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Dale Stein

November 23, 2010 - 8:27pm


In a long conversation today about the need for the Soil and Water Conservation District in Genesee County, Le Roy dairy farmer Dale Stein didn't once complain about an increasingly demanding Environmental Protection Agency.

He just said "Farmers need help."

That help has come for years from the Soil and Water District. Staff members have the expertise to help farmers comply with regulations that protect the land, air and water.

"All of us want to live in a good environment," Stein said. "But we can't do it on our own."

After our talk, Stein walked me across the street, through the mud and over a plank bridge that spans a cement trough, a little creek if you will, of liquid manure.

manudust.jpgThe manure is fed into a new $170,000 machine that pulls out the solids, drys it, mashes it up and sends it out a conveyor belt into a big pile in a new storage building.

Sawdust, which has served as bedding for cows for decades or longer, is getting expensive, Stein said. Increasingly, it's used in recycled products, which drives the cost up for farmers.

Now, Stein's cows sleep on their own processed manure.

"The cows love it," Stein said. "It's soft and fluffy."

Surprisingly, it has no discernible odor.

The environmentally friendly process was driven as much by federal guidelines to reduce his manure waste as it was by economics.

After a 30-percent federal grant to help pay for the project, Stein said the savings on sawdust purchasing will pay for the operation inside of two years.

Without the help of Soil and Water technicians, Stein said, the project would been a lot harder to pull off. They help identify issues on his farm that might run afoul of regulations, find the right solutions, help secure grants to pay for the projects and then ensure the project is completed within federal or state guidelines.

No farmer, Stein said, has that kind of expertise.

These are tough times, though, and the Genesee County Legislature wants to balance the county's $140.5 million budget without raising property taxes. At the same time, more than 80 percent of the county's revenue is tied up in covering the expense of unfunded mandates.

So, where the county can cut, officials are looking at deep cuts.

scottpage.jpgFor the Soil and Water District, that means a 15-percent reduction -- $26,000 -- in the county's $170,000 allocation.

With the budget cut, there will be at least one less staff member in the district, according to Brad Rodgers, chairman of the Soil and Water board of directors.

"(The cut) would be a real detriment to the agriculture industry in Genesee County," said Rogers. "Even level funding would hurt us."

Scott Page, president of the Genesee County Farm Bureau, believes keeping Soil and Water is critical to protecting Genesee County's economic base.

"If we hurt ag, we miss an opportunity to move forward," said Page. "The more we build off our agricultural base, the better the local economy will do."

Page said his family has been dairy farmers in Le Roy for 50 years, and he's seen the regulations get tighter and more technical. While he doesn't think they are entirely necessary ("What farmer doesn't want to care for his animals?" he says), there is just no way the typical Genesee County farmer can keep abreast of all the regulations without experts to lead the way, he said.

Although Stein's manure recycling project has a direct economic benefit to his business, complying with many of the state and federal regulations adds nothing to the bottom line.

"It's tough for a farmer to lay aside that kind of money for something that is not going to generate profit," Page said.

Banks don't want to loan farmers money to undertake projects that often cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Banks are only willing to help, Stein said, because there are federal grants available to pay from 30 to 70 percent of a project's cost.

And it takes Soil and Water experts to help a farmer through the application process.

"We have a good Soil and Water program," Stein said. "But we will start losing farms in this county pretty quickly due to these regulations without help."

Photos: Top, Dale Stein in front of a pile of manure dust; inset, Stein holding a handful of processed manure; bottom inset, Scott Page.

June 24, 2009 - 6:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, Dale Stein.

Two groups of farmers took a slow drive on the Thruway through Genesee County today, slowing traffic and sending a message to Albany about a proposed bill that opponents call the Farm Death Bill.

The bill would change farm labor law. Among the provisions, farmers would be required to pay workers time-and-half for overtime. Farmers say it would cost the New York agriculture industry $200 million and drive hundreds of farms in the state out of business.

The bill has already passed the Assembly and now awaits consideration by the dysfunctional Senate.

Le Roy dairy farmer Dale Stein, who helped lead the protest, said it appears the protest was effective. He received a call this evening and was told Gov. David Paterson heard about the protest and immediately called a meeting with the agricutlure commissioner to discuss the legislation.

Two groups of farmers -- one starting in Batavia and another Le Roy -- participated in the protest. The Batavia group, comprised of representatives from about 20 farms, headed east and the Le Roy group headed west.  Each group drove 35 to 40 m.h.p., but blocked both lanes in each direction for only a portion of the drive.

Stein said he's heard of only one ticket being issued, to a van in the Le Roy group, and even though State Police were in the area of the eastbound group, no vehicles in that group were stopped.

The protest was organized, Stein said, on only about two or three hours notice.

Stein said State Police did not interfer with the eastbound protest, but he heard of a ticket being issued to a westbound driver.

Sgt. Derrick Harris of the State Police said that actually, six tickets were issued to westbound drivers. He said there were only six drivers involved in the westbound lanes. He said no action was taken in the eastbound lanes.

Listen: Audio of an interview after the protest with Stein.

November 6, 2008 - 5:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Dale Stein.

Former Genesee County Farm Bureau president Dale Stein is included in a D&C story rounding up reactions to Barack Obama's historic victory Tuesday.

Dale Stein, a dairy farmer in LeRoy, Genesee County, supported McCain, but said he was "not massively disappointed" with Obama's win — and was pleased with other aspects of the election. "There was a (big) turnout. People finally got a reason to get out and vote, and that's a good thing," said Stein, 54. "I liked some things about both candidates. I just liked McCain more."

Stein's top hope for Obama is addressing agricultural issues, particularly about immigration policies related to migrant workers.

Stein said he hoped Obama would take measures to turn the slumping U.S. economy around, but said that Congress has more responsibility in that regard. Reining in excessive pay and compensation for corporate leaders is key, he said.

Stein was included in a pre-election series of stories by the D&C about important issues in the election. We posted about it here.

October 5, 2008 - 8:33am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, farm bureau, Dale Stein.

LeRoy resident and Genesee County Farm Bureau president Dale Stein gets to talk politics in the Democrat & Chronicle this morning.

Spoiler alert: He says he is voting for John McCain. He says that's his personal decision, not an endorsement from the Farm Bureau.

Among his concerns are the high cost of energy and immigration.

"Too much of this country believes we have enough labor, and we don't," said Stein, who owns Stein Farms in LeRoy, Genesee County.

The labor shortage hasn't affected Stein's own farm but he said it has caused 25 percent less cabbage to be grown in western New York because farmers knew they wouldn't have the workers for harvest.

Congress won't talk about it because they won't get re-elected," said Stein, president of the Genesee County Farm Bureau.

On energy, he favors more drilling and nuclear power.

Stein's energy costs have increased 40 percent in two years, and now his electricity bill is $7,000 a month. Electricity powers the milking system and the fans that keep the cows cool.

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