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November 15, 2019 - 12:25pm

Press release:

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today (Nov. 15) released a report detailing how the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Market Facilitation Program (MFP) has treated Upstate farmers unfairly—and launched a new effort to restore parity to the system.

The MFP is designed to reimburse the farms that have been damaged by the turbulent trade climate across the globe, and has distributed $25 billion in mitigation payments to help farmers recover in recent months.

However, Schumer explained, this funding was distributed unevenly, sending 95 percent of the top payment rates to Southern farmers, who have been harmed less than other regions, and helping farms owned by billionaires and foreign-owned companies.

To address this disparity that is negatively impacting Upstate farmers, who are in dire need of assistance, Schumer urged USDA to improve the MFP to better support small New York farmers.

“This report shows that as Upstate farmers are grappling with extreme uncertainty caused by the chaotic global trade climate, USDA is using a flawed formula that helps big, wealthy farms and billion-dollar foreign-owned companies, while our small and family farms in New York have been left in the dust,” Senator Schumer said.

“The USDA must stop picking winners and losers in such an unbalanced way, and instead ensure all of America’s and Upstate New York’s farmers get the help they need and deserve—not just a lucky few.”

Farmers across New York State are being treated unfairly in many ways, including:

  • Farmers in New York are receiving $41.10 less per acre than farmers in Georgia and other Southern states;
  • Even within New York the difference in payments from county to county can be significant and cause similar farms to get vastly different payments. For example, Orleans County has a payment rate of $48 per acre, yet Warren County has a rate of $15 per acre. For an average-sized farm this is a difference in payments of $9,936 and $3,105 for Upstate farms that likely have very similar growing conditions;
  • At a county level, the average payment rate in New York was $28 per acres. However, many counties in Southern states received the maximum payment rate of $150 per acre. With more than 33,400 farms across New York, averaging about 207 acres each, NY farmers would receive a payment of about $5,796, while the same sized farm in one of these other Southern counties would receive $31,050(delta: $25,254).
  • USDA currently ignores any trade damage not related to its own chaotic trade actions and largely shuts out Upstate New York’s specialty crops from direct assistance.
  • Instead of taking steps to support small and beginning operations, USDA doubled the payment limit for row crop payments from $125,000 to $250,000. This change will concentrate payments even more in the large complicated farming conglomerates.
  • Rather than using current production numbers, USDA based payments to dairy farmers on data that are 6 to 8 years old.

In the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill, Congress provided balanced support to help farmers manage market instability across the country and provided permanent support for USDA export market development programs.

Schumer raised concerns that the administration’s policy upends this careful compromise, replaces income from markets with government payments, creates vast inequities, and does not address the actual trade damage to farmers who have been hit the hardest.

NY County

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St. Lawrence
























































    December 4, 2018 - 12:27pm

    Press release:

    The New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) today announced that $19 million is available to accelerate the use of anaerobic digester gas-to-electricity projects and clean energy technologies to make farm operations more energy efficient.

    The use of clean energy technologies and practices represents major cost-saving opportunities for farms and supports Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s ambitious clean energy goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030.

    Alicia Barton, president and CEO, NYSERDA, said, “Throughout New York’s history, farms have played a critical role in sustaining the nourishment and health of our families and communities. Governor Cuomo’s emphasis on providing funding to help bridge the gap between the agricultural sector and energy efficiency will help farms across the state reduce their energy usage while continuing to provide environmental benefits for their local communities.”

    NYSERDA is offering $16 million to accelerate the anaerobic digester sector. An anaerobic digester gas-to-electricity system is a renewable energy source that can reduce costs for a facility by using waste materials as fuel to generate electricity at the same location that it is used.

    Anaerobic digester systems can be used on farms, wastewater treatment plants, and as stand-alone systems to treat food wastes. They are fueled by gas from the processing of biomass feedstocks such as manure, agricultural waste, food waste, and other wastes.

    Of the $16 million, nearly half is for proposals to install new anaerobic digester gas-to-electricity systems in ways that demonstrate replicable business models or strategies to expand the anaerobic digestor marketplace. These proposals must describe how their projects will improve the marketplace for anaerobic digestion technology.

    The remaining funds will be used to cost-share the refurbishment of existing digesters and associated equipment to extend their useful lifespans as well as for projects that will improve the capabilities of the anaerobic digestion marketplace.

    An additional $3 million is being offered for the Advancing Agriculture Energy Technologies initiative to accelerate commercially available technologies and practices to make a farm operation more energy efficient. Under this initiative, proposals for emerging technologies should be replicable and provide cost-effective energy efficiency improvements to farms in New York State.

    Eligible technologies and practices include hardware, software, and operational strategies. Selected technologies and practices will be demonstrated on host site farms to increase awareness in the agricultural industry about these processes.

    To increase the likelihood of new energy efficient applications, a team approach is strongly encouraged. Eligible team members could include developers, manufacturers, farm owners, universities and other academic institutions, trade or professional organizations, and utilities.

    The goal is to increase the number of farms adopting emerging energy efficient technologies and to increase communication and market awareness of clean energy technologies for the agriculture sector.

    NYSERDA and the Department of Agriculture and Markets collaborate on the Clean Energy for Agriculture Task Force, an assembly of farmers, universities, agriculture organizations, and others to help identify and prioritize clean energy opportunities for New York State’s agriculture sector.

    In March 2017, the Task Force announced its Strategic Plan, which identified initiatives to cut energy costs and accelerate the use of clean energy by more than 35,000 farms across the state. This funding supports the Strategic Plan.

    State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Clean energy is our future and it is critical we continue to identify new ways to harness these opportunities to power our farms. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York continues to lead the nation in environmental sustainability initiatives such as this one that are helping our farms save money and become more energy efficient.”

    These offerings are just one of many steps the state has taken to support clean energy on farms including the Agriculture Energy Audit Program which offers free energy audits to identify energy efficiency measures for eligible farms, including but not limited to, dairies, orchards, greenhouses, vegetables, vineyards, grain, and poultry or egg producers.

    Agriculture covers approximately 25 percent of land use in New York State. Livestock and agricultural activities at New York’s farms account for nearly 3 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Total energy use on farms accounts for approximately 9 percent of farm expenses (equal to about $450 million in annual expenses).

    Greater use of clean energy practices by farms can further reduce their greenhouse gas impacts and energy costs while building on the state’s efforts to promote environmentally sustainable practices. As of the end of 2012, the most recent number available, there were 1,379 renewable energy systems on farms in New York. Of these, 23 have anaerobic digester gas systems that are operational with another seven in the process of being installed.

    Today's announcement supports New York's nation-leading efforts to combat climate change as part of the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of 16 states and Puerto Rico committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pursuing aggressive climate actions at the state level in light of the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords, to create an energy grid that can be relied on during severe weather events.

    The funding is made available through the state’s 10-year, $5.3 billion Clean Energy Fund. More information about these two solicitations is available on NYSERDA’s website.

    May 11, 2016 - 3:23pm
    posted by Billie Owens in michael ranzenhofer, NYCLU, farms, Business, agriculture.

    Sen. Michael Ranzerhofer today issued a statement about the lawsuit filed Tuesday by the NY Civil Liberties Union seeking improved rights for farmworkers. The Senator says the suit will have a devastating impact on local jobs and farms.

    After the lawsuit was filed against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state in the New York Supreme Court in Albany, the governor made it known that he backed workers' rights and the NYCLU's efforts and that he would not contest the litigation.

    Among its aims is to allow farmworkers to unionize and get paid overtime. The NYCLU maintains that existing state law does not provide farmworkers with the protections that other worker groups are afforded. Cuomo noted "inconsistencies" and said workers in any sector should not be exploited.

    The increase in the minimum wage approved last month in New York includes farmworkers and the wage will become $12.50 per hour by in end of 2020 in Upstate New York. Farms are expected to get a $30 million subsidy to accommodate the wage increase.

    Ranzenhofer issued the following statement this afternoon:

    “The New York Civil Liberties Union is trying to push increased regulations on farm workers through the courts. These burdensome regulations would force local farms to eliminate jobs and potentially go out of business. Whether it is New York City politicians or the NYCLU, they have little to no understanding of the economic realities of the agriculture industry. If the NYCLU wins this lawsuit, then it will have a devastating impact on our family farms and jobs in our rural communities.”

    September 2, 2010 - 9:18pm
    posted by Daniel Crofts in events, farms, tours.
    Event Date and Time: 
    September 25, 2010 - 10:00am to September 26, 2010 - 5:00pm

    The Grant family of North Bergen invites people on a 30-mile tour of Alpaca Country, which includes a tour of their alpaca farm at 6499 N. Lake Road in Bergen.

    This event is free, open to the public, and lasts from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 25-26.

    The tour includes five farms and will expose people to the wonders of the alpaca, which is the world's oldest domesticated animal.

    February 4, 2009 - 8:22am

    From the Cornell Cooperative Extension:

    The fourth annual New York State Agriculture Literacy Week (formerly Ag Literacy Day) has been scheduled for March 16-20, 2009, which will coincide with National Agriculture Week.
    This year the program will highlight the NYS Apple Industry. Volunteers from around the county, many of whom are closely tied to the agriculture industry, will visit elementary school classrooms to read The Empire State Investigator:The Applesauce Bandit. The books will then be donated to each school library courtesy of generous donations by Genesee County Farm Bureau, local agricultural businesses, and individual donors.
    Barb Sturm, coordinator from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County, said “Ag Literacy Day gives schools and industry volunteers a perfect opportunity to focus on agriculture awareness, especially in a region where agriculture provides a livelihood for so many people. We hope that by talking to students about how food gets from the farm to their plates, they’ll grow to appreciate all the people, processes and businesses contributing every single day to the industry that provides us with almost everything we eat, use and wear.”
    New York Ag Literacy Week is a statewide educational effort organized by New York Agriculture in the Classroom (www.nyaged.org) with help from many agencies and organizations, including Cornell Cooperative Extension, New York Farm Bureau, and the NYS Apple Association.
    For more information to become a volunteer reader or to sponsor the purchase of books, contact Barb Sturm by February 11, 2009, at Cornell Cooperative Extension at 420 East Main Street, Batavia, 343-3040, ext. 122, e-mail: [email protected], or visit our website at: http://genesee.cce.cornell.edu.

    January 20, 2009 - 12:25pm
    posted by Jan Beglinger in farms, agriculture, Cornell Cooperative Extension, farm.

    New to Farming in New York?  Take the Beginning Farmer On-line Course.

    Beginning in February, the NY Beginning Farmer Project in conjunction with Cornell Cooperative Extension will hold its next on-line course for new farmers throughout New York State.  The course is designed to help plan new agriculture enterprises, and this is a great time of year to start planning!  The course allows you to work at your own pace. You can give the class as much time as you want - a minimal three hours per week allows time to read the material, explore some resources, respond to course assignments and interact with CCE educators.
    Part one:  Evaluating Yourself, Your Land, and Choosing an Enterprise starts February 18, 2009 and lasts five weeks.
    Part two:  Marketing and Profits, is six weeks long and begins March 18.
    Both courses can be taken independently or in sequence.  There are only a few requirements for this on-line course - a reliable Internet connection, an email account, and the ability to access the class throughout the week.  Course participants are required to work through assignments on-line at http://beginningfarmers.cce.cornell.edu/
    Complete registration information is available on-line at www.cce.cornell.edu/chenango.
    The Beginning Farmer On-line Course will be taught by educators from Cornell Cooperative Extension, and both courses will incorporate real-time interaction and learning.  Space is limited!  Cost is $100 per course or $150 for both.
    January 16, 2009 - 10:39am
    posted by Jan Beglinger in genesee county, farms, agriculture, elba, Pavilion.


    The New York State Agricultural Society was organized in 1832 to “foster, promote and improve the New York State Food and Agriculture Industry”.   The Society’s Mission is to improve the condition of agriculture through education, leadership development and recognition programs. The NY State Agricultural Society continues to serve the changing needs of New York State’s food and agricultural industries. In case you didn’t know -  farming is a $3.6 billion industry vital to New York’s economy.
    On January 8th the NYS Ag Society held its 177th annual meeting in Syracuse, NY. This year’s theme was "Planning for the Future – with a Smile". Break-out sessions were offered in generational transfer, strategic planning and risk management. One take home message – “Long term success requires unconventional thinking.”
    One of the highlights of the annual meeting is recognizing those people who have had a positive impact on the industry over the past year. The Harold L. “Cap” Creal Journalism Awards recognize journalists who promote an understanding of New York agriculture. Tom Rivers received the award for “General Media – Print Series” for his outstanding series on farm jobs that we all read in The Daily News last year. In case you missed them, Tom spent the growing season working on area farms. He endured lightening storms, lots of mud, ladders and giant cabbage to bring us articles on how our food is produced. Tom also received special recognition for his series and was presented with a Carhartt jacket and a gold pitch fork for being a super reporter.
    Another highlight is the Century Farm Awards which honor farms that have been in continuous operation on the same land by the same family for 100 years or more. This year two Genesee County farms were honored – Cottonwood Farms and Norton Farms.
    Cottonwood Farms is located in Pavilion and was established in 1880 by Frank A. Tillotson. The farm is named for the two cottonwood trees that the founder brought back from Kansas and planted in 1880. One of the trees has been judged the third largest cottonwood in New York State. Today this farm is operated as a father-son partnership of 4th & 5th descendents of Frank A. Tillotson. The farm is operated as a 300-cow organic grazing dairy. The farm was certified organic in 2000.
    Located in Elba, the Norton Farm/Oak Orchard Dairy was established by Charles Bloom in 1906. His son-in-law, Elmer Norton purchased the farm in 1923 and ran a livestock business and raised sheep. In 1947 the farm changed to dairy. The first herd was Guernseys but they later switched to Holsteins for higher milk production. The farm was a pioneer in the area being one of the first to install a milking parlor. The farm has continued to grow to 1,000 acres and 900 cows. They have received numerous production awards.
    Congratulations to all of the award winners.


    December 18, 2008 - 2:02pm
    posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, genesee county, farms, agriculture.

    Last month, voters in California passed a referendum that would effectively ban the use of sow stalls and hen cages on all farms in the state. Not long after the success of the measure in that state, its supporters were already vowing to roll it out nationwide.

    From the Rural Blog:

    The passing of Proposition 2 in California, which creates new livestock-welfare guidelines, has farmers in other states worried that their states will soon be targeted for similar measures. Livestock industry groups nationwide contributed millions of dollars in an unsuccessful bid to defeat the measure, which bans the use of sow stalls and hen cages now in general use.

    Opponents say the measure appeals to voters' sympathy, but doesn't reflect the realities of farm life. Exprts say "confining pregnant sows in stalls prevents fighting, ensures the hogs get adequate feed and saves labor," writes Philip Brasher for the Des Moines Register. "Similarly, caging hens is said to protect birds from each other while also protecting eggs from contamination." Also, caging results in higher egg production, because fewer eggs are broken, resulting in lower prices.

    We talked with some local folks in the ag industry to get their take on the measure. Dale Stein is a dairy farmer from Le Roy and former president of the Genesee County Farm Bureau. Farmers in California may have until 2015 to adapt to the requirements, he said, but they will have a hard time keeping costs down without being allowed to cage their egg-laying hens.

    "How can you do it and make a living at it," he said. "You need to turn a profit. If people want quality at a low price, you have to do it with volume... in order to keep the price cheap for the consumer."

    That spells doom for the California chicken farms.

    "From my understanding, most of the chicken business in California will be out of business in the end," he added. "The swine industry may be able to adapt, but chickens won't be raised in California on any scale. All their eggs and poultry products will be imported from other states and countries."

    Stein was not overly worried about any effect on the dairy industry, there or elsewhere, and he doesn't believe that prices and supply in New York will be thrown out of whack because of what's going on in California. He is more concerned with the repercussions of the approval.

    "Our whole concern on the referendum in California is that it was step one, and that's what the animal rights groups have said," he said. "This is the first step. The other concern is that sound science does not win out in a debate like this."

    We also spoke with Mitch Head, a spokesman for United Egg Producers, a national farmers cooperative. United fielded the call on behalf of Krehr's Farm Fresh Eggs, which is based out of Clarence. Krehr's is one of the largest egg producers in the state.

    Head is not too worried about the referendum gaining ground here in New York.

    "First of all, New York does not have the initiative process that California has," he said. "Plus, you've got six years before it even takes effect in California. Regulations need to be written before we even know what will be implemented in California. Both proponents and opponents couldn't even agree on what it would require producers to do. Some believe it means it would ban cages. Some also believe it bans cage free and only allows free range. No one knows. It will take years to work out. In the meantime, no other state will move forward to adopt it until that gets worked out."

    For now, that's about as far as the conversation will go for New Yorkers. Nevertheless, this is something farmers especially need to be thinking about.

    "It's certainly something agriculture should be aware of," said Head. "The Humane Society has been successfully adopting state legislation dealing with pigs and veal calves, and now egg-laying hens. They're flexing their political muscle. Agriculture needs to be vigilant on these issues, to make sure that modern science-based ag systems like cages for egg-laying hens continue to be a viable option for producing healthy and safe food for Americans."

    December 15, 2008 - 11:45am
    posted by Philip Anselmo in Daily News, farms, agriculture.

    New York's new Farm Bureau President, Dean Norton, of Batavia, will be heading to San Antonio next month for the annual convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation, according to the Daily News. Once there, Norton, along with some 5,000 other farm bureau members from across the nation, will attend more than a dozen conferences on issues related to the industry, including

    sessions on the turbulent global economy and how it relates to U.S. agriculture, the urgent need for livestock producers to become activists, the continuing debate over biofuels, crop and livestock outlooks for 2009, and much more.

    (This information was available in a news release issued by the AFB that can be accessed via the group's Web site.)

    Immigration reform will likely take top priority for Norton as he settles in. Tom Rivers writes:

    Norton expects immigration reform -- setting a policy that would significantly boost legal farmworkers in agriculture -- to be at the top of the Farm Bureau priority list at the state and national levels.

    "It's a safe bet to say that immigration will be a big one (on the agendas)," Norton said by phone Sunday from Washington.

    Rivers also cites a survey put together by a pair of Cornell University researchers, in which some 1,200 state farms were questioned on the importance of immigration reform.

    From that survey:

    Many farm managers are concerned about labor supply. They feel that immigration reform is an urgent public issue and very important to their business. While the survey did not inquire about managers’ responses to the current immigration environment, ongoing informal feedback from farm managers and the organizations that represent them reveal a number of emerging trends and responses. As a result of increasing controversy over immigration reform as well as increased immigration enforcement activities, farm managers are beginning to make decisions they would not have made several years ago.

    Farm managers told the researchers that they want to be more involved in the policy making process. "Agricultural employers are aware that their voice is often overshadowed by the large number of non-farm voters concerned about immigration reform," said researchers.

    Some are concerned that many farms are "holding off expansion plans until they are more certain that they can acquire the workforce necessary for larger agricultural operations." In other words, uncertainty regarding the stability and constancy of the labor pool is causing farms to stunt their own growth. Farms are also doing all they can to reduce the visibility of immigrant laborers in the community in an attempt to avoid detention and deportation.

    One potential solution offered by those surveyed involves searching for alternative labor pools. Some farm managers are even "reluctantly considering recruiting local workers, but they expect that the work ethic and work performance will be below that of the current Hispanic workers."

    You can download the complete survey here. Also, be sure to check out the piece in today's Daily News by Tom Rivers.

    December 4, 2008 - 2:38pm
    Course instruction and intensive training in tractor and farm machinery safety, leading to certification is being planned for Saturday mornings at various dealerships in Genesee County beginning on February 14, 2009. 

    Classes include general tractor maintenance, safe farm equipment operation and safety issues in general. This training is offered only once a year and is for youth ages 14-15. Please call Amy Berry at 343-3040, ext. 106 to register to receive further information about the class when it becomes available.
    November 9, 2008 - 10:28am
    posted by Howard B. Owens in Barack Obama, farms, agriculture.

    The blog Ethicurean, a site dedicated to healthy, locally produced food, put together a post about President-Elect Barack Obama's farm and food policies as detailed during his campaign.

    Since Genesee County is a rural farming community, it is probably useful to look at some of the key issues raised by Obama in his speeches and policy statements.

    Here's the key point of the post:

    So what might we expect from an Obama administration when it comes to food policy? Maybe quite a bit. In his plan for rural America, he lays out a number of policy positions that are a departure from the status quo. Obama:

    • Supports subsidies as a safety net, but calls for a $250,000 payment limitation and closing of loopholes, so that the program supports family farmers, not corporate agribusiness.
    • Supports regulation of CAFOs (factory livestock operations).
    • Wants to enforce anti-trust laws that so that smaller farmers can compete against large-scale meatpackers.
    • Wants to cap the size of agricultural businesses that can receive government funds for environmental cleanup so that taxpayers don’t subsidize cleanup for large, polluting corporations.
    • Supports Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat, a critical issue as we learn how widespread melamine contamination of animal feed is in countries like China.
    • Wants to increase support for organic agriculture and local food systems by helping farmers with organic certification/compliance costs.
    • Wants to provide incentives to encourage and support new farmers, land conservation, renewable energy on the farm, and microenterprise for farmers and other rural Americans.
    • Calls for greater food safety surveillance and communications.
    • Plans to encourage local foods in schools.
    • Supports providing farmers with incentives that will prevent agricultural runoff.

    From his campaign web site, here is Obama's Plan for Rural America.

    October 22, 2008 - 1:51pm
    posted by Jan Beglinger in Announcements, farms, agriculture.

    Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is accepting proposals from local farmers for cost-sharing projects for funding under Round 15 of the Agricultural Non-point Source Abatement and Control Program (Ag NPSACP).  $13 million in program funds is available statewide for non-point source abatement and control projects that plan or implement agricultural Best Management Practices on New York State farms.  The cost-sharing program is designed to help farmers address and prevent water pollution from agricultural activities by providing financial and technical assistance.  All projects must consist of activities that will reduce, abate, control or prevent non-point source pollution originating from agricultural sources.

    Enrollment of the farm in the Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) program is required.  The AEM program provides a cost free, confidential environmental risk assessment of the farm (Tier II).  After the farm assessment, the planning phase (Tier III) follows, this can include such projects as barnyard improvements, rotational grazing plans, livestock fencing, watering facilities, manure management and agrichemical mixing facilities.  Cost-sharing of up to 75% of the cost of implementation of the project (Tier IV) is available through this grant.
    Genesee County SWCD will apply for the competitive grant on behalf of farmers and coordinate funded projects.  Farmers are invited to submit proposals for farm projects to be included in this grant application by December 5, 2008.  For more information or to schedule an AEM farm assessment, contact Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District at (585) 343-2362.
    October 20, 2008 - 10:35am


    Great time to buy local produce
    It’s still a great time to go out and buy locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. When it’s fall everyone thinks apples and apple cider. Despite the hail this summer, you can still find plenty of apples. Some of the varieties out now include: Jonagold, Yellow Delicious, Macoun, Empire, Crispin, 20 ounce, Cortland, Empire and Honey Crisp. Pears and plums are also available.
    October may not be the month you think of for fresh produce, but it’s out there. At the Farmers Market on Friday there was a wide array of vegetables: peppers in a rainbow of colors, cucumbers, green beans, spinach, broccoli, beets, carrots, cabbage, and cauliflower (white, orange or purple).
    Now is a great time to stock up on onions, potatoes, and winter squash. And don’t forget the pumpkins. Whether you are making pies or carving a Jack O’Lantern, pumpkins come in any size you want – from minis to giants.
    So while you are out enjoying the changing leaves stop at your local farm stand. There is still time to visit the Genesee Country Farmers’ Market. They will be at the Batavia Downs parking lot Tuesday’s and Friday’s until Halloween. Need other ideas? Visit the Cornell Cooperative web site and look under the Agri-tourism guide. Check Listings for an up to date list. http://genesee.cce.cornell.edu/content/view/197
    August 20, 2008 - 4:33pm
    posted by Philip Anselmo in video, Le Roy, farms, agriculture.

    Who among you can look upon these faces and not feel that all too human sense of pity and awe that only an animal can excite in us?

    They're as silly as they are cute, and they've got cute too spare. They're alpacas, close cousin of the llama, though much smaller and a lot easier to keep in a pen on a farm and manage without too many outrageous episodes.

    Although, from what I understand, there are plenty of shennanigans going on at an alpaca farm, especially when one of them gets loose and tears hide all over the place, looking for all the world like some crossbreed of the roadrunner and a camel, hurling front legs over back legs over front legs. Then there's the neck wrestling among siblings or peers. Don't forget the spitting of regurgitated alfalfa or the trancelike naps in the sun when even a blowhorn wouldn't rouse the beasts. Oh, oh, and the bugle calls and the humming and the funny faces and the exaggerated underbite.

    Here to tell us all about alpacas, why they're great and what they're doing in Le Roy, New York, instead of Peru or Bolivia, is Martha McCutchen, owner of Enchanted Forest Alpacas.

    August 17, 2008 - 11:23am
    posted by Howard B. Owens in Daily News, farms, agriculture, Tom Rivers.

    This weekend, Tom Rivers delivered another in his series of farm work articles for the Daily News.

    Again, it's a stunning piece of writing and reporting. We could never summarize if for you in a way that would do it justice. You will need to find a copy of the paper for yourself and read it.

    Besides producing a fine article, I admire Tom for sticking with such a physically demanding job under adverse conditions for a full 10 hours.

    The article makes the point well that if you like -- as Jack Davis apparently does -- that there are locals ready, willing and able to do this farm work, but they're just being pushed out of the way by immigrants, you're deluded.

    Darren, 42, seems a little bewildered by my interest in the job. He can't remember anyone from around here ever wanting to cut cabbage. The farm puts many ads in local newspapers seeking field help, and no locals have even called about a job in at least two decades, Darren said.

    Cutting cabbage may not be "skilled" labor as we traditionally define it, but you better have the right muscles and motor skills developed, and have built some level of mental immunity to the demands of the job. This is a job that not just anybody can do. Clearly, farmers can't just hire a crew of anybody off the street and expect to fulfill the tons of orders for their crops.

    Rivers is doing a good bit of public service journalism with this series.  We wish him well in the appropriate journalism awards competitions.

    Of course, what these stories lack are video. We've offered the Daily News help in this regard. So far, they've declined.

    May 19, 2008 - 9:17am

    I'm a firm believer in buying local produce — when possible. When your green beans come from down the street, you know they're fresh, plus you can support your local growers.

    Last summer, I spent a morning with Sharon Nagle of Firefly Farm in Canandaigua. Sharon grows organic vegetables and some fruit. She's a connoisseur of soil conservation and building up the right kind of nutrients, getting the most out of the earth while putting the most back in. She let me taste one of her tomatoes, off the vine. It was a life-changing experience. I never knew a tomato could taste so good.

    So, when I read this morning that the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County is putting together a local produce guide, I simply had to share the information. Right now, they're looking for growers to add to the list.

    We are looking for those of you who sell locally grown products (produce, plants, honey, maple, meat, fiber, eggs, etc.) directly to the consumer.

    If you have a road side stand, U-pick operation, farm market, nursery, etc. please contact us. We need your Business name, address, phone number, season/hours of operation, and a list of products.

    We plan on having this list available to the public on our website, as well as possibly producing a Buy Local brochure.

    Call (585) 343-3040 ext.126 for more information, or send an e-mail to Jan Beglinger at jmb374 (at) cornell (dot) edu.

    May 13, 2008 - 5:19pm
    posted by Philip Anselmo in farms, governor Paterson, agriculture.

    It wasn't yet even one o'clock Monday, and the Grange was already filled up with folks of all walks, though most the kind that walked corn rows or trough lines. Two months shy of the Genesee County Fair and the grounds had already come alive with farmers, a couple hundred of them by the look of it — young, old, bearded, garrulous.

    Our state governor ended up arriving more than an hour late, which only gave more folks time to get there. Some of them came in suit and tie, a few in tee-shirt and jeans. Some came bearing champagne-stocked gift baskets. That was nice and all, but I feel that more of our elected officials should be bringing us sparkling wine and truffles. Just because.

    Once the flash bulbs started popping and a slow-moving crush of bodies inched toward the podium, you knew the governor had arrived. I expected him to be larger. I don't know why. Maybe because I expect all powerful men (and women) to be of superhuman size, as if girth and stature somehow invest their motives with more purpose. But no matter. He didn't need to be extra-large. Governor David Paterson had presence.

    After Senator Schumer bobbled a few names of important guests in the audience, even though they were written down on a piece of paper in front of him that he read up close through spectacles — no offense, senator — Paterson only seemed the more remarkable when he took the microphone and dropped names, numbers, dates and stories as if he were inventing them right there they came off his tongue with such immediacy and conviction. At one point, the governor even corrected one of the questioners who cited article 240 of the state code, when in fact it was article 241 — don't quote me on the numbers, but you get the idea.

    And all of this preamble just to say that I wasn't the only person there who was impressed with Paterson — all policy decisions aside. This afternoon, I got a few area farmers on the phone to get their take on the governor's visit. Here's what they had to say (in their own words).

    Dale Stein is a dairy farmer out in LeRoy. He's also the current president of the Genesee County Farm Bureau. I asked him what he thought of the visit.

    "The visit turned out very well, even more than I expected. The governor is extremely knowledgeable. And we have an opportunity now to build a relationship with the governor about agriculture. I'm very optimistic."

    Steve Rigoni used to be a dairy farmer himself, but switched to cash crops. He's got about 600 acres out in Pavilion that he divides up among corn, soy bean, wheat, hay and switchgrass that he burns to dry his corn for sale in the markets. Steve is big into renewable energies. He's got a windmill up on his site to help power the place. And the switchgrass is a great alternative to propane, he says.

    He was also impressed by the governor's visit.

    "I'm hopeful for this governor. He seems to be in tune. He's very intelligent, seems to be able to remember everything, and seems to have a good handle on what can be done. You can't create miracles. You've got to work within the federal government's framework. ... I thought it went well. That was the first time a governor came out and talked with us in our neighborhood. Now, there are things that need to be done."

    Dean Norton operates a dairy farm out of Elba. He also represents the state Farm Bureau's Board of Directors and works as an accountant. You could say he's a busy man. Not so much that he can't take my call, though, and I appreciate that.

    "I was glad that Senator Schumer was able to get the governor out to meet the farming community. I thought it was great that they could make it out. He brought out his commissioners and they listened to some of the concerns that growers had in the area. I think they listened. How quickly they act on something, I don't know."

    There is still much to be done, says Norton. A visit and a nice forum with the farmers is one thing. Getting legislation through to help the farmers in the field, is quite another.

    "You heard folks talk about the labor issue. That's first and foremost. If we don't get those workers here, the crops will rot in the field. And we need to get some type of immigration reform done, period. We keep getting assurances from our elected officials, but nothing done."

    Related posts:


    May 12, 2008 - 6:13pm

    Gov. David Paterson and Sen. Chuck Schumer visited the Grange at the Genesee County Fairgrounds today for a forum on agriculture. More than 100 farmers from upstate counties came out to attend the Q&A session that kicked off with a brief recap of the federal Farm Bill by Schumer.

    About 20 people lined up at the microphone for a chance to ask the governor questions on agricultural policy and the future of upstate farms. In fact, there were so many folks interested in getting their voice heard that the governor didn't have time to address them all — and an event that was expected to last about a half-hour ran well over an hour. Immigrant labor and supporting youth education in agriculture were among the many issues raised by the public.

    Paterson was joined by state Labor Commissioner M. Patricia Smith who took up the issue of immigrant labor. From a released statement issued by the governor's office after the event:

    Farmers have been increasingly frustrated at their inability to find qualified workers to harvest their crops, hampered in large part by federal regulations requiring them to exhaust all domestic possibilities before being granted waivers to hire non-domestic workers. Farmers insist the supply of farmhands is far outweighed by the demand, and without sufficient federal waivers from the Bush Administration, crops will literally die on the vine.

    The governor also discussed a state program to fight the Plum Pox virus that threatens "stone fruit crops" such as peaches. The program will continue to study infected crops and reimburse farmers for their losses from destroyed crops.

    UPDATE: The blog Poltics on the Hudson covers Gov. Paterson's visit:

    Business leaders in upstate are criticizing the governor’s plans to go back to the old policy, in which a New York City chairperson oversees the state’s entire economic development program.

    Right now, Dan Gundersen serves as the upstate chair, based out of Buffalo.

    “No one has said that we are taking Mr. Gundersen away from upstate,” Paterson told reporters after a town-hall meeting in Batavia on farm issues with Sen. Charles Schumer.  ...

    “And I certainly understand that the economy is reeling, the anxiety is overflowing in upstate New York.”

    Paterson went on to say that “I wanted to have an ability of the agency to have a centralized organization” yet he doesn’t plan to diminish any services to upstate.

    “If we don’t change something, we’re not going to have improvement around here,” Paterson said.

    “And I would invite some of those who said they were irked, to please call me because I let them know since the time I was in office two months ago that if they ever had a problem, they should call me and not one of them have called me in the past few days.”

    Also, here's News 10's coverage.  And Associated Press.

    Meanwhile, the Albany Watch blog wonders why Paterson has missed four consecutive legislative work days.

    His absence is giving rise to speculation that he doesn’t intend to push an aggressive agenda for the rest of the legislative session.

    “It’s hard to drive the Albany agenda without being in Albany,’’ said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “That’s why the Executive Mansion is in Albany.’‘


    Update posted by Howard Owens

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