Local Matters

Community Sponsors

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.

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 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 - 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.

April 7, 2020 - 12:36pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, agriculture, covid-19, CARES Act, farm aid, USDA, NYFB.

Press release:

New York Farm Bureau is requesting immediate help for farmers who are facing serious economic challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The recently passed CARES Act provides $9.5 billion in funding for USDA, and NYFB is encouraging that funding to be used for direct payments to farms.

NYFB President David Fisher has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to make the case for federal assistance which spells out a number of ways USDA can help a diverse range of farms in New York weather the storm that is affecting millions of small businesses. This would help offset the fact that most farms may not meet the traditional eligibility requirements for Small Business Administration programs. At a time when food security is of utmost importance, we must do everything we can to keep farmers in business during this most challenging time.

The letter from President Fisher reads in part, “While no one could have predicted the extent of this virus on the country or its food supply, the impacts have been real and unprecedented for America’s farmers, including those in New York. Not only have farmers experienced the loss of markets, dumping of products, and labor disruptions, also there remains uncertainty of when they may see any type of recovery.”

In addition to direct payments, some additional requests include:

  • USDA should immediately make purchases of dairy products including but not limited to fluid milk, butter, cheeses and dry milk powders. Additional support could be provided through export assistance programs and direct commodity support.
  • The creation of a voucher program for people in need through the Milk Donation Program, as authorized under the 2018 Farm Bill, to facilitate the distribution of donated milk through grocery stores and other venues since some food banks and food pantries often do not have enough cold storage to accept large quantities of highly perishable products.
  • With the steep decline in purchases in the food service sector, USDA should consider developing a purchase program that would quickly provide stability to all impacted fresh produce growers through the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. 
  • Provisions should be made for livestock, equine, horticulture, craft distilleries, maple producers and more who are facing closures and a significant loss of business.

Read the requests made by NYFB to assist farmers across the state and the full letter here.

April 6, 2020 - 2:07pm

Press release:

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today (April 6) called on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Purdue to immediately release funding and send aid directly to New York’s struggling farmers.

Schumer negotiated $9.5 billion in emergency funding for the agricultural sector already suffering massive financial losses due to reduced demand and supply chain disruptions. The funding was part of the bipartisan $2 trillion CARES Act.

With more than 33,000 farms in New York State, Schumer explained that with restaurants, schools, and other industries closing nationwide due to coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns, New York farmers are losing major revenue streams.

Given the disruptions in supply chains, rampant food insecurity, and the importance of New York agricultural products in the U.S. food supply, the USDA must expedite the allocation of the $9.5 billion emergency agriculture aid set aside in the CARES Act and prioritize New York farmers, Schumer said.

Farmers Forced to Discard Food, Dump Milk

“New York’s farmers and the New York agricultural industry is the lifeblood of the nation,” Schumer said. “In good times, New York farmers 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 during a time when we need a reliable food supply.

"I fought to make $9.5 billion accessible to help them out during this crisis, and it is imperative that we immediately put those dollars to use. I will not rest until New York farmers have the resources they need to help Americans get food on the table.”

In addition to demanding immediate help for struggling New York farmers, Schumer called for the USDA to take New York dairy producers, specialty crop farmers, and local and organic farms into consideration as among the hardest hit in the nation.

The Senator revealed that some dairy co-ops are directing farmers to dump their milk, indicating a huge loss in revenue for New York agriculture as milk is New York’s #1 agricultural product. Some farmers dumped more than 100,000 pounds of milk last week, and it is estimated that dairy farmers statewide were forced to dump between 25 million and 35 million pounds.

With prices plummeting and processing plants closing, dairy farmers could lose anywhere between $1 million and $1.2 million in the aftermath of COVID-19. Additionally, several cabbage growers have been unable to sell their produce for two weeks and are watching their entire harvest go to waste as their crops in cold storage reach the end of their freshness.

Small, Local & Organic Farms Are Hit Hard

Schumer also emphasized that local farms would be severely impacted by the crisis. Many small, local, and organic farms depend on farmers markets as an avenue to sell their produce, but as states issue stay-at-home orders and some local governments suspend farmers markets altogether, those small farmers are losing a major revenue streams.

They also are unable to generate revenue through visitor business and experiencing losses both financially and marketing-wise with the cancellation of food-related festivals that often happen in the spring.

Nurseries are also struggling to survive in the midst of the crisis because they are designated as nonessential businesses, while their large-corporation hardware store competitors are allowed to remain open. Schumer urged the USDA to support small business nurseries as they struggle to get through the crisis.

Senator Schumer’s letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue.

Dear Secretary Perdue

"As you know, the agricultural sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak and will continue to face grave challenges in the coming months. Unfortunately, farmers in my home state of New York are not immune to the ramifications of this global pandemic. New York farmers are experiencing massive economic losses due to reduced demand from restaurants, disruptions in global trade, school closures, and emergency orders that have idled other industries. Farmers are essential businesses who need our support to continue growing food during this crisis; otherwise, we risk our food security long after the pandemic has passed.

"I urge you to act immediately to allocate the $9.5 billion emergency funding provided in the CARES Act I fought hard to obtain to support the agricultural sector and the over 33,000 farms in New York State. Time is short, as the planting season is underway in much of the country. As you decide how this assistance will flow, please give careful consideration to the circumstances of New York State, which has been hit the hardest by COVID-19. My state has a very diverse agricultural industry, populated mostly by small and medium-sized family operations who depend on robust consumer demand in the New York City metropolitan area and thriving international trade for their markets. I have heard many concerns from struggling New York farmers over the past several weeks, and urge you to pay special attention to the following issues:

Dairy Industry

"New York’s dairy industry has been heavily impacted by drastic reductions in school meals, decreased demand from restaurants, and the slowdown in global trade. Prices for milk have sharply declined, making it difficult if not impossible for dairy farms to break even. Both large and small co-ops have been directing farmers to dump milk to balance supply/demand volatility and workforce shortages at processors due to COVID-19 illnesses among employees. At a time when millions of Americans are food insecure we must do everything we can to help our nations dairy farmers get through these turbulent times.

"I urge the federal government to use all available resources to assist the dairy industry during this unprecedented crisis. At a minimum, USDA should immediately use the $9.5 billion emergency fund included in the CARES Act to assist dairy farmers and co-ops through this health crisis and economic downturn by developing a compensatory mechanism to farmers directed to dump milk. In addition, I urge USDA to use funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation to make dairy purchases, perhaps through a voucher system for food banks or COVID-19 displaced workers, to help ensure that people who are experiencing food insecurity and hunger have access to healthful dairy products at their time of greatest need.

"I have also heard concerns from my sheep and goat dairy farmers, who are also experiencing the devastating impacts of the outbreak. I ask USDA to include sheep and dairy goat farmers in any assistance programs you develop.

Specialty Crops

"Farmers who grow specialty crops are also facing devastating hardships. The many New York farmers who sell directly to restaurants have experienced significant decreases in sales over the past month. As demand from restaurants dries up and crops in cold storage reach the end of their freshness, farmers will likely have to have to dispose of their crops, leading to an increase in food waste.

"As an example, cabbage farmers in New York are some of the specialty crop growers who are dealing with the crippling impacts of the outbreak. Several growers in my state have not been able to sell any cabbage at all for the past two weeks. These farms are anticipating millions of dollars in losses for their cabbage harvests and I expect to see similar losses for other specialty crops.

Local Farms and Organic Crops

"Many small, local, and organic farms generate a portion of their income by operating “you-pick” operations, welcoming members of the public onto their farms and allowing them to pick fruits and vegetables for a fee. Under the stay-at-home guidelines, farms are anticipating losing the revenue generated by farm visitors. Similarly, maple producers are experiencing immense losses from the cancellation of events like the NYS Maple Weekend and stay-at-home guidelines that have essentially closed down tourism in the Adirondacks and other maple-producing regions of the state. Aid must take into account the diversity of farm businesses and ensure that farms experiencing losses from direct marketing operations are also eligible for USDA disaster assistance, similar to relief provided to row crop farmers in the past.

Farmers Markets

"Many New York growers depend on farmers markets for a large portion of their income. As states issue stay-at-home orders and implement social distancing guidance, farmers markets have experienced a decrease in visitors and sales. Some local governments have even suspended farmers markets entirely, depriving farmers of a critical revenue stream. This decrease in income is having a devastating impact on small farms and local farmers markets. Again, USDA assistance should ensure that all farms, including diversified, direct marketing operations, have an ability to benefit from COVID-19 relief measures to ensure their financial viability after this current crisis.

Green Industry

"As states close all but essential businesses, nurseries are struggling to survive. Though horticulture and ornamental crops are an important agricultural sector, they are not considered essential because they do not produce food. Classified as nonessential businesses, many nurseries have been forced to close during public health emergency. Meanwhile, their Big Box competitors, often classified as hardware stores – an essential business – remain open. Nursery operations are also experiencing substantial hardship from widespread cancellation of events, weddings, and religious ceremonies. They grew their inventory in anticipation of seasonal demand and now have no market for their products. Please consider ways that USDA can ensure nurseries get the support they need during this crisis.

"Thank you for considering the impacts to New York’s agricultural sector and for doing everything you can to make sure the farmers, dairy producers, and processors we depend on are protected to the greatest extent possible."

April 2, 2020 - 5:48pm

img_0838respiratorfphoto.jpg

Submitted photo and information:

LE ROY -- Some good news to report -- working ventilator parts destined for New York City are being manufactured right here in Le Roy. Aluminum Injection Mold Co. LLC was contacted regarding building a mold one week ago with a challenge to mold plastic over an aluminum extrusion being produced in Ohio.

Typically it would have taken five to seven weeks to construct a mold like this to produce a ventilator part. But Aluminum Injection Mold knew of the urgency that was required and decided they were all in, whatever it took.

The ventilator part was one of several from an MIT design. An engineering firm from Long Island was the driving force, coordinating and building the ventilators to go into hospitals treating coronavirus patients.

By Tuesday evening, Aluminum Injection Mold made their first attempt to mold the ventilator part and continued long exasperating hours straight through the night until they succeeded.

By the yesterday morning, they had achieved making the ventilator parts that were then driven to the engineering firm in Long Island for trial.

Today (April 2), Aluminum Injection Mold received word that the ventilator parts are working well and has been given the go ahead to start producing more.

The company is owned by Gerald Ayers, president, and Tom Bergman, vice president.

Photo: Tom Swanson, molding manager, left and Tim Bergman, molding machine operator.
April 2, 2020 - 10:27am

From Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer:

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has severely damaged many small businesses and left thousands of hardworking Western New Yorkers unemployed. As your State Senator, I am working to provide critical support to employees who are out of work and struggling small businesses. 

Recent changes have been made to the New York State Unemployment Assistance Program as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, more residents -- including some small business owners -- are eligible for benefits.

Below is information that may be helpful in answering any questions you may have.

​In addition, the state is waiving the seven day waiting period for Unemployment Insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to COVID-19 closures or quarantines.  

Those who need to apply for unemployment can do so here.

Please continue to check my website, ranzenhofer.nysenate.gov, or connect with me on facebook for the latest updates regarding the resources available to employees and employers.

April 1, 2020 - 2:38pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, CARES Act, Paycheck Protection Act.

Press release:

The Paycheck Protection Program prioritizes millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $349 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses.

Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, veterans organizations, and Tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards.

·       For a top-line overview of the program CLICK HERE

·       If you’re a lender, more information can be found HERE

·       If you’re a borrower, more information can be found HERE

·       The application for borrowers can be found HERE

Preserving Jobs for American Industry

The CARES Act assists eligible businesses looking for payroll support to keep Americans working. For more information, CLICK HERE.

March 30, 2020 - 4:17pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, coronavirus, BJs Warehouse.

Press release:

As part of our efforts to do everything we can to safely serve your needs, BJ's Wholesale Club has made the decision to temporarily suspend the use of paper coupons in our clubs in order to reduce touchpoints and help mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

For the safety of you and our team members, until further notice, our clubs will not be accepting any paper coupons starting today -- March 30.

Your coupon savings are not going away. All of the BJ's coupons in the BJ's Savings Book will now have a clipless coupon. This means the savings will be automatically deducted from the price when you check out. You'll also see the savings on the price signs in our clubs and in your online cart on BJs.com.

A large assortment of manufacturer-published coupons are available to you for use through the BJ's mobile app and on BJs.com. By clipping these coupons online or on your app, you'll be able to use them in clubs or on BJs.com, without the need for paper.

Given the high demand for food and household essentials, we are working hard to replenish items as quickly as we can. We appreciate your patience and understanding that we may be out of stock of some items, including items that may be shown in our BJ's Savings Book.

In Genesee County, BJ's is located in the shopping plaza at 8330 Lewiston Road.

March 30, 2020 - 4:03pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, Empire Hemp Co., hemp CBD oils, hemp CBD topical.

Empire Hemp Co. is invested heavily in the hemp cannabidiol market for consumers and in January opened a walk-up retail-sale window at its manufacturing site in Batavia's Liberty Square office complex.

It's located at 34 Swan St., Suite 4, in the city and is owned by Chris VanDusen and Shelly Wolanske.

On weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. walk-up customers can buy all-natural hemp cannabidiol (CBD) oil and topical products that many customers say have restorative effects.

Hemp CBD, or cannabidiol, is a nonpsychoactive and non-habit-forming compound that occurs naturally in the flowers of the hemp plant. Unlike marijuana, which contains high levels of THC, hemp flower does not have any intoxicating effects and does not produce a “high."

Empire Hemp Co. uses only the highest quality, locally grown, pesticide-free hemp flowers, grown in the sun by farming partners in Genesee, Orleans and Erie counties.

The owners say they treat these special flowers with the utmost of care, using a state-of-the-art supercritical CO2 extractor to preserve their beneficial compounds in as clean and pure a form as possible. They then blend the extracted hemp CBD oil in with the finest natural and botanical ingredients to create tinctures and salves of the highest quality.

All Empire Hemp Co. products are third-party tested to guarantee their strength and safety.

Their hemp CBD oils are available in three strengths: 600mg, 1200mg, and 1800mg, in both raw and mint flavor.

There are three different topical salves -- All Purpose, Muscle & Joint, Lemon Balm. There's also a muscle and joint relief product called "The Balm," which comes as a stick or roll-on, and contains a higher concentration of hemp CBD oil and more menthol -- for an "icy hot" effect on the skin. 

The products range from $25 to $100 in price.

"No matter who you are, we have a product to meet your specific needs," says Wolanske.

VanDusen said they moved into the Swan Street space in June but spent months preparing it for the manufacturing process, including the installation of the $250,000 extractor. By January, they had carved out their walk-up window and began to serve retail customers directly.

"We are one of the few companies in the state licensed to extract raw CBD oil from hemp plants and manufacture CBD oil products," VanDusen said.

He said Sen. Chuck Schumer has worked diligently to assist farmers, manufacturers and sellers in New York's rapidly emerging industrial hemp market, which was legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill but initially hampered by a lack of clarity on FDA regulations and safety requirements. 

Schumer helped expedite FDA guidance on the classification, labeling, quality, marketing, and sale of CBD products, a market the senator said is "brimming with potential to be a billion-dollar industry across New York State." Nationally, CBD product sales surpassed $200 million in 2018, according to data from Schumer's office.

Empire Hemp Company's walk-up window is open for business from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, or visit their website to find out more about their local hemp CBD line. Phone is (888) 895-9032.

Photo, courtesy of Empire Hemp Co.: Company president Chris VanDusen, left, helps an unidentified customer at the new walk-up window for retail sales.

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