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Dean Norton

December 15, 2010 - 1:07pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, agriculture, elba, NY Farm Bureau, Dean Norton.

Here's a news release sent today from the NY Farm Bureau.

ALBANY -- Dean Norton, a dairy farmer and agricultural consultant from Elba, was re-elected as president of New York Farm Bureau, the state’s largest general farm organization, during the organization’s state annual meeting in Melville, Long Island.

dean_norton_farm.jpg“I am proud to have the opportunity to continue to lead this organization as we face a time of tremendous challenges in the agricultural community,” Norton said. “It’s an opportunity to make a difference in the ability of our farms to continue into the next generation.

"We face both unparalleled challenges and unparalleled opportunities, and need to find better ways, quickly, to maximize the connection between New York farmers and New York consumers, in order to keep the next generation farming.”

Norton is a senior agriculture consultant for Freed, Maxick & Battaglia in Batavia. His family dairy farm also manages a custom trucking operation for forage and commodity harvesting.

He has served as New York Farm Bureau’s president since 2008. His term lasts two years.

New York Farm Bureau is a statewide agricultural organization that represents nearly 30,000 member families.

Photo: File photo of Dean Norton.

April 22, 2010 - 4:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, Mike Ranzenhofer, Dean Norton, farm labor.

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From left, Dale Stein, Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer and Dean Norton.

Following the defeat of a farm labor bill in the Senate Agriculture Committee this week, New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton said agriculture leaders are more than willing to sit down with farm labor advocates and discuss compromise legislation.

He said while proponents of the recently defeated bill said they agreed to compromise on changes, that isn't really how it worked.

"There was no compromise," Norton said. "They came in and said, ‘OK, we tweaked it a little bit. Take it or leave it.’ In my world, that’s not a compromise."

Now that the bill is dead, Norton said maybe the farm-labor advocates will realize they tried to take too big a bite out of the apple, and will be willing to sit down and really talk.

"I think with 2247B being defeated, perhaps we have the opportunity to go back and have that open dialogue," Norton said. "I hope the other side really takes the opportunity to do that."

Norton's remarks came at the end of a press conference with Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer to discuss the bill's defeat.

Ranzenhofer thanked Norton and Genesee County farmers, with dairyman Dale Stein at his side, for their efforts to help defeat the bill, which he said would have killed agriculture in New York.

Getting the bill out of the labor committee -- where he said it was just rubber-stamped -- and into the agriculture committee was key to giving the bill a fair hearing and have it publicly weighed on its merits.

The hearings, he said, brought in both opponents and proponents of the bill.

Ranzenhofer once again praised the work of Daily News staff writer Tom Rivers for his series on farm labor, which he said opened eyes in Albany to what farm labor is really like, and made it harder for bill supporters to spread misinformation about farm-labor practices.

Stein said the misinformation spread by bill supporters really made him unhappy.

"Where can you make $34,000 or $35,000 a year in Genesee County without a high school diploma, without a driver's license?" Stein asked rhetorically. "On a farm. You can’t do it anywhere else. They’re not telling the truth about what the farm workers are making. And that’s my real disagreement with them."

A key factor in getting the bill defeated, Ranzenhofer acknowledged, was the willingness of  Sen. Darrel Aubertine, a Democrat from the Watertown area, to buck his party and get the bill moved into the ag committee, which he chairs.

Aubertine is the first Democrat in 100 years to represent that area of New York in the Senate. His district still leans Republican, but based on comments from Ranzenhofer today (in response to a reporter's question), it doesn't sound like the GOP will cut Aubertine any slack in November's election.

Asked if Ranzenhofer would endorse Aubertine, Ranzenhofer said flatly, "No."

"At the end of the day," Ranzenhofer said, "when you vote for a budget, like he did last year, that increases taxes $8.5 billion, increases spending over $12 billion, I mean that to me is a non-starter. When you take a position like that, which continues to kill the whole economy in the State of New York, I mean, I didn’t vote that way. I don’t support that point of view and I can’t support senators who advocate for increasing taxes and increasing spending."

June 2, 2009 - 7:57am
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, Albany, NY Farm Bureau, Dean Norton.

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Farm Bureau President Dean Norton tells the Watertown Daily Times that a bill that would raise farm worker wages isn't necessary and will do more harm than good, for farmers and workers.

"If passed, this bill would put our industry into a major tailspin and wreck the already struggling upstate and Long Island economy," said Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau and a Batavia dairy farmer.

Mr. Norton spoke at a press conference in Albany on Monday afternoon.

"The tragic irony of the situation is that the sponsors are primarily from New York City or urban areas, and most of them have never been on a farm," Mr. Norton said. "If the bill's sponsors spent some time understanding the issue, talking to farmers and farm workers, they would know that the bill doesn't actually benefit the worker."

The bill is scheduled for an Assembly floor vote this week and could increase farm costs by $200 million per year.

Sen. Catharine M. Young is critical of the legislative leadership for letting the bill get this far, because if it goes to a floor vote, there may be hard-to-resist pressure on many members to support it.

Sen. Catharine M. Young, R-Olean, said, "The only way to stop it is for it never to come to the floor for a vote."

She is the ranking minority member on the Agriculture Committee. She called the Times and criticized Sen. Aubertine for not quashing the bill in committee by talking to Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith. Mr. Aubertine, however, is not on the committee that will send the bill to the floor.

She said union special interests are driving the bill.

"If it is allowed to come to the floor, people are going to have to be held accountable," she said. "There's a chance it will pass and it will be devastating for the upstate economy."

The Farm Bureau argues that the bill, besides being burdensome, is unnecessary:

Among other provisions, the omnibus bill would also allow farm workers to unionize, mandate one day off per week for farm workers, call on farms to provide unemployment insurance, workers compensation and disability insurance for injuries off the job.

According to the Farm Bureau, farm workers already have stronger protections in the state than under federal law. Medium- and large-sized farms already provide unemployment insurance. All farms follow a state sanitary code for migrant and seasonal housing that is stricter than the federal code.

Farms provide free housing, transportation and utilities for their workers. New York is one of two states with a housing program for farm workers. Farm employees also have work agreements for the type of work, wages, work hours, pay period, benefits and vacation and other arrangements.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley opposes the bill and posted a column alerting the public to the pending legislation last week.

Pictured above are Hawley and members of the Farm Bureau. The picture was submitted this morning by Hawley's office.

UPDATE: Additional coverage from the D&C, which quotes a proponent of the bill:

"We deserve to have a day of rest, to be paid overtime and to join a union if we choose — just like anyone else," farm worker Salvador Solis said in a news release from the Justice for Farmworkers group, which is pushing the bill.

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