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Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Farm Bureau responds to Obama executive order on immigration

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, immigration, NY Farm Bureau

Press release: 

“President Obama’s executive action demonstrates there is a critical need to act on immigration reform, but it is not the long-term solution that New York’s farmers have called for to deal with the existing labor shortage. That action must come from Congress. Our farms must have both a flexible visa program to address the seasonal workforce needs that are required to pick fruits and vegetables, along with provisions that allow skilled workers already here to earn an adjustment in their status and remain working in New York.

This is a food security issue for our country. Without a legal, stable workforce willing to work in agriculture, our farms will continue to face a growing problem of being unable to provide enough healthy, safe food to our people. The alternative will be a greater reliance on foreign imports to feed ourselves,” said Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau president.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Collins honored by Farm Bureau for effort to ditch new EPA waterway rule

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

Rep. Chris Collins was honored today by the American Farm Bureau for his efforts on behalf of the agriculture community, not only in Genesee County and New York, but throughout the United States.

Collins spearheaded an effort to get the EPA to back off waterway rule changes that farmers -- and others -- say will drive up the cost of business, if not put them out of business.

It's a top legislative priority of the Farm Bureau, said New York bureau President Dean Norton, to convince the EPA to "ditch the rule," which he says would change the definition of navigable waterways to include small ditches and puddles, which are common on farms.

Norton presented Collins with an award from the Farm Bureau at a gathering at Post Farms in Elba.

Jeff Post thanked Collins for taking up the cause.

"If you look across the back of our farm, which we've been farming for 100 years, we have a lot of ground that would fall into the rule to be permitted," Post said. "It would have a large impact on a small producer like us."

At the urging of Norton, Collins took up the cause with the goal of getting 100 members of Congress to sign a letter urging the EPA to ditch the rule. Collins had 100 signers in a week. In another week, Norton said, he had 200. Eventually, 240 members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats signed the letter.

"This goes to show you just how flawed the rule is," Norton said. "Then when you have other organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce coming out and saying, 'ditch the rule,' and when you have the small business administration telling their partner agency, 'you need to rewrite this thing, it's really flawed,' it tells you it is flawed."

Collins also said the fact the letter would garner such bipartisan support shows how seriously off track the EPA has gotten on the proposed rule change.

"I was able to get majority of Congress, which is very hard to do today, Republicans and Democrats alike, over 240 members, to send a letter to the administrator to the EPA asking, demanding, that they withdraw the rule and start over," Collins said. "There was too much ambiguity, too much worry in a rule that was out for comment."

In a hearing, Collins said, a deputy at the EPA "effectively admitted" that the proposed rule is flawed. The official said the comment period, which has been extended again, to Nov. 15, is designed to give the EPA information to fix any flaws in the rule.

"They said, we can fix it after the comments are done," Collins said. "My comment to them was, 'we don't trust you. No one trusts you. The public doesn't trust you. Farmers don't trust you. Congress doesn't trust you not to overreach yet again.' "

Collins, left, Post and Norton.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 10:29 am

Local dairy farm fined as result of contamination to six water wells

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business, Lamb Farms, Oakfield

Lamb Farms agreed to pay a $15,000 fine to the Department of Environmental Conservation for liquid manure that seeped into six residential water wells in the Lewiston/Oakfield Batavia Townline roads area of Oakfield in March, according to documents released by the DEC.

The 4,000-cow dairy farm was also given a suspended fine of $44,000 that it can avoid by complying with DEC instructions in what's known as a "consent order."

Word of the contaminated wells spread after the county mistakenly sent -- and quickly retracted -- a boil water alert to all county residents around March 18. The alert was only meant for a small population area around Lewiston Road and Oakfield Batavia Townline Road.

In all, six wells eventually tested positive for E. coli.

The DEC investigated and determined, according to the documents, that Lamb Farms was responsible for manure runoff from Field 367 on March 7 into a tributary of Upper Oak Orchard Creek, and that the manure spread on Field 386 on March 6 and 7 likely contributed to the wells' contamination.

As part of the consent order, Lamb Farms agreed to a number of technical stipulations: developing a new nutrient management plan; creating a plan for dealing with the different soil types of its field; how it handles winter and spring manure spreading; properly designating springs that might be affected by runoff; and providing more details in records for manure spreading.

Attempts to reach Lamb Farms co-owner Jim Veazy, who handled the matter with the DEC, according to the documents, were unsuccessful. It's harvest time and he's been busy in the fields.

Monday, September 29, 2014 at 3:00 pm

4-H hold annual dinner to honor member achievements

post by Howard B. Owens in 4-H, agriculture

Press release:

This past Saturday, Sept. 27th, approximately 100 Genesee County 4-H members and their families gathered for the 2014 Achievement Night celebration. This marked the end of the 2014 4-H calendar year. It is a time to honor the work and accomplishments of the 4-H youth, marking their progress and growth in their given project areas. This night of recognition is used to motivate 4-H members to participate, create, and achieve in 4-H, to encourage and support the learning efforts of young people, and to foster a sense of belonging.

The event began at 5 p.m. with a host of games designed and run by our 4-H volunteers, followed by dinner and presentation of honors and awards. We would like to extend a thank you to everyone who came out and made this year’s 4-H Achievement Night a success!

Interested in joining Genesee County 4-H? The new member enrollment deadline for the 2014-2015 program year is Nov. 3, 2014 (Oct. 24th for Market Auction Program). Call the 4-H Office at 585-343-3040, ext. 101, to request an enrollment packet or for more information.

Photo: Ben K., Caleb C., Emily M., Samantha W., Tim Adams- Swine Club leader, Dillon W., and Melissa K.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 11:03 am

Photos: Chamber conducts annual ag tour

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, chamber of commerce, Oakfield

The Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual ag tour this morning, starting with a visit to BCA Ag Technologies in Oakfield (that visit was co-hosted by Z&M Ag and Turf).

During the first visit, tour participants learned about all the high-tech ways farmers more precisely and efficiently put seeds in the ground, using GPS and computer-programed seeding mechanisms.

After BCA, the group moved onto the Cargill facility in Batavia, which produces nutrients for dairy cattle throughout the Northeast, and finally they visited M&M Meats to learn about beef processing.

"For those of who are involved in it, it's pretty easy to lose track of and forget how big ag is and the fact that it is the number-one industry in the county, so it's great to get the folks who make decisions and impact what we do to understand what we do," said Keith Conway, chairman of the chamber's ag committee and store manager for Z&M in Oakfield.

Benjamin Flansburg, BCA.

Keith Conway

Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Collins releases statement on passage of bill limiting EPA on water regulation changes

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

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement today on the passage of H.R. 5078, the Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act, which would prevent the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers from implementing the proposed rule that would redefine “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act.

“Redefining the scope of ‘waters of the United States’ is a dangerous expansion of government authority,” Congressman Collins said. “I have heard from many farmers and small business owners in my district who believe the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers rule will have a devastating effect on their productivity and ability to stay in business. In May, I led a bipartisan letter with Rep. Schrader of Oregon, signed by a majority of the House, asking the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw this overreaching rule. The passage of today’s legislation will ensure that this rule is withdrawn and our farmers and small business owners will be protected.”

Monday, August 25, 2014 at 6:18 pm

Onion crop looking good for 2014

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, mucklands, onions

There's some big onions growing in the muck of Genesee and Orleans counties.

A photographer lining up his focus on a particularly bulbous specimen observes, "I don't remember seeing any onions this big last year."

"I haven't seen onions this big in 15 years," responds Paul Mortellaro, co-owner of Mortellaro Brothers in Elba.

On the one hand, the heavy rains of spring created near optimal growing conditions, especially for the onions that were started as transplants. On the other, heavy rain caused some flooding and damaged portions of some fields.

"You're not going to get 100 percent of your crop on 100 percent of your land, but I haven't seen a crop like this in 10 years," Mortellaro said.

Over the next few weeks, local onion farmers will be reaping that harvest. Already, several hundred acres of onions have been crated and bagged.

Much of the success so far of the onion crop is really the near ideal growing conditions of the middle of summer, where enough rain fell to feed the onions, but cool weather and enough dry days allowed perfect growing conditions.

The muckland farmers still have potential weather problems to worry about before the growing and harvest season is over. Mortellaro recalled one year when a severe hail storm came through and heavily damaged the crops of a couple of farms unlucky enough to have their fields right in the line of the main part of the storm.

But if conditions remain good, 2014 will go down as an excellent year for local onions.

A Mortellaro field. Once onions are ready for harvest, a machine pulls them from the ground and sets them back on the soil so the onions can dry before being harvested.

A big onion in a Torrey Farms field.

Mortellaro onions ready for harvest. As part of processing, the dry outer skins are removed, so they'll have a nice shine on store shelves.

Dried onions in a Torrey field being harvested.

Workers at Torrey Farms crate harvested onions. At the Torrey plant, workers arrange three rows of 20 crates each, with enough space between to drive a truck through. Trucks come in only minutes apart, giving workers very little time between loads to get the trucks empty. Mortellaro said it's a difficult job, hot and dusty and constant motion.

Crates full of onions at Mortellaro's processing facility.

Torrey Onions

Not onions. Beets. MY-T Acres land at Transit and Chapell roads, Byron.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Goat Education Field Day at GC Fairgrounds is Sept. 20

post by Billie Owens in announcements, agriculture, goats

Press release:

Niagara Frontier Dairy Goat Association is hosting a Goat Education Field Day to be held Saturday Sept. 20 at the Genesee County Fairgrounds in Batavia.

The following workshops will be held:

  • Soap making
  • Understanding ADGA reports and programs
  • Basic Management
  • Lotion Making
  • Parasite/Coccidia Control
  • Fudge making
  • Poisonous Plants
  • Artificial Insemination
  • Cheese making
  • Nutrition/Hay Quality
  • Packing/Driving
  • Basic Vet Care
  • Boer Breeding and Conformation Selection
  • Dairy Breeding and Conformation Selection
  • Plus, how to make a lambar and a game of fun filled jeopardy

Registration will be from 8:30 to 9 a.m. and the first workshop will start at 9. Pre-registration is $10 or $15 on the day of the event. Pre-registration is greatly appreciated as we will have handouts available.

Our Pre-registration deadline is Sept. 3.

We are looking for sponsors and donations for our raffle table.

More information can be found on our Web site at https://nfdga.shutterfly.com If you have any questions you can contact Dawn Weaver at [email protected] or 585-281-0869 or Pete Snyder at [email protected] or 716-863-1317.

We look forward to seeing you at our education day.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Local chef plans special dinner at City Slickers of all locally grown food

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, agriculture, City Slickers, food

Farm-to-table is a growing movement nationally, but it's a term that hasn't popped up in Genesee County too often -- until now.

Brad Kujawaski, sous chef at City Slickers, is passionate about local food and he would like to see more people in Batavia realize how much great food is grown on our local farms.

"I think it's really important to give credit where credit is due and that starts with the farms," Kujawaski said.

He is preparing a five-course meal created entirely with local ingredients at City Slickers on Aug. 31.  

The produce will come from Porter Farms, a certified organic farm in Elba, and chicken will be from HLW Acres, Attica.

While Kujawaski expects to include a main course of roasted chicken and chicken soup, the rest of the menu will depend on what's farm fresh at Porter Farms that week.

"We're going to pick for him what's ready and he's going to cook it," said Peter Metzler, of Porter Farms. "To me that's about as fresh as it can get."

At least three courses will be paired with a beer from Rohrbach.

Kujawaski interned at Porter Farms during college and the fact that Brad is a good friend and a great cook is just part of the reason Porter decided to partner with him on this first-ever local farm-to-table meal, Metzler said.

It's also a chance to show off to more people in the community what Porter offers through its CSA.

"It's another way for us to get our food into the community," Metzler said. "We've never done anything like this before. It's pretty common elsewhere, so we wanted to try it out and see how it does."

The Aug. 31 meal is from 5 to 7 p.m. The cost is $60 per person or $100 per couple. Tickets can be purchased at City Slickers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Dairy farmers urged to apply for grants to form profit teams for their farms

post by Billie Owens in agriculture, business, dairy

Press release:

The New York Farm Viability Initiative strongly encourages dairy farmers to apply now for $2,500 grants to form dairy profit teams for their farm.

Ron Robbins, owner of North Harbor Dairy in Sackets Harbor and a NYFVI board member said “Right now, with milk prices so good, is the time to think about improvements. You want to maximize your yields, while continuing to manage your costs. The right team of experts, all chosen by you, can help you see where the opportunities are. Lining up your money now, while it’s available, is a smart move.”

Robbins went on to say “I understand that taking that first step can be challenging. It’s hard to step back from the daily priorities and share with others the big picture of your operations.”

Profit teams are a well-proven concept in New York. The state’s farmers have been using this approach, sometimes called advisory teams, successfully for the last 10 years.

NYFVI is honored to have been entrusted with a legislative appropriation through the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets to help dairy farmers who haven’t used profit teams get started.

NYFVI Managing Director David Grusenmeyer added “I hope more farms will enroll and utilize the funds available to them. Over the years I’ve seen such great results from this approach. In many cases the work from these teams has literally saved a business.

"The funds are directed solely by the farmer; some teams are improving herd health, others are focused on milk quantity. Some are even working with financial advisors to develop succession plans. It’s all up to the farmer to decide.”

The simple one-page application for a Dairy Profit Team grant can be found at www.nyfvi.org

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