31, 2019.

CAPITAL POSITION

Capital ratios remained well above the regulatory minimums for well capitalized institutions. The ratio of Tier 1 capital to average assets was 9.53 percent at March 31, 2020, down slightly from 9.61 percent at December 31, 2019, and improved from 9.24 percent at March 31, 2019. Consistent with the Company's capital planning practices, during the quarter ended March 31, 2020, the Company repurchased 71,288 shares of common stock at an average price of $78.83 per share. On March 19, 2020, following the announcement of the national emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Company suspended the purchase of shares under the Company’s share repurchase program. During the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2019, the Company repurchased 35,821 shares of common stock at an average price of $80.25 per share. There were no shares repurchased during the first quarter of 2019.

IMPACT OF, AND RESPONSE TO, COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Economic Environment

The COVID-19 outbreak has led to government-mandated closures and stay at home orders across the nation, which have resulted in deteriorating economic conditions throughout the U.S. The various government orders issued in response to the pandemic are significantly impacting the U.S. labor market, consumer spending and business investments. During March 2020, in response to the deteriorating economic conditions, the Federal Reserve reduced the federal funds rate 1.5 percentage points, to .00 to .25 percent. The Federal Reserve also provided a pandemic-related stimulus package estimated at $4.0 trillion, in order to ease the stress on financial markets. In addition, the United States Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act ("CARES Act"), which would provide approximately $2.5 trillion of support to U.S. citizens and businesses affected by COVID-19.

Company Response

During the first quarter of 2020, the Company designated a Pandemic Planning Committee, made up of members of Senior Management, to oversee the Company’s response to COVID-19. The Company implemented a number of risk mitigation measures designed to protect our employees and customers, while maintaining services for our customers and community. These measures included restrictions on business travel and establishment of a remote work environment for all non-customer facing employees. The Company also implemented drive-up only or by appointment only operations across its branch network.

Currently, over 85 percent of our workforce is working remotely and we have imposed social distancing restrictions and provided premium pay for those employees who are required to be on premise to complete essential on-site functions. Due to the significant uncertainty of the current economic climate, and the Company's ongoing response to the pandemic and related shutdowns, annual pay increases for our Company's executive officers (which is comprised of our Senior Leadership Team members) have been deferred indefinitely.

As previously announced, Tompkins has initiated and participated in a number of credit initiatives to support employees and customers who have been impacted by the shutdown associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. For non-executive employees affected by COVID-19, the Company implemented a low interest loan program. The Company also implemented a payment deferral program to assist both consumer and business borrowers that may be experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. The current standard program allows for the deferral of loan payments for up to 90 days and customers will be able to request a payment deferral until the middle of May 2020. As of April 20, 2020, the Company had granted payment deferral requests for approximately 2,800 loans to individuals and businesses.

The Company is participating in the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”). This program provides borrower guarantees for lenders, as well as loan forgiveness incentives for borrowers that utilize the loan proceeds to cover employee compensation-related expenses and certain other eligible business operating costs, all in accordance with the rules and regulations established by the SBA. The Company began accepting applications for PPP loans on April 3, 2020, and has approved approximately 2,900 loans totaling about $500 million.

Mr. Romaine added, “We enter the second quarter of 2020 in a period of significant uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic shut-downs. Our long held philosophy of maintaining Tompkins as a sustainable high performing company, supported with prudent risk management practices, is now more important than ever. We believe our healthy capital and liquidity positions will provide flexibility to respond to current challenges. The overall impact of COVID-19 on our consolidated results of operations for the three months ended March 31, 2020 was limited, with the exception of our provision for credit losses. We did see some slowdown toward the end of the first quarter in other areas of our business, including reduced transaction volumes in our card services business, a decrease in wealth management fees due to the decline in financial markets, and decreases in certain other fee related income. However, the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic will affect our business, results of operation and financial condition going forward is difficult to predict and depends on numerous evolving factors.”

There is currently a great deal of uncertainty regarding the length of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efficacy of the extraordinary measures being put in place to address it. If efforts to contain COVID-19 are not as successful as anticipated, if restrictions on movement last into the third quarter or beyond, or if the federal government's economic stimulus packages are ineffective or delayed, the current economic downturn will likely be much longer and much more severe. The deeper the economic downturn is, and the longer it lasts, the more it will damage consumer fundamentals and sentiment. Similarly, an extended global recession due to COVID-19 would weaken the U.S. recovery and damage business fundamentals. As a result, the pandemic and its consequences, including responsive measures to manage it, have negatively impacted, and may continue to negatively impact, demand for and profitability of our products and services, the valuation of our assets, the ability of borrowers to satisfy obligations, and our ability to meet the needs of our customers, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial performance.

ABOUT TOMPKINS FINANCIAL CORPORATION

Tompkins Financial Corporation is a financial services company serving the Central, Western, and Hudson Valley regions of New York and the Southeastern region of Pennsylvania. Headquartered in Ithaca, NY, Tompkins Financial is parent to Tompkins Trust Company, Tompkins Bank of Castile, Tompkins Mahopac Bank, Tompkins VIST Bank, Tompkins Insurance Agencies Inc., and offers wealth management services through Tompkins Financial Advisors. For more information on Tompkins Financial, visit www.tompkinsfinancial.com.

April 28, 2020 - 4:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Graham Manufacturing, business, batavia, notify, news.

Graham Manufacturing, a publicly traded company, made the decision at the start of the coronavirus pandemic to stop almost all manufacturing operations but keep its entire workforce on the payroll -- including 320 of its Batavia-based employees.

"We continue to pay wages and full benefits to all of our employees," said Jeff Glajch, Graham's chief financial officer.

Keeping employees home helps keep them and the community safe, Glajch said, but also means the company's expenses are exceeding revenue.

When the Payroll Protection Program was announced, with rules that allowed any company with 500 or fewer employees to apply for forgivable loans of up to $10 million to help cover wages and salaries for workers, Graham applied for a loan. There was no stipulation in the first set of rules released by the Treasury Department that discouraged publicly traded companies from accepting the loans.

Graham received a $4.6 million loan.

"We felt at the time it was a legitimate application based on the guidance by the SBA (Small Business Administration)," Glajch said. "Last Thursday, the Treasury changed the guidance on publicly traded companies and suggested that publically traded companies should not receive loans. We felt based on the new guidance that we would return the funds and the funds have been returned, based on this guidance, well before anyone reached out to us."

The loan was repaid along with interest for the two weeks the company possessed the funds.

The Treasury changed the rules for loan eligibility after news reports about publicly traded companies such as Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steak House received loans. The reports helped raise awareness of well-capitalized companies receiving taxpayer money at a time when many small businesses were unable to tap into the initial pool of $350 billion because the first round of loans was oversubscribed.

Congress has since added another $480 billion to the stimulus package but critics have maintained that publicly traded companies getting loans when they have access to financial resources out of reach to very small businesses is against the spirit of the program.

Glajch said he understands the concern. He said many people view the spirit of the program to help very small companies, particularly restaurants and local shops, who have been hard hit by closures. He said many people view companies with one to 50 employees as needing the most help, but the actual rules allow companies with fewer than 500 employees to apply for the loans.

Those companies with fewer than 500 employers include some of Graham's competitors and those competitors are not necessarily publicly traded. Even though those companies are not publicly traded it doesn't mean they aren't well-capitalized, Glajch said.

"My concern is that we have competitors that are privately held with 200 to 300 employees that have access to capital and, especially grants, that we don't," Glajch said. "There are ma-and-pop's that are struggling and they need this funding and if that was the intent, that was great. It makes sense to fund them and but not our competitors who are much larger."

Besides the 310 employees locally, Graham employs another couple dozen people in other locations. 

Graham could have remained operational. It is an essential business according to New York's pandemic rules. It makes equipment essential to the oil industry and to the Navy. Glajch said the company decided it was more important to keep employees safe than to keep the manufacturing plant open. The firm scaled back to about 20 employees working to fulfill its Navy contracts.

"This is a stressful time for everyone and one of the things we didn't want was for our employees to be concerned about was their financial condition," Glajch said. "This is obviously tough of families so we made the decision to continue to pay our employees. It's important for our employees but it's also important for the community. If they aren't making any money they don't have the ability to spend and that impacts the community also."

Graham is phasing in the return of its workers.

"This is a pretty dramatic change in safety practices and cleaning and sanitation practices," Glajch said. "We've put social distancing rules in place and are slowly bringing people back. We thought bringing back everybody at once was too aggressive. We want to make sure our employees are trained and working in a way that meets all of those safety criteria."

Much of Graham's customer base is the oil industry and coronavirus hits at a time when Russia and other OPEC-block countries were in an oil production dispute, driving down the price of oil, and with people traveling less, oil prices have declined sharply on top of that dispute. So far, that shift in the market hasn't affected Graham, but Glajch said "that will take more time to fully play out."

Investors were informed up-front of Graham's plans to stop production but keep paying employees and there has been no push back from investors, Glajch said.

"Investors understand what we're doing," Glajch said. "They understand we're burning cash by keeping people on payroll. I think at the time we had the conversation, no one wondered how long this would be going on, that they felt this would be finite, like a month or two, and they understood what we were doing."

April 28, 2020 - 11:45am

Press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On Monday,  the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), in conjunction with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE), published Frequently Asked Questions for nonprofit organizations seeking to receive food through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

Read more about the Farmers to Families Food Box Program FAQ at the AMS website.

On April 17, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). As part of this announcement Secretary Perdue also created the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

Through this program USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service entities, to purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products.

The program will begin with the procurement of an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products and $100 million per month in meat products.

Participating distributors and wholesalers will then package a preapproved box of fresh produce, dairy and meat products for delivery to food banks, community and faith-based organizations and other nonprofits serving Americans in need.

Additional information on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program is available on the AMS website.

Additional questions may be submitted to:  [email protected]

April 22, 2020 - 1:39pm

From the Rotary Club of Le Roy:

It is the Rotary International vision statement that perhaps says it best “Together, we see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change — across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.”

Rotarians are a collection of people of action, and we share a strong sense of purpose. In troubled times such as these, Rotarians will rise and meet the needs of their community and the world. It is with that sense of purpose that the Rotary Club of Le Roy has begun the “Rotary Community Reinvestment Fund.”

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are being felt across the globe, but signs of the effects can be seen in our community. In the interest of public safety, nonessential local businesses have been forced to close.

The impact of these closures may not be evident to the naked eye, but the ramifications are impacting our friends and neighbors who own these businesses. As both state and national levels begin to restart the economy, those same businesses that have supported Le Royans in the past will need our support more than ever.

The Community Reinvestment Fund will take donations made by local individuals and families, and direct them to the Le Roy businesses most in need. The Rotary Club of Le Roy, which has served the community for more than 75 years, will oversee the collection and distribution of funds.

There will be a short application for businesses to complete, and a committee of Rotarians will review the applications and submit approved applications to the Board of Directors. The form is available on our website. Fellow Rotarians and their families are not eligible to receive funds through this process.

Individuals or businesses interested in supporting our community can make contributions by mailing a check to: Rotary Club of Le Roy, Attn.: Community Reinvestment Fund, P.O. Box 141, Le Roy, NY 14482.

Any questions can be directed to Jim Ellison (717) 503-5749, or:   [email protected] 

April 22, 2020 - 12:45pm

From Senator Charles E. Schumer:

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today revealed that as part of his negotiation priorities for the interim emergency bill that passed the Senate yesterday, he has ensured that agricultural enterprises will be added as an eligible recipient for grants of up to $10,000 and low-interest loans through the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.

This assistance can help cover business expenses, including payroll and other operating expenses.

Schumer has relentlessly advocated for New York’s farms during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, securing more than $9.5 billion in emergency funding in last month’s CARES ACT for the agricultural sector suffering massive financial losses due to reduced demands and supply chain disruptions, and calling on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately release aid to hardest-hit agricultural businesses, 

“Making our hardworking Upstate farmers eligible for this vital federal emergency grant-and-aid program was a huge priority for me and I am proud to have secured them this much-needed and well-deserved access to a program that could be a lifeline in these very difficult times,” Senator Schumer said. “I fought hard because just like any other small business in New York, access to this funding could be a vital lifeline for our farmers during this time of crisis.

"In good times, New York farmers are some of the best in the world and work long hours on tight margins, but in the midst of a global pandemic, they are losing revenue streams, suffering huge financial losses and being forced to discard their products. They need all the help we can offer – and they need it now.”

About 23 percent of New York State’s land area, or almost 7 million acres, is farmland, and with more than 33,000 farms across the state and nearly 700 farmer’s markets, New York’s agricultural sector is one of the hardest-hit industries in the nation. Additionally, 96 percent of farms in the state are family-owned.

Since the March passage of the CARES Act, there has been demand from the agricultural community for the SBA to include agricultural enterprises to the EIDL program. With this fix to the EIDL program, farms and other agricultural enterprises under 500 employees will be eligible to apply for SBA grant and loan disaster assistance.

Schumer added, “the bill originally pushed by Senate Republicans had absolutely no fix for our farmers, nor did it have any money for the entire Emergency Injury Disaster Grant and Loan Program. But we stopped that bill so we could make vital improvements, like making sure our farmers had full access to all key forms of federal aid to get through the tough times.”

Here are the facts:

  • Farmers and other agricultural enterprises are now eligible for the EIDL program.

o   The bill passed in the Senate yesterday adds agricultural enterprises under 500 employees as an eligible recipient for grants of up to $10,000 and low-interest loans through the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.

o   There has been a demand from the agricultural community for SBA to change its rules so agricultural enterprises would be eligible for the SBA’s EIDL loans and the new EILD grant program, but no such rule change has happened.

o   The interim emergency bill proposed by Democrats called for this key fix to support the nation’s farmers, which would not have happened under the original proposal that would have solely increased in funding for PPP. 

Here's a breakdown of the number of farms in each region of New York:

Region

# of Farms (2017)

Western NY

3,814

Finger Lakes

5,945

Southern Tier

7,028

Central NY

7,537

Capital Region

6,240

Hudson Valley

2,246

NYC

36

Long Island

592

Total

33,438

April 21, 2020 - 2:39pm
posted by Billie Owens in Next Level Fitness, business, online auction.

Press release:

Next Level Fitness, located at 59 Main St. in Batavia, is auctioning off all their equipment from the three-story facility. 

Hundreds of items will be auctioned, including gym equipment such as weights, workout machines, treadmills to mats, exercise balls and more. 

The auction also features general items including some furniture, shelving and multiple televisions.

For interested entrepreneurs, the building will be available for lease in the upcoming months as well.

What: Next Level Fitness Liquidation 

When: now thru April 27

Where: online

How: Interested buyers can bid and register online here

April 20, 2020 - 11:16am
posted by Billie Owens in steve hawley, covid-19, business, Jump-Start New York.

From Assemblyman Steve Hawley:

Citizens across the state have rallied in response to the COVID-19 viral outbreak in a way that couldn’t make me prouder to serve them. People are making the necessary sacrifices to ease the burden on our healthcare workers and our healthcare system, while at the same time protecting each other and preventing this disease from gaining any foothold in our society.

While the work that is being done is unquestionably important, it is equally as important for us to begin planning for the future, when society does eventually reopen. Part of that plan has to include security for our small businesses, which will not only help to revitalize the economy, but create jobs for many of those looking to get back to work. That’s why I’m proud to support the Assembly Republicans' bold and transformative plan, the “Jump-Start New York” initiative, as a way to get all New Yorkers safely back to work and our new "normal" life. 

Our plan presents a guide for finding economic relief for these small and local businesses in the short term, while also ensuring stability in the long term. By combining federal and state actions, the plan will offer financial relief and protections to small businesses and their workers. It also will remove the costly regulations that stifle growth and will open doors for employers to gain access to assistance that will be critical in allowing them to succeed in such a short amount of time.

The plan is incredibly multifaceted, but I did want to highlight a few that I feel are key to restarting the economy on the right foot.

The first is using any allocated state settlement money to provide immediate cash needs for nonessential businesses to reengage in the economy. Another is the reevaluation of what qualifies as an "essential business," widening the scope and allowing these businesses to resume while following proper health protocols.

Furthermore, the plan allows for the expansion of film tax cuts to nonessential businesses and sole proprietors. The goal of this work is to ensure that the fiscal health of New York is just as secure as the public health of New Yorkers, and with this initiative, I believe we can make that a reality.

It’s true that the severity of this outbreak has hampered our economy significantly. And while we do what we must to help our healthcare professionals ensure they can do their jobs, it also comes down to us to ensure that we help small businesses prepare for the future.

Early and decisive action is the best solution to ending this pandemic, and saving the economy.

To learn more, please read the full proposal here and call or email me with any questions or comments.

April 18, 2020 - 1:18pm

Press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program will take several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.

President Trump directed USDA to craft this $19 billion immediate relief program to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need. 

“During this time of national crisis, President Trump and USDA are standing with our farmers, ranchers, and all citizens to make sure they are taken care of,” Secretary Perdue said. “The American food supply chain had to adapt, and it remains safe, secure, and strong, and we all know that starts with America’s farmers and ranchers.

"This program will not only provide immediate relief for our farmers and ranchers, but it will also allow for the purchase and distribution of our agricultural abundance to help our fellow Americans in need.” 

CFAP will use the funding and authorities provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and other USDA existing authorities. The program includes two major elements to achieve these goals. 

  1. Direct Support to Farmers and Ranchers: The program will provide $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted and will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.
  2. USDA Purchase and Distribution: USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat. We will begin with the procurement of an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.

On top of these targeted programs USDA will utilize other available funding sources to purchase and distribute food to those in need.

  • USDA has up to an additional $873.3 million available in Section 32 funding to purchase a variety of agricultural products for distribution to food banks. The use of these funds will be determined by industry requests, USDA agricultural market analysis, and food bank needs.
  • The FFCRA and CARES Act provided an at least $850 million for food bank administrative costs and USDA food purchases, of which a minimum of $600 million will be designated for food purchases. The use of these funds will be determined by food bank need and product availability.

Further details regarding eligibility, rates, and other implementation will be released at a later date.

April 18, 2020 - 1:09pm

Submitted photos and press release:

Sleep can be a rare commodity for first responders, especially during this unprecedented time in our country. When Le Roy Ambulance Service needed new mattresses, a local business stepped up.

Le Roy Ambulance would like to extend their deepest gratitude to Max Pies Furniture in Batavia for donating two high-quality twin mattress sets to help ensure that their first responders have a comfortable place to rest.

“We can be very busy, and there are some nights when we only get a couple of hours sleep,” Le Roy Ambulance’s Deputy Chief Chris Scopano said. “Their donation will help ensure that those few precious hours are spent on comfortable mattresses.”

Le Roy Ambulance responds to calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

“We are beyond thankful for people like Steve Pies and his family for all of their support,” Scopano said. “Their donation shows that they really care about the first responders who are working hard to protect and serve our communities.”

April 17, 2020 - 4:17pm
posted by Billie Owens in Jump Start New York, steve hawley, covid-19, business, NFIB.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley recently joined the Assembly Republican Conference in developing an economic plan that will provide working New Yorkers, job creators, and small businesses with short-term economic support and long-term stability and security.

With roughly 92 percent of small businesses being negatively impacted due to the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak, per the National Federation of Independent Business’ (NFIB) survey, many small businesses need help sooner rather than later

“There is no question that the scale and severity of our current fiscal situation is dire, and business owners are feeling tremendous pressure,” Hawley said. “The fact that these small businesses and job creators are following state and federal directions should not mean that they lose their livelihoods.

"Like anyone living through this pandemic, these individuals deserve to know that just because business has slowed, food will still make its way to the table and support will be in their communities beyond the pandemic.”

Some of the ideas discussed in the initiative are the re-evaluation of which businesses could operate following social distancing protocols; extending and/or waiving state regulations for an additional year; suspending fees for occupational licenses for one year following the emergency period; increasing rural internet accessibility to ensure equal access to telehealth and online learning among other things; and the implementation of all provisions of the "Small Business Recovery Act of 2020" (A.10266).

To read more on the “Jump-Start New York” plan, please click on this link, where you can learn about all of the proposed plans and initiatives.

April 16, 2020 - 2:05pm
posted by Billie Owens in steve hawley, covid-19, business, agriculture, farm relief.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley recently joined the Assembly Republican Conference in signing a letter for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Speaker Carl Heastie, among other political and agricultural leaders in New York, imploring them for quick and immediate action to ensure the relief for local farms, which have been feeling the negative repercussions of the state’s response to the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

“Farmers are one of our most important working groups, especially in a situation as dire as this one,” Hawley said. “If there’s any way to give them more support and more relief during this troubling time, we’re obligated to do so. It’s about keeping the supply chain running, keeping a small family farm’s doors open, and making sure everyone has food on the table. We can all agree we need to protect our farmers.”

Some of the policies that the letter calls for are extending the Milk Producers Security Fund, using the federal stimulus to invest in rural broadband infrastructure, suspending highway use taxes and tolls for transporting agricultural products, provide vouchers from food banks to purchase local dairy and agricultural products, and suspending, for one year, the 60-hour overtime threshold for farm laborers. Small steps like these are designed to support these farmers in a time when they need it more than ever.

Here's the letter

Dear Governor Cuomo, Legislative Leaders & Commissioner Ball:

As New York’s elected leaders, our responsibilities to constituents have never been moreimportant. Your efforts to provide leadership and stability during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis are genuinely appreciated.

With more than 180,000 cases of the virus, no state has felt the social, economic, and public health effects of the virus like New York. As we identify ways to manage and minimize the devastating impacts of the virus, we must consider immediate steps to provide critical relief to New York State’s agricultural industry.

April 15, 2020 - 4:38pm
posted by Billie Owens in USDA, DHS, H-2A visa, agriculture, business.

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Homeland Security, with the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), today (April 15) announced a temporary final rule to change certain H-2A requirements to help U.S. agricultural employers avoid disruptions in lawful agricultural-related employment, protect the nation’s food supply chain, and lessen impacts from the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency.

These temporary flexibilities will not weaken or eliminate protections for U.S. workers. 

Under this temporary final rule, an H-2A petitioner with a valid temporary labor certification who is concerned that workers will be unable to enter the country due to travel restrictions can start employing certain foreign workers who are currently in H-2A status in the United States immediately after United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives the H-2A petition, but no earlier than the start date of employment listed on the petition.

To take advantage of this time-limited change in regulatory requirements, the H-2A worker seeking to change employers must already be in the United States and in valid H-2A status.

Additionally, USCIS is temporarily amending its regulations to protect the country’s food supply chain by allowing H-2A workers to stay beyond the three-year maximum allowable period of stay in the United States. These temporary changes will encourage and facilitate the continued lawful employment of foreign temporary and seasonal agricultural workers during the COVID-19 national emergency.

Agricultural employers should utilize this streamlined process if they are concerned with their ability to bring in the temporary workers who were previously authorized to work for the employer in H-2A classification. At no point is it acceptable for employers to hire illegal aliens.

“This Administration has determined that continued agricultural employment, currently threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, is vital to maintaining and securing the country’s critical food supply chain. The temporary changes announced by USCIS provide the needed stability during this unprecedented crisis,” said Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf. 

“USDA welcomes these additional flexibilities provided by the Department of Homeland Security today,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “Providing flexibility for H-2A employers to utilize H-2A workers that are currently in the United States is critically important as we continue to see travel and border restrictions as a result of COVID-19.

"USDA continues to work with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor and the Department of State to minimize disruption and make sure farmers have access to these critical workers necessary to maintain the integrity in our food supply.”

The temporary final rule is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. If the new petition is approved, the H-2A worker will be able to stay in the United States for a period of time not to exceed the validity period of the Temporary Labor Certification.

DHS will issue a new temporary final rule in the Federal Register to amend the termination date of these new procedures in the event DHS determines that circumstances demonstrate a continued need for the temporary changes to the H-2A regulations. 

The H-2A nonimmigrant classification applies to alien workers seeking to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature in the United States, usually lasting no longer than one year, for which able, willing, and qualified U.S. workers are not available.

April 14, 2020 - 4:44pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, T.F. Brown's, coronavirus, covid-19.

From Rick Mancuso, owner of T.F. Brown's Restaurant:

At this time we would like to notify the Genesee County community that we will be closing until we get further guidance from government officials as to how and when we will be allowed to open as a full-service restaurant.

We would like to thank our dedicated, hardworking family of coworkers for all of their sacrifice and efforts through these most difficult and trying times.

I am very proud to be able to work with such an amazing group of people, for they are truly the heart and soul of our business.

To our many customers, friends and family that continue to patronize our establishment both past and present: “Thank you and we look forward to seeing you here at T.F. Brown’s in the near future.”

We would like to thank all of the front line heroes who sacrifice and risk their safety each day to protect and serve this community -- doctors, nurses, EMTs, fire, police, essential food and product providers, many  that are our neighbors, friends and family. 

Please keep them all in your good thoughts and prayers. 

Be safe and healthy.

April 9, 2020 - 2:25pm

Press release:

Agricultural producers now have more time to repay Marketing Assistance Loans (MAL) as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s implementation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. The loans now mature at 12 months rather than nine, and this flexibility is available for most commodities.

“Spring is the season when most producers have the biggest need for capital, and many may have or are considering putting commodities under loan," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. "Extending the commodity loan maturity affords farmers more time to market their commodity and repay their loan at a later time.

"We are extremely pleased that USDA can offer these marketing flexibilities at this critical time for the agriculture industry and the nation.”

Effective immediately, producers of eligible commodities now have up to 12 months to repay their commodity loans. The maturity extension applies to nonrecourse loans for crop years 2018, 2019 and 2020. Eligible open loans must in good standing with a maturity date of March 31 or later or new crop year (2019 or 2020) loans requested by Sept. 30. All new loans requested by Sept. 30 will have a maturity date 12 months following the date of approval.

The maturity extension for current, active loans will be automatically extended an additional three months. Loans that matured March 31 have already been automatically extended by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). Producers who prefer a nine-month loan will need to contact their local FSA county office. Loans requested after Sept. 30 will have a term of nine months.

Eligible commodities include barley, chickpeas (small and large), corn, cotton (upland and extra-long staple), dry peas, grain sorghum, honey, lentils, mohair, oats, peanuts, rice (long and medium grain), soybeans, unshorn pelts, wheat, wool (graded and nongraded); and other oilseeds, including canola, crambe, flaxseed, mustard seed, rapeseed, safflower, sunflower seed, and sesame seed. Seed cotton and sugar are not eligible.

About MALs

Placing commodities under loan provides producers interim financing to meet cash flow needs without having to sell their commodities when market prices are low and allows producers to store production for more orderly marketing of commodities throughout the year.

These loans are considered nonrecourse because the commodity is pledged as loan collateral, and producers have the option of delivering the pledged collateral to the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) for repayment of the outstanding loan at maturity.

MAL Repayment

Under the new maturity provisions, producers can still repay the loan as they would have before the extension:

  • repay the MAL on or before the maturity date;
  • upon maturity by delivering or forfeiting the commodity to CCC as loan repayment; or
  • after maturity and before CCC acquires the farm-stored commodity by repaying the outstanding MAL principle and interest.

Marketing Loan Gains

A Marketing Loan Gain occurs when a MAL is repaid at less than the loan principal. If market gain is applicable during the now-extended loan period, producers can receive a gain on the repayment made before the loan matures.

For more information on MALs, contact the nearest FSA county office. USDA Service Centers, including FSA county offices, are open for business by phone appointment only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

April 9, 2020 - 10:08am

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley is thanking a longtime local business for supporting the community during this current healthcare crisis. Chapin Manufacturing, a staple business since 1884, is donating one gallon and three gallon spraying containers for the purposes of disinfecting buildings during the coronavirus outbreak.

“When the CEO reached out to me last week, I was absolutely thrilled to hear and couldn’t say yes fast enough,” Hawley said. “It’s good to see that despite all of the confusion and concern throughout the state and the country, people are still stepping up to help their neighbors. It gives me the hope and reassurance that after all this is over, our community will come back together stronger than ever.”

The sprayers will be distributed to the Genesee County, Orleans County, and Monroe County Emergency Management offices. The EMOs will coordinate with local hospitals, fire departments, EMTs and schools to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in using these generous gifts.

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