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Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 8:51 am

Photo: Onion planting starting in the mucklands

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

Activity is picking up on the muck this week as onion growers finally have suitable conditions for planting. One onion grower told us yesterday that ideally, growers like to have all of April to plant and they're getting a late start this year, but they should still get all of the fields filled with seeds and seedlings by May, if the weather holds.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Cuomo announces $1.4 million for ag in Genesee Valley

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business

Press release:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $1.4 million in funding for projects related to the research, promotion and development of New York’s flourishing agricultural economy. Approved by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, this funding includes support for a second year of malting barley research at Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, equipment and operating expenses at the New York Wine & Culinary Center, and funding to help Western New York maple syrup producers better market their products.

“The agricultural industry is vital to the success of Upstate New York, and by making targeted investments like this we are planting the seeds for long-term growth for New York’s farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs,” Governor Cuomo said. “This funding will support both new opportunities and existing success stories, and ultimately give farmers and vendors the tools they need to thrive in today’s competitive economy.”

Every year, the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, solicits applications to assist in the development of agriculture and agriculture-related businesses in a nine-county region, which includes Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates counties. On Friday, March 27, the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority Board of Directors voted to fund the following projects in 2015:
· NY Wine and Culinary Center - $300,000 – equipment replacement, facility repairs and expansion, and operational costs;
· New York Wine and Grape Foundation - $216,664 – Phase Five of the NY Drinks NY campaign;
· Western NY Maple Producers - $33,336 – Mobile maple exhibit;
· Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wayne County - $60,231 – To provide support and training to farmers through a farmers’ market specialist program;
· Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County - $43,416 – To provide specialty cut flower, vegetable and mushroom production for the county’s Bhutanese market;
· New York State Agricultural Experiment Station – $74,518 – To support research to improve the profitability and productivity of lima beans in New York State;
· New York State Agricultural Experiment Station - $159,893 – To support maintenance and equipment, including a temperature controlled ploy house and summer scholar support.
· New York State Agricultural Experiment Station - $241,716 – To accelerate production of organic grains, corn and soybeans in Western NY;
· New York State Agricultural Experiment Station - $133,242 – To support the second year of a multi-year research plan for malting barley production in New York State;
· Foodlink - $100,000 – To purchase equipment necessary to maximize efficiencies and create product diversity in value-added product lines.

In addition to these projects, Governor Cuomo announced $250,000 in funding to support soil and sediment control projects in counties located in the Genesee River Watershed, including portions of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Steuben and Wyoming counties. Provided by the State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, soil and water conservation districts can apply for grants of up to $10,000 for projects that reduce erosion or control sediment in the Genesee River Watershed. These projects can include reduced tillage practices, cover cropping, critical area seeding, riparian buffer, grassed waterways, filter areas, water and sediment control basins.

Districts can apply for the grant through the Grants Gateway program at https://grantsgateway.ny.gov/intelligrants_NYSGG/login2.aspx.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Genesee Valley and its surrounding areas are extremely critical to the health and diversity of New York agriculture. This funding will support that diversity by making strategic investments in emerging industries that have a great future here in New York State, while protecting the region’s natural resources.”

Dennis Piedimonte, Chairman of the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, said, “We’re happy that we can be of assistance of the agriculture community in New York State through the money we are able to raise at our market. We believe that this funding is going to be put to good use through research that will in turn help New York’s agricultural economy move forward.”

Jack Moore, board member of Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, said, “It’s very good to see some of the GVRMA profits put to good use in the region for production agriculture. I encourage more entities to apply for such grants in the future.”

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph D. Morelle said, “For the past several years, our region has benefited from the innovative funding opportunity provided by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority and the Department of Agriculture. I applaud the State and GVRMA for investing in important organizations like the Wine & Culinary Center and Foodlink, which are using our region’s agriculture to provide a public benefit. This year’s awards reflects the legislature’s intent when we created this mechanism, which continues to provide vital funding to promote and advance our area’s agribusiness.”

Senator Mike Nozzolio said, “This funding is extremely important to the continued success of the growing food and beverage industry in New York State and it enhances the world class agricultural research conducted at the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. Agriculture is our state and region’s number one industry, and continued support such as this furthers the growth of the industry by providing jobs, increased crop value and product promotion.”

Saturday, March 21, 2015 at 4:21 pm

Farm safety course culiminates in testing day at Empire Tractor

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

Greg Merrell gets ready for his tractor safety test while instructor and evaluator Tim Adams looks on this morning at Empire Tractor, where students participating in the 4-H Youth Development Tractor and Machinery Certification program were put through their paces. The eight-week course provides 14- and 15-year-olds the opportunity to learn how to safely operate farm machinery.

Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 4:40 pm

Hawley bill would exempt farmers from unemployment insurance for immigrant workers

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business, steve hawley

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) announced today that he has become a co-sponsor on legislation, Assembly Bill 06256, that will ease the financial burden placed on farmers. The bill would forgo the requirement that farmers who employ aliens admitted to the United States to perform farm labor pay unemployment insurance for such workers. Under state law, alien laborers are not eligible for unemployment insurance, so there is no need for employers to pay into the unemployment insurance fund.

“I have introduced this legislation with Assemblyman Bill Magee (D-Madison County), current Chair of the Assembly Committee on Agriculture, after meeting with Farm Bureau representatives from my district,” Hawley said. “As the former owner of Hawley Farms, I know firsthand how hard farmers work for their profits and that sustainability of their business is not guaranteed year to year. This is common-sense legislation that will correct a glaring deficiency in the labor law that mandates farmers pay unemployment insurance for workers who are ineligible. My district contains many farm operations and I will do everything I can to help them keep more of their profits.”

Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Photos: Farmers visiting local schools for Ag Literacy Week

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, byron-bergen, education, schools

It's Ag Literacy Week and farmers from throughout Genesee County are participating by going to their local schools and sharing about their careers and reading from a book picked especially for the occasion.

The book is "Weaving the Rainbow," by George Ella Lyon and Stephanie Anderson. The picture book is the story of a young woman who raises sheep, shears them, cleans, cards, spins and dyes the wool, using it to create works of woven art. The story is aimed at helping students make the connection between agriculture and its many uses and influences.

Above, Sharon Fuerch reads to a group of second-graders at Byron-Bergen Elementary School this morning.  

Below, Colleen Primm and her daughter Madelynn introduce a pair of their lambs to Byron-Bergen students.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 11:31 am

Farmers say increase in minimum wage will hurt agriculture in New York

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business

Farmers are facing ever escalating expenses, lower prices and now Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to raise the minimum wage on them.

That's just more than many New York farmers are going to be able to bear, said Dean Norton, a farmer in Elba and president of the New York State Farm Bureau.

"New York is already a tough state to do business in and a minimum wage increase is going to continue to make us disadvantageous," Norton said during a conference call this morning with media from throughout the state.

Joining Norton on the call were Sandi Prokop and Brian Reeves, owners of multi-generation farms in Middleburgh and Baldwinsville.

Each said a minimum wage increase would add significant costs to their operations, $44,000 annually for Prokop and $50,000 for Reeves.

And that doesn't include the pressure a minimum age increase would put on suppliers and service companies to raise their rates, driving operational costs up even further.

The average farm worker in New York earns $12.50 an hour already, Norton said. Even though the proposed increase from Cuomo is less than that -- to $10.50 an hour -- a minimum wage increase tends to drive up wages across the board.

When trainees and entry-level workers get more money, the people above them want to keep pace with the higher pay, so they demand higher wages.

Farmers who don't meet those demands, Norton said, risk losing skilled and experienced workers to other farmers willing to pay those wages, or the workers will look for work in other states where conditions are more favorable.

Workers who are dissatisfied with their current conditions will also change careers, going into related industries, Reeves said.

The upward pressure on wages just encourages farmers to abandon labor-intensive crops or move to greater mechanization, such as robotics at dairy farmers, which means fewer workers churning economic buying power in their local communities.

Both Prokop and Reeves noted that in their segments of agriculture -- dairy and vegetables -- they're not price makers, they're price takers."

The food processors and supermarket chains who purchase their crops set the prices, based on supply and demand and in competition with other states.

"We're already one of the higher cost states," Reeves said. "When I sell a box of zucchini, I'll have a buyer tell me he can get it cheaper in another state. He'll say, 'I can buy all I want for $11 a box, why do you want $13 or $14 a box?' "

Dairy prices have been falling for months, Prokop said, and haven't hit bottom yet. In February, she said, she received $24,000 less for milk than the month before, and her revenue was down $13,000 the month before that.

"It's only going to get worse this month," she said. "The price is now below the cost of production."

It would help, Reeves said, if Congress would step in and set a higher minimum wage across the board, because at least then farmers in all states would be paying the same price for labor.

"We need to be able to compete," he said, "with Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan."

Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 1:10 pm

Hawley calls for agriculture tax credit to offset Thruway tolls paid by farmers

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, steve hawley

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) announced today that he will sponsor a bill to provide tax credits against New York State Thruway tolls for farmers who travel the highway. Assembly Bill 2414 provides a tax credit of 75 percent of the Thruway tolls assumed by farmers in order to allow them more profits when selling their products across the state. Hawley said this is a vital piece of legislation that will help sustain the farms in his Western New York district and allow them to sell crops statewide. 

“Growing up on our family’s farm, I know firsthand the struggles our farmers face every year,” Hawley said. “Profits are not guaranteed and much of the business relies not only on the ability to produce a high yield of crops, but also the ability to transport those products across the state and sell them at a variety of outlets. Thruway tolls are continuing to rise, and large-box trucks and farm vehicles are not allowed on smaller highways. Because of this, farmers are losing a large amount of their profits in tolls. This bill would allow greater intrastate commerce while also financially supporting those who feed our state.”

The legislation is a bipartisan effort currently awaiting action in the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee. Under the bill, to receive the tax credit, farm vehicles cannot exceed 26,000 pounds and must be controlled and operated by a farmer for the transport of agriculture products, farm supplies or farm machinery.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 4:30 pm

Two local students participate in 'Taste of NY' lobby day in Albany

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

Press release:

Two students from the Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center, Morgan Good, a senior and an Agri-Business Academy student from Pavilion Central Schools, and Emily Borkholder, a senior and an Animal Science student from Oakfield-Alabama Central Schools, recently attended the New York State Farm Bureau Taste of New York Lobby Day and Reception in Albany. Holly Partridge, Batavia CTE Animal Science instructor; Kerry Richardson, Batavia CTE Agri-Business Academy instructor; Catherine Bennett, Batavia CTE assistant principal, escorted the students.

During this event, members of the New York State Assembly and Senate met with businesses, farms and educational institutions that rely on New York state agriculture to run their business.

“We learned how much agriculture drives our economy in New York state. One of the most interesting experiences was when we attended two legislative meetings with Senator Michael Razenhofer and Assemblyman Michael DenDekker. We discussed what needs to be changed in our state to help farmers become more productive,” Emily said.

“We also spoke with other senators and assemblymen from throughout New York state and helped them to understand and increase awareness of the needs of farmers from our area,” Morgan added.

Throughout the conference exhibit time, the group showcased duck eggs versus chicken eggs in baking, the important collaboration between the Batavia CTE Animal Science and Culinary Arts programs and how the farm-to-table concept is incorporated into the curriculum of these two programs.

Friday, March 6, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Local volunteers will read at schools during Ag Literacy Week March 16-20

post by Billie Owens in announcements, agriculture

Press release:

In celebration of National Agricultural Literacy Week, March 16-20, volunteers throughout the state will read a book with an agricultural theme to second-graders. In Genesee County more than 40 volunteers will be visiting and reading at schools throughout the county.

Students and teachers benefit from hands-on lessons and receive follow up activities. The book will be given to the school library with a bookplate recognizing the donor and NY Ag Literacy Week.

This year’s book is "Weaving the Rainbow," written by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Stephanie Anderson. It is a beautifully blended story of agriculture and art. A young woman raises sheep, shears them for their wool, cleans and cards the wool, spins and dyes the wool, ultimately using it to create beautiful works of woven art from the fiber. The story will help students begin to make the connection between agriculture and its many uses and influences.

The focus this year is on fiber production in New York State from sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas, rabbits and more. Agriculture is more than the food we eat, it is also the clothes on our backs, the materials that keep us warm and dry, and are used each and every day of our lives.

Last year, 1,400 books were donated statewide while thousands of students participated in fun educational activities. For more information about NY Ag Literacy Week or Agriculture in the Classroom please contact Barbara Sturm, at 585-343-3040, ext. 122, or at http://genesee.cce.cornell.edu/ag-in-the-classroom

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 3:05 pm

NYS Dry Bean Growers metting is March 18 in Le Roy, registration required

post by Billie Owens in agriculture, business

Press release:

The 2015 NYS Dry Bean Growers Meeting will be held Wednesday, March 18, from 9 a.m to 3 p.m., at the Le Roy Country Club, one mile east of Le Roy on Route 5 / East Main Road. The agenda includes discussion of varieties, insects, disease and weed pests. There will also be bean dish sampling. Join us for important dry bean production and market updates! DEC and CCA credits will be available.

Lunch will include tasty, healthy NYS dry bean dishes from the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food.

Preregister by March 10 to save $5! Sponsored by New York Bean, LLC, and Empire Tractor, Waterloo.

Sclerotinia white mold caused significant losses in 2014 due to the wet season. New Cornell plant pathologist Sarah Pethybridge will explain white mold development, cultural practices and fungicide choices/timing to reduce risk, and new research ideas. Progress on breeding for white mold resistant dry beans, and improved yields will be reported. Results of Cornell variety trials comparing yield, maturity, canning quality, etc. will be presented. Western bean cutworm (WBC) feeding damage on beans has now been detected in several locations.

The 2014 WBC moth survey will be summarized, and recommendations for bean damage control will be provided. Final results of a reduced tillage dry bean weed control trial, and trials of potential new herbicides, will be presented. The effects of long-term reduced tillage, rotation and cover crops on dry bean yield and root rot will be described. There is increased cost-sharing available for such good soil management.

There will be a report from the U.S. Dry Bean Council, and a summary of the Feb. 9 Organic Dry Bean Discussion. The NYS Dry Bean Industry Committee will meet at 2:30 p.m., and decisions on funding 2015 dry bean research will be made.

Cost if preregistered by March 10: $20 for Cornell Vegetable Program enrollees; $30 for all others. Cost is $5 more at the door. To preregister, go to cvp.cce.cornell.edu or send a check, payable to Cornell Vegetable Program, to CCE Cornell Vegetable Program, Attn: Angela Parr, 480 N. Main St., Canandaigua, NY 14424.

For sponsor opportunities, contact Angela Parr at [email protected] or 585-394-3977, ext. 426. Questions or special needs, contact Carol MacNeil at [email protected] or 585-394-3977, ext. 406. In case of bad weather, call 585-394-3977, ext. 406, for a message.

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