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Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 2:05 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.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 11:45 am

Farm Bureau president lays out legislative agenda for 2015

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

Heading into the 2015 legislative session, the top priority for the New York Farm Bureau is immigration reform, said Dean Norton, bureau president, during a media conference call this morning.

The Elba resident is in Washington, D.C., this week meeting with members of New York's congressional delegation to represent farmers' interests.

"We need a stable, legal, reliable workforce," Norton said. "What we have now is broken. A stable workforce on our farms means a stable rural economy."

The Farm Bureau is calling on Washington to create a visa program or temporary worker program that will make it easier for farmers to hire and retain farm workers and not worry about all of their workers being taken away by immigration officials without notice.

"Everybody (in Washington) understands there's a problem, but neither side trusts and has faith in the other side to deal fairly," Norton said. "Both sides want to hold immigration as a political football."

The Farm Bureau is also looking for clarification from the FDA on food safety rules and there's been some progress on that front, Norton said.

Until recently, a small dairy farm with gross revenue of $500,000 that also grows a few strawberries for a fruit stand would face reams of regulations for the strawberry operation, but the FDA will start to apply those rules to $500,000 per crop, so the strawberry operation would not be covered in that circumstance.

Still a top priority for the Farm Bureau is the EPA's proposed rule change on what constitutes navigable waters. Farmers remain concerned that rule changes would bring into regulation small --- even very small -- bodies of water on farms.

"We continue to push the EPA for a clarification on the rules," Norton said. "Of the comments sent in by individuals, 58 percent of the comments ask the EPA to start over and become better partners with agriculture and come up with rules that are better for everybody."

Also on today's conferance call was Elisabeth Walters, director of national affairs, who said the Farm Bureau is paying close attention to the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill, and is pushing for trade reform and reforms in tax structure to encourage more farmers to donate crops to local food pantries.

Norton said farmers want greater access to foreign markets, which means trade agreements, and the president should have greater authority to reach trade deals. 

Rep. Chris Collins has publicly opposed the idea, and Norton said he would be meeting with Collins today to discuss the issue with him.

"The reason we're in favor of it is that our trading partners want to deal with one person, not negotiate with 365," Norton said.

Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 6:31 pm

Farmers bracing for lower profits in 2015

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, Craig Yunker, CY Farms

The outlook for farm profits in 2015 is far from sunny, according to media reports, and Craig Yunker, CEO of CY Farms, sees things much like other industry experts and economists who are predicting tight and declining margins.

Yunker, who stays abreast of agricultural markets and trends in the normal course of business, just returned from trips to California and Chicago, where he met with other farm executives and farm profits were very much the focus of discussions.

"We're looking at softer prices, tighter margins and a tougher year," Yunker said. "The good news is, farmers are in pretty good shape. Dairy farmers are coming off a strong year. The guys growing grain had good years when the market was strong. A lot of them paid down debt and pre-paid expenses going into 2015. Most farmers are strong financially in terms of balance sheets and that should help them survive these tighter markets."

Yunker is a member of the Association of Agricultural Production Executives, which is a group of 150 farmers. They just met this past week in California. He's also a trustee for the Farm Foundation, which just met in Chicago.

Much of the concern about farm profits is being driven by a recent USDA report, which predicts a 25-percent decline in farm income for 2015.

Corn prices have fallen substantially from their high of two years ago.  

In grains, the nation's farmers enjoyed record exports in 2014, but export revenue is expected to decline in 2015 (volume should remain roughly the same, but prices are down).

Globally, grain inventory is up, cutting demand.

The rate of economic growth in China is slowing, which cuts the demand for exports.

India has a big stockpile of wheat.

The strong U.S. dollar makes U.S. exports more expensive for other countries.

There's a glut of dairy products on the market.

While lower fuel costs will mean some savings, the cost of fertilizer hasn't caught up yet.

There's been no impact on seed prices yet.

With unemployment rates down, the labor market is tight, especially for truck drivers. Yunker expects that to push labor costs higher.

On the farm labor front and immigration, there are not as many immigrants coming to the U.S., so there are fewer available workers. As workers return to their home countries, or get arrested, or take jobs in other sectors, they're not being replaced by new workers. That will mean higher wages for the available farm workers.

A lot of vegetables grown locally go to food processors and those seasonal contracts haven't come out yet, so it's hard to predict what the prices will be, but Yunker said he's expecting prices to be softer this year.

There's a lot going on in the world that has a ripple effect on farm prices.

There was a huge worldwide onion crop last year, but the dockworkers' strike in California also means that onions that would normally be shipped to Asia are starting to flow East, so onion prices are down and dropping.

The weather has meant people are less likely to dine out, which has a big impact on cabbage prices, since a lot of the cabbage market is driven by what restaurants buy (think, for example, cole slaw).  

While lower fuel prices mean consumers have more dollars to spend, they don't typically spend that extra cash on more or better food or eating out more often.

"The benefit of lower fuel prices really goes to Walmart and those places rather than farmers," Yunker said.

As for ripple effects, the turmoil in the Ukraine could have an impact on corn prices. Ukraine is typically a big corn producer, but civil war could disrupt production, but worse for Ukrainian farmers is the deflation of their country's currency. Corn seed could be prohibitively expensive, so what do they do? Yunker wondered. They could dip into their wheat bins for seed and grow a lot more wheat, which costs them nothing. Whatever Ukrainian farmers do will impact the worldwide grain market.

"Those kinds of things are going on all over the world," Yunker said. 

The lack of a pipeline for shipping oil from the north into U.S. production facilities and ports has oil producers turning to rail. (Notice, there've been more oil tanker fires recently?) 

Haulers moving oil on rail means there's less capacity for shipping grain by rail, Yunker said. Midwest grain growers can't move their grain, so they're forced to lower prices.

The dock strike in California is having several impacts on ag prices. Milk powder, for example, that would normally sail to Asia, is being trucked (because rail cars aren't available) to the East Coast for shipment to Asia by that route. That's leading to higher milk powder prices.

Yunker expressed some frustration with how Obama is handling the strike, or not handling it.

"I don't understand why the labor secretary goes out there," Yunker said. "He's going to be a labor guy. He (Obama) should take a stronger stand. Trade is so important to ag. Ag depends on exports.  ... there's been no push for trade since Obama took office."

There was a time, Yunker said, when trade talks would be in the news all the time. The past few years, not so much.

"Generally, agriculture is disappointed in that," Yunker said. "We haven't seen any trade deals in six years. Now he's asking to fast-track trade, but the Republicans are loath to give it to him because they're mad at him for a lot of reasons."

The boom in farm revenue the past couple of years drove up the cost of farm real estate, Yunker said, which means some farmers are paying higher mortgages, and farmers who lease land are being asked to pay higher rents when those leases come up for renewal.

Predicting farm revenue with any certainty is about as trusty as predicting the weather months from now, which brings us to the weather. Another drought in the Midwest or an El Nino will impact crops and prices, thereby changing the whole outlook.

Local impacts both in WNY and everywhere there are farmers means car dealers will sell fewer pickups as cash flow for farmers tighten, and farm equipment dealers could see sales decline.

For the most part, Yunker thinks local farmers will hold on in 2015.

"There are players who will be really pinched because they don't have their house in order," Yunker said. "But for the most part, guys will be in good shape because they have good balance sheets."

Monday, February 9, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Hawley announces funding to protect local farms

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, steve hawley

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) announced today that grant money will be distributed by the New York State Environmental Protection Fund directly to localities in Genesee County for agriculture and farm protection. Hawley said he is proud to announce that this funding is being delivered directly to his district and that agriculture remains one of his top priorities due to its prevalence and economic strength in Western New York.  

“I am proud to announce that $25,000 awards will be given to the towns of Alabama and Oakfield in Genesee County as well as a $50,000 award for the county as a whole,” Hawley said. “The funding will be used for farmland protection plans and I am confident that our region will continue to lead the way in farming and agricultural development.

"I have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle during my time in office to advocate on behalf of our farms here in Western New York, many of which are family owned, and it continues to be one of my top priorities as we progress through this year’s legislative session.”

Towns are required to fund at least 25 percent of the cost to develop an agriculture protection plan and county funding will be used to either update the plans or create new ones. Local government and farm collaboration is necessary to ensure that each plan promotes the local agriculture industry. Municipalities that have agriculture and farmland protection boards are eligible for these funds and applications can be accessed at http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/RFPS.html.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Post Dairy Farm named Genesee County Conservation Farm of the Year

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

Press release:

The Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Directors have announced the selection of Post Dairy Farm, LLC, as the 2014 Genesee County Conservation Farm of the Year. The Post family will be the honored guests of the District at the Celebrate Agriculture Dinner on March 21st at the Alexander Firemen’s Recreation Hall. They will be formally presented with their award at that time.

Post Dairy Farms LLC/ Dan and John Post – Town of Elba
The Posts have been working with the district since 1965. Their dairy consists of about 400 cows and they work about 500 acres. They just recently built a new barn with four robotic milkers; the district was involved with installing drip trenches around the perimeter. Some other conservation practices they have implemented include drain tile, diversion ditches, grassed waterways, covered heavy use area protection, and a wastewater lagoon. (Ken Post – father of Dan and John -- was named Conservation Farmer of the Year in 1973).

Previously: For five generations, farming has been all in the family for the Posts of Elba

File photo: Front row, Dan, John and Ken; and, Laurie and Jeff.

Friday, December 26, 2014 at 10:06 am

Photo: Wind-damaged silo in Elba

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, elba, weather

A reader sent in this picture of a wind-toppled silo on his property on Transit Road, Elba. He said it came down overnight.

Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:15 pm

4-H Rustic Riders donate to Animal Shelter for Christmas

post by Howard B. Owens in animal shelter, batavia, 4-H, agriculture, Rustic Riders

Press release:

As part of a 4-H club community service project, the 4-H Rustic Riders horse club members chose to donate much needed items to the Genesee County Animal Shelter instead of exchanging gifts at their holiday club meeting on Tuesday December 16th at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County.  Community service is a key component of our 4-H Youth Development Program, and provides a great opportunity for young people to give back to Genesee County.

The Rustic Riders horse club along with the Mystic Riders horse club also participated in holiday bell ringing for the Salvation Army on Saturday, December 13th at Tractor Supply in Batavia.

Genesee County 4-H is a program of Cornell Cooperative Extension that is an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities and provides equal program and employment opportunities.  For more information about the 4-H Youth Development Program visit: http://genesee.cce.cornell.edu/4-h-youth-development.

Saturday, December 13, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Photo: Irrigation system decorated for Christmas

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, agriculture, My-T Acres

Batavia Farm Equipment has set up a holiday display using an irrigation system as a scaffolding for lights at MY-T Acres Farms on Lewiston Road.

Saturday, November 29, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Hawleys host WNY brewers at malthouse open house

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, agriculture, business, NY Craft Malt

Ted and Patricia Hawley hosted several dozen beer lovers at their malt house on the Hawley Farm on Bank Street Road today.

The open house was a chance to invite people to come in and try some of the craft beers that have started using malt from NY Craft Malt.

Breweries serving samples today included Fairport Brewing, Community Beer Works, Resurgence and Big Ditch. The brewers are all from WNY.

Ted Hawley said business is good. The company is selling all the malt it makes.


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.

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