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Friday, April 18, 2014 at 8:01 am

Collins encourages applications for new specialty crop grants

post by Howard Owens in agriculture, chris collins, NY-27

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today announced the availability of approximately $1.4 million in grant funding to support Specialty Crop programs in New York. The funding is a part of the Farm Bill passed by Congress earlier this year.

“Specialty Crop farming is a large part of the agricultural community in New York’s 27th Congressional District,” said Congressman Collins, a member of the House Agriculture Committee. “This grant program will help our fruit and vegetable farmers, along with their partners, develop new ways to bring products to the market, helping farms grow and increase profits.”

The federal block grant funding provided through the Farm Bill is allocated directed to each state. Congressman Collins encourages interested applicants to apply directly to the New York State Department of Agriculture. Grant applications are due in early May.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Collins standing up for farmers in fight with EPA over 'navigable waters' rule change

post by Howard Owens in agriculture, chris collins, NY-27

A proposed rule change by the EPA regarding "navigable waters" could have a serious impact on agriculture and local taxpayers, Chris Collins said today during a press conference at Stein Farms in Le Roy.

He was joined by Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau, Dale Stein, owner of Stein Farms, and County Legislator Shelly Stein.

Norton said farmers have been fighting the proposed rule changes for years; and years ago even won a court case on what Congress intended when it passed the Clean Water Act in 1972.

"The Supreme Court has ruled that Congress was very specific at that time on what navigable water was," Norton said. "If you can run a canoe down it, if you can have commerce effected on that water, then it's navigable. A pothole is not navigable. A pond is not navigable. The puddle out there in the drive way is not navigable."

The proposed rule change -- being pushed by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers -- would redefine "navigable water" as any body of water that stands for at least four days and could eventually drain into a navigable waterway.

"If Dale Stein wanted to regrade his driveway to make it level and get rid of the puddles, he would have to call the Army Corps of Engineers and get a permit," Collins said. "That would probably cost him $250."

Norton said the EPA is using a scientific study to back its position that hasn't even been peer reviewed.

If the proposed rule changes go through, then any agriculture work affecting what the EPA has classified as navigable waters would have to be approved and reviewed, at great cost and delay to farmers.

The same rules would apply to cities, villages, towns and counties.

"(The rule change) is also going to effect everyone who is a taxpayer and I think they're (the Administration) going to find they're on the wrong side of the issue," Norton said.

Dale Stein said he's already going through a similar issue with land the farm leases from another property owner. Because some government official signed the wrong piece of paperwork 29 years ago, Stein is unable to open some irrigation ditches needed to properly, in an environmentally sound manner, farm the land.

"Now we're in the process of trying to get through all that so we can farm it correctly," Stein said. "It's just another giant bureaucracy to try and get the proper permit, and if somebody makes a mistake along the line, our children 30 years from now could be paying for it."

The proposed rule change could put farmers out of business, Shelly Stein said.

"Should the EPA be successful in gaining this rule change to classify each temporary puddle as navigable water, our daily farm operation activity would stop," she said.

The good news is public pressure works, Collins said.

He's already received bipartisan support for a letter he's drafted to the EPA and the Corps of Engineers opposing the rule change. More than 160 members of Congress have signed on and he believes, with public support, more will follow.

"There's no doubt that when you can raise the awareness on any issue, the chances of stopping the absurdity of it dead in its tracks is improved," Collins said. "I've got at least a level of optimism that we an get them to re-look at this rule."

Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Byron-Bergen rallys support for bill to make Greek yogurt the state's official snack

post by Howard Owens in agriculture, bergen, business, byron, byron-bergen

Photos by Howard Owens / Story by Sloan Martin, WBTA.

New York has several State symbols: the sugar maple is the state tree and the state gem is a garnet. What it doesn’t have, though, is a state snack and the fourth-graders at Byron-Bergen Elementary School are doing something about it.

In a fun school assembly Thursday, the students marked their accomplishment of getting a bill to Albany.

With pop hits like ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and Lorde’s “Royals” reimagined to proclaim the benefits of yogurt, along with funny skits, the auditorium was filled with B-B fourth-graders who’re amped up and extremely knowledgeable about yogurt.

“It’s very healthy for you and it has lots of good vitamins and calcium,” Sadie said.

“We’ve learned that we’ve been producing the most yogurt in New York State, especially in this area,” Grace said.

Learning about its impact on their bodies, the economy and the government, it’s been an interactive and engaging learning experience.

Superintendent Casey Kosiorek says he’s proud of the kids and their teachers for taking what they learn and putting it into action.

“It really lines up with everything Genesee County’s about with dairy farming and additions to our yogurt companies as well,” he said. “It really aligns well. It’ll be memorable for the students, especially after it becomes a law.”

“Absolutely, this is interdisciplinary,” Kosiorek said. “They’ve had to work on their writing, they’ve had to utilize their math, they’ve had to learn about social studies, they’ve had to learn about government. As you can see, they were singing and writing songs, producing films – all the skills that we look for as our young people move up to the junior-senior high school and then college and careers."

State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer says it’s government in action.

“They’re living it by writing us letters, by doing these skits today,” Ranzenhofer said. “We’re going to make this become a law.”

The bill to make yogurt the official state snack has been introduced in the Senate and once it passes both houses, it will find itself on the governor’s desk -- all because of the Byron-Bergen fourth-graders.

Mike Davis, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Kevin Williams, Muller Quaker Dairy, and Roger Parkhurst, Alpina Foods.


Monday, April 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm

New agri-business program announced for high school seniors

post by Howard Owens in Agri-Business Academy, agriculture

Press release:

In the Fall of 2014, a new program, the Agri-Business Academy, will be available to students at the Batavia Career and Technical Education Center. The Agri-Business Academy is a one-year partnership program between the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership and Genesee Community College. This college-prep program is geared toward highly motivated high school seniors interested in investigating careers in the agri-business field.

Students will explore multidisciplinary professions through meetings with career guest speakers, in conjunction with job shadows and field trips at a variety of agricultural and business locations. Food management science, environmental science, global position systems technology, power machinery, international trade, or agri-tourism, are a few of the areas that will be studied.

At the completion of this one-year program, students will earn 12 SUNY college credits.  The credit hour cost for academy students is $50, which is one third of the regular GCC tuition rate.

Kerri Richardson has been appointed as the instructor of the Agri-Business Academy at the Batavia Career and Technical Education Center. Richardson’s family has deep roots in the farming community.  Her father is a veterinarian who operates his practice on the family farm. She holds a bachelor of science degree from Cornell University. In 2012, she earned a master of science degree in Agricultural Education from Cornell University. Richardson is a lifelong member, competitor, and leader within 4H and FFA. Richardson recently was employed as a Community Educator for the Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension.

"The Genesee County area has an impressive, welcoming agricultural community that provides youth with a plethora of opportunities. I am excited begin my career as an instructor of the Agri-Business Academy and provide students with the opportunity to explore and delve into the agricultural community through experiences in agri-businesses," Richardson said.

Applications are now being accepted for this program. If you know of a student who might be interested in this program, please contact Richardson at krichardson3@gvboces.org or 585-344-7711, ext. 2140, or Catherine Bennett at cbennett2@gvboces.org or 585-344-7773.

Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 11:18 am

Photos: Students tested on tractor safety skills

post by Howard Owens in 4-H, agriculture, Tractor Safety

It was test day today for the 10 students who took the 14-class course in tractor safety through 4-H.

The class is open to 14- and 15-year-olds.

The tests were conducted at Empire Tractor on East Main Street Road, Batavia.

Above, Matt Horine backs a tractor to a hitch while being graded by Tim Adams.

Below, a student drives through the obstacle course.

Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Photos: Ag Teacher of the Year award presented to Christine Bow

post by Howard Owens in batavia, agriculture, education, Jackson School, schools

At Jackson School today, Christine Bow received her official certificate and recognition for being named 2014 New York Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year from Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Above, Bow shares her bouquet of flowers with some of her students.

Barb Sturm, Cornell Cooperative Extension, handed out seeds to teachers to give to their students. Above, Bill Calandra collects seed packets for his class.

Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Tops is once again carrying Alpina Greek Yogurt

post by Howard Owens in batavia, agriculture, business, Tops Markets

Alpina Greek Yogurt has returned to the shelves of Tops Market in Batavia and Le Roy (Warsaw, as well).

The grocery stores carried Alpina when it was first introduced domestically, but then the product disappeared from store shelves without explanation.

That product was the kind of with granola-like toppings. Tops is now carrying a type of Alpina Greek Yogurt with fruit at the bottom. Alpina also makes a kind of blended yogurt (my favorite), but that isn't available at Tops -- at least it wasn't today.

Alpina is not being stocked in the dairy/Greek Yogurt section. If you want to find it, you need to go to aisle 3, the organic food section (at least, in Batavia).

This is noteworthy, of course, because Alpina Greek Yogurt is made in Batavia. The Alpina plant is in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Local agriculture celebrated during annual dinner in Alexander

post by Howard Owens in agriculture, Baskin Livestock

Baskin Livestock was honored Saturday night at the 2013 Conservation Farm of the Year at the Celebrate Agriculture Dinner, held at the Alexander Fireman's Hall.

Owners Susan Blackburn and Bill Baskin are holding the sign. With them are members of their staff (and in some cases, spouses), Tom and Diane Stroud, Steve and Debbie Greene, Jason and Jessica Skinner, Doug Mess, David Gilhooly.

Christine Bow, left, was honored as the 2014 NY Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year. Bow is a first-grade teacher at Jackson School. Barb Sturm, of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County, presented the award.

Monday, March 17, 2014 at 7:40 pm

One contaminated well on Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road led to boil water advisory

A single positive well test Friday set off an alert for residents in the area of Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road and Lewiston Road to boil their drinking and cooking water, officials confirmed this afternoon.

The test found bacteria in the well water of a single residence on Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road, said George Squires, manager of the Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District.

"It may be attributed to some manure spreading that may have gone on in the area," Squires said. "I was out of town all last week and just found out Friday myself. I don't have a lot of details because I've not been out there myself yet. I spoke briefly with a farmer and his consultant this morning and the health department this afternoon. I don't have a lot of details and I don't feel comfortable about making any conclusions yet."

County Health Director Paul Pettit said the affected area is no more than 25 parcels.

"We haven't pinpointed the exact source," Pettit said. "We wanted to alert the residents of those houses right around that area that there may be an issue with wells in the area."

There was a communication miscue on Friday, Pettit said. The health department alerted the Emergency Dispatch Center and the Emergency Services Office with the expectation that the alert they drafted would be sent only to the affected 25 or so residents. There was no intention to send out a media release, since it was such a small section of the county. Instead, the alert was sent out countywide and regional TV stations mistakenly reported that there was a boil water advisory for all of Genesee County.

The confusion led today to the City of Batavia putting out its own announcement informing residents that there is no boil water advisory for the city.

The communication Friday is "something we need to review and look at," Pettit said.

Both Squires and Pettit discussed the difficulty farmers face this time of year. They're eager to prepare crop lands for tillage and planting, which requires properly timed manure spreading, but there are also regulations for larger farmers that govern when they can do it.

"Larger farms are supposed to monitor weather and predict significant melting events," Squires said. "They're not supposed to spread in advance of an event like that. This time of a year, predicting warm temperatures in advance gets to be a little bit of a challenge."

It's a violation of a farm's permit, Squires said, to contaminate ground or surface water.

There may have been one or two other spills in county recently, Squires said, but there's been complaints about wells elsewhere in the county (Squires said he didn't have details yet; the spills could have been in areas that are already on public water, therefore well water wouldn't be contaminated).

"I need to get ahold of the DEC and find out what's going on," Squires said.

A week ago, a reader in Oakfield contacted The Batavian to complain about a possible manure spill. We requested info from the DEC but have not received any further information. Neither Squires nor Pettit were aware of any reported spills in the area prior to the well complaint received on Friday.The single well on Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road is the only confirmed instance of well contamination at this time.

For more on what to do when a boil water advisory is issued for your area, click here.

UPDATE: Here's a map of the affected area, provided by the County Health Department.

Friday, March 14, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Alert issued over possible manure spill in Batavia-Oakfield area

There is apparently a recommendation for a small number of Genesee County residents to boil their household water because of a possible manure spill in the area of Batavia Oakfield Townline Road and Lewiston Road.

The announcement came from the NY-Alert system, not from the County Health Department.

The announcement was released just before the health department closed for the weekend, though it contained information to call the health department for further information.

The announcement says, "At this time, the extent of the contamination is unknown and we would therefore recommend that you boil tap water in your home or use bottled water for drinking and cooking. If your well water quality changes as noticed by color and/or smell, immediately stop using it for all household uses other than flushing toilets."

The first version of the announcement was a recommendation for all Genesee County residents to boil water, then a second version said the spill was in the area of Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road and Lewiston Road.

Because the health department is closed, no further information is available at this time.

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