agribusiness

Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 12:39 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, news, agriculture, agribusiness, Business.

Press release:

The newly adopted state budget includes important financial support for New York’s agriculture industry. The Senate succeeded in restoring nearly $10 million in funding, for a total of $51 million toward agriculture.

"In the 59th Senate District and across the state, agriculture plays a vital role in New York’s economy,” said Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma). “Once again this year, we are investing in our future by promoting the growth and success of our farmers, especially those just starting out. These programs not only support hardworking farm families, they ensure that agriculture will remain New York’s leading industry.”    

The state budget provides for almost $10 million in restorations and adds to agriculture programs as follows:

    • $1.5 million, for a total of $1.9 million, for the Farm Viability Institute
    • $1 million, for a total of $9.3 million, for Agribusiness Child Development
    • $1 million, for a total of $5.4 million, for the Cornell Diagnostic Lab
    • $544,000, for a total of $750,000, for the Apple Growers Association
    • $560,000, for a total of $610,000, for Cornell Rabies
    • $516,000, for a total of $1.2 million for FarmNet, Farm Family Assistance
    • $378,000, for a total of $l.2 million, for Pro-Dairy
    • $307,000, for a total of $l.5 million, for the Wine and Grape Foundation
    • $300,000, for a total of $842,000, for Future Farmers of America
    • $160,000, for a total of $160,000, for Local Fair Assistance
    • $500,000 for the Apple Research and Development Board
    • $600,000 for the Northern NY Agriculture Development Program
    • $260,000 for Cornell Berry Research
    • $250,000 for Tractor Rollover Prevention Program
    • $215,000 for Maple Producers Association
    • $200,000 for a “Seeds of Success” award to promote school gardens
    • $150,000 for Turfgrass Association
    • $125,000 for Christmas Tree Growers
    • $125,000 for Cornell Maple Research
    • $115,000 for Cornell Veterans to Farms
    • $100,000 for Cornell Vegetable Research
    • $50,000 for “Farm to Table Trail” development
    • $75,000 for Corn and Soybean Growers Association
    • $50,000 for Honeybee Research at Cornell
    • $50,000 for Cornell Onion Research
    • $100,000 for Wood Products Council
    • $25,000 for Low-Cost Vaccine Program
    • $20,000 for Island Harvest
    • $10,000 for NYS Brewers Association
    • $10,000 for NYS Cider Association
    • $10,000 for NYS Distillers Guild
    • $10,000 for Chautauqua County Beekeepers Association
    • $10,000 for Cornell Sheep Farming

The Senate succeeded in including Farm-to-Food-Bank in the final budget after last year's legislation was vetoed. More fresh, New York-grown produce will be available to help feed the hungry by allowing farmers to claim a tax credit for produce and other farm product donations to food banks or other emergency food programs.

The budget also includes $5 million in capital funding for local fairs across the state.

Monday, March 27, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Press release:

The Senate passed a comprehensive package of bills that would strengthen and preserve agriculture as New York’s leading industry March 22. The bipartisan measures help support farm workforce retention and expansion; create new tax credits for preserving farmland, transitioning to organic certification, and offering healthy options in communities; promote the use of local produce in schools; and help prepare new farmers for successful careers, among other initiatives.

"Agriculture is one the most important industries in New York and we need to do all we can to ensure its growth and success, especially for young farmers and those just starting out,” said Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma). “These initiatives will support hardworking farmers, their families and others who rely on a strong and vibrant agriculture industry.” 

The measures build upon the Senate’s ongoing commitment to agriculture, including its role as the undisputed leader in restoring more than $55 million in proposed state funding cuts since 2011. This funding has helped support investments in cutting-edge agricultural research, education for the next generation of family farmers, environmental stewardship, and protections for plant, animal and public health. 

The bill package would help further support the growth of agriculture in New York and create jobs by:
    • S2905, doubling the existing Farm Workforce Retention Credit: cosponsored by Gallivan, would help farmers meet consumer demands with a strong and steady workforce. The bill increases the credit to $500 per eligible employee this year, and $1,200 per employee when fully effective, saving farmers an estimated $60 million when fully implemented.
    • S1430, helping schools purchase local produce: would allow school districts offering bids for food services to include language that favors local or regional farm producers. This expands the market for local produce, encourages larger distributors to invest in smaller farms, and could help co-ops or farms without the resources to independently participate in a bidding process access local school procurement programs.
    • S4021, establishing a Young Farmer Advisory Board: cosponsored by Gallivan, establishes a young farmer agriculture advisory board designed to advise and make recommendations on policies and programs affecting agriculture. Young and beginning farmers play a fundamental role in preventing the threat posed by the gradual aging of famers and in the future success and growth of New York farms.
     • S4660, creating a Future Agriculture Readiness Marketing camp (F.A.R.M.): helps those new to the agriculture industry gain the valuable knowledge and tools needed to promote their businesses. Offered once yearly to a select group of successful farmer applicants, this camp will expose selectees to several of the best agriculture programs in the state. Each participant will have access to all that SUNY has to offer, allowing them to develop their business and themselves. An exclusive group of graduates from the program will also be granted additional aid in the form of grant funds to help them make their marketing plan a reality.
    • S4900, increasing new farmers’ access to land: directs the State Department of Agriculture and Markets to enhance access to viable agricultural land for new and beginning farmers. The agency would work with the Office of General Services to develop an inventory of state-owned real property that may be viable for farming. This would help younger farmers overcome frequent barriers that prevent them from gaining access to land and contribute to the aging of the farming population, such as the complex process of transferring ownership of farms and prohibitive capital costs.
    • S2479, conserving productive land: would create a statewide blueprint for conserving productive land and maintaining the vitality of agricultural production in New York State. The measure would require the state to propose programs that encourage the growth of emerging trends and practices that might benefit small- to mid-sized farms.
    • S3835, creating a farm savings account: establishes a tax-deferred savings account that will allow farmers to self-insure part of their risk to counteract strong cyclical downturns in the farm economy. Some of the methods used by farmers to help offset losses due to weather or other market forces include delaying the purchase of equipment and the repayment of loans. A farm savings account will offer farmers another management tool to help offset their costs.
    • S4721, providing tax credits for organic farm transitions: creates a tax credit to increase the profit margin for certain agricultural products that meet any one of several industry standards for crop quality during the three-year transitional period to USDA Organic Certification. This will reduce the uncertainty farmers face when attempting to achieve USDA Organic Certification by providing them with an expanded market for their products and greater financial security during the transition period.
    • S562, offering tax exemptions for organic farm transitions: creates a real property tax exemption for the lands of a farm operation that are transitioning to organic. In 2011, New York ranked third in the nation in the total amount of organic farms with 597, with the state’s certified organic farms selling a total of $107 million produced commodities. This credit would foster the growth of these farms and is similar to an existing tax exemption for the replanting of vineyards and orchards.
    • S4265, lifting size restrictions on wine ice cream: would lift the current minimum packaging requirements (at least one pint) for the sale of wine ice cream to meet consumer demand for smaller containers of wine ice cream for weddings, fundraisers, recreational tours and other events.
    • S943, creating the Healthy Options and Community Outreach program: would create the program to increase public awareness and address the issue of “food deserts.” It would create a new tax credit for small grocery and convenience stores that commit to selling healthy food and drinks at their shops. Up to 100 percent of an improvement project’s cost could become eligible for a credit if the owner expands, purchases coolers or shelving for the purposes of selling healthier food options.
    • S4535, preserving farmland: encourages farmers – particularly those located in areas of the state with greater development pressure – to participate in farmland preservation efforts and remain stewards of their land for future generations. It would change the maximum acreage for agricultural assessment of farm woodlands from 50 to 100 acres.
    • S368, helping timber harvesters: authorizes the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to execute contracts for timber or other forest products valued at under $50,000 without approval from the state comptroller. Currently, any contract to harvest more than $10,000 of timber on non-protected state lands must be approved by DEC and the State Comptroller's Office, which can be time consuming and jeopardize timber-harvesting timeframes.
    • S1078, promoting farm cideries: would expand products sold by farm cideries and authorizing such farms to sell cider to other licensees for resale.
    • S1240, reducing transportation costs: allows the New York State Thruway Authority to provide a discounted toll rate of half the normal toll to farmers transporting agricultural products. This measure would give farmers some relief from high transportation costs for shipping goods to markets throughout the state.
    • S1333, awarding Excellence in Agriculture: provides a mechanism for the state to develop an agriculture and food awards program. It would be provided to farmers, manufacturers and processors that produce exceptional products using locally sourced ingredients, and the businesses that make a special effort to market and promote them. These awards could also be presented to restaurants, food retailers, and schools and colleges that feature and promote New York farm foods.

The bills acted upon on National Agriculture Day were among the latest efforts by the Senate to focus on growing New York agriculture from the ground up. Recently, the Senate passed a budget resolution that included extensive measures that invest in the state’s farm workforce, support the next generation of farmers, and help farmers connect to new markets, among other initiatives to support farming’s growth. 

Initiatives included:

    • $12 million in restored funding for important agricultural programs cut by the 2017-2018 Executive Budget;
    • $60 million in tax relief for farmers by doubling the existing Farm Workforce Retention Credit, as outlined above in S2905;
    • $10 million to help make additional investments in county fair facilities so that New Yorkers can continue to learn about agriculture and farms in their area.
    • Support for $3 million for drought relief in parts of Central and Western New York when lack of rain in 2016 caused severe crop losses;
    • $1.8 million to expand access for 120,000 seniors to get free, fresh produce at area farmers' markets;
    • An additional $200,000 for Farm-to-Schools, for a total of nearly $1 million;
    • Expand Future Farmers of America (FFA) by supporting and building upon the $542,000 in the Executive Budget;
    • $500,000 to help farmers with questions about employment laws and regulations by providing access to Cornell-based specialists;
    • $450,000 to help farmers expand to new markets, especially those needing assistance to achieve organic certification;
    • $250,000 for the Future Agriculture Readiness Marketing (FARM) Camps, also outlined above in S4660;
    • $200,000 for a "Seeds of Success" award to promote and recognize school gardens and gardening programs across the state;
    • $100,000 for "Farm to Table Trail" development that directs consumers to local food and beverage options; and
    • An expansion of Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) agriculture programs to create opportunities for high school students to achieve credits toward college study in Agriculture.

Monday, March 20, 2017 at 9:04 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, events, Eagle, maple weekend, agribusiness, Business.

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More than 20 years ago, 14 members of the Wyoming County Maple Association wanted a better way to market their maple products in a fun-filled way, hence the creation of Maple Sunday. When county maple producers realized there was a real disconnect between the producers and the consumers, the one-day event became a way to showcase one of Wyoming County’s largest agricultural commodities.

“We didn’t really have any idea what was going to happen,” said Gary Bray, owner of Bray Farms, Bray Road, Eagle, “but we wanted to give it a try.”

Now called Maple Weekend, the festivities comprise back-to-back weekends at the end of March. 

“We started out as one day, then two, and now…,” Bray said. “When we had people calling us asking if they can come to the farm another time, not only couldn’t we turn them down, we realized there was a real interest and had to add days.” 

According to Bray, New York State is number two in maple production – behind Canada, but ahead of Vermont. Additionally, maple syrup is only produced from Southeastern Canada, to the mountains of Virginia, west to Kansas, and north to Michigan and Wisconsin. Producers also tap in Ohio and Indiana.

“We are in the middle of maple country in the whole world. While you can tap red maples, the sugar density is different, thus not as flavorful.”

The flavor of maple syrup is derived from the soil where the tree grows, therefore, syrup from New York will have a different flavor than syrups from other areas. Yet syrup isn’t the only product sap is used for, it can also be processed into sugar, cream, candy, barbecue sauces, and other value-added products.

“Back in my grandparents' day, they would make blocks of maple sugar and take it to the market to trade. They would barter the maple sugar for groceries. The grocers would then turn around and sell the sugar to other consumers. During the war (World War II) sugar was in short supply, maple sugar was a way to sweeten things up. It can also be used in place of dry sugar in recipes, as can maple syrup; there is a conversion chart for that purpose.”

Not only has Bray opened his doors to residents of Western New York, other visitors to his farm hailed from Italy, France, Spain, Japan and England. 

“In other countries, maple syrup is a total luxury.”

The only thing in pure maple syrup is, well, syrup. For a Wyoming County producer to have their product labeled as pure New York State maple syrup, it must be accurately graded according to its color.

Part of the weekend also serves to educate the public on the nutritional value of syrup. Bray says, pure maple syrup has nutrients the body needs. 

Producers make the golden sweet liquid by concentrating the sap from the maple tree, which then produces a usable product. All the minerals and sugars in the sap are concentrated to 67-68 percent on the Brix scale (named after Adolf F. Brix (1798-1870)). The hydrometer scale is used for measuring the amount of sugar in a solution at a given temperature.

“Making syrup is entirely dependent on nature…the type of soil, the weather, the atmosphere. Even the barometric pressure affects the producer and when and if they can boil. The process of making syrup is to boil off the water, the more moisture in the air, the harder it will be to boil. Syrup boils at 7 degrees over the boiling point of water; depending on the day and barometric pressure, the boiling point can differ, even within the same county.

“The more educated we become, it actually becomes more complicated. However, new technology allows us to better come to our final product.”

In the 21 years Bray has been a part of Maple Weekend he has not only seen changes in how maple is produced – from buckets to vacuum lines, and from woodstove processing to using reverse osmosis – he has also seen the market for maple products grow.

“We want people to come and ask us questions and learn what syrup is, how it’s made and how it can be used. It’s more than just pancake syrup. Maple is versatile…and it’s good for you.”

Maple Weekend continues March 25 and 26. For more information click here.

See related: Maple Weekend kicks off Saturday

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Friday, March 17, 2017 at 8:11 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, Business, agribusiness.

Press release:

America’s farmers and ranchers will soon have the opportunity to strongly represent agriculture in their communities and industry by taking part in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them. The census is expected to be mailed at the end of this year.

“The Census of Agriculture remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data for every county in the nation,” said NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “As such, census results are relied upon heavily by those who serve farmers and rural communities, including federal, state and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations, extension educators, researchers, and farmers and ranchers themselves.”

The census highlights land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, and other topics. The 2012 Census revealed that more than three million farmers operated more than two million farms, spanning over 914 million acres. This was a 4-percent decrease in the number of farms in the United States from the previous census in 2007. However, agriculture sales, income, and expenses increased between 2007 and 2012. This telling information and thousands of other agriculture statistics are a direct result of responses to the Census of Agriculture.

“Today, when data is so important, there is strength in numbers,” Hamer said. “For farmers and ranchers, participation in the 2017 Census of Agriculture is their voice, their future, and their opportunity to shape American agriculture – its policies, services, and assistance programs – for years to come.”

Producers who are new to farming or did not receive a Census of Agriculture in 2012 still have time to sign up to receive the 2017 report form by visiting www.agcensus.usda.gov and clicking on the "Make Sure You Are Counted" button through June. 

NASS defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year (2017).

For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture and to see how census data is used, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call (800) 727-9540.

Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 5:42 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, events, maple weekend, agribusiness, Business.

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File photos

The 22nd Annual New York Maple Weekend celebration will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 18,19, 25 and 26, at participating maple sugarhouses throughout Wyoming County. The Maple industry in the county is large and thriving, and even after this mild winter there is maple syrup in production.

Bring your whole family for an educational and fun experience. Learn how pure maple syrup is made from the sap of sugar maple trees. Tapping demonstrations, sap house tours, sugar-bush tours, and wagon rides- see, taste, and smell the maple-making process.  

Participating businesses include:

    • Merle Maple Farm, 1884 Route 98, Attica;

    • Hidden Valley Animal Adventure, 2887 Royce Road, Varysburg;

    • Beaver Meadow Audubon, 1610 Welch Road, North Java;

    • Maple Moon Farms, 1058 Attica Gulf Road, Attica;

    • Sage Family Maple, 4449 Sage Road, Warsaw;

    • Sweet Time Maple, 5680 Webster Road, Wyoming;

    • Wolcott Maple Syrup Products & Equipment, 1247 Dale Road, Dale (Wyoming);

    • Bray Farms, 1597 Bray Road, Arcade;

    • Georges Maple Products, 1766 Route 77, Strykersville;

    • Kibler Maple Products, 1802 Perry Road, North Java;

    • Kirsch’s Maple, Route 77, Varysburg;

    • Mohler Maple Products, 1627 Route 19, Wyoming; 

    • Over the Hill Maple, 2089 Maxon Road, Varysburg;

    • Siler’s Sugar Shanty, 2401 Pee Dee Road, North Java; and

    • Sudzy’s Purely Maple, 1076 Maxon Road, Attica.

For a complete list of activities, pancake breakfasts, and other happenings on Maple Weekend click here.

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Monday, March 13, 2017 at 5:47 pm

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From left: Lindsay Chamberlain, of Wyoming, representing Collegiate Cornell Farm Bureau; Ben Restivo, Future Farmers of America member, and Brian Parker, representing Wyoming County Farm Bureau, with Sen. Patrick Gallivan.

Press release (photo submitted):

Members from the Wyoming County Farm Bureau spent two days in Albany last week, meeting with lawmakers to highlight the organization’s state public policy priorities for the year.

The county Farm Bureau hosted a table at the Taste of New York Reception for state lawmakers, commissioners, and staff, which featured local farm products. Members also participated in the annual Lobby Day on Tuesday where they met with both their local senator and assemblyman as well as New York City lawmakers that the county Farm Bureau adopted.

At State Capitol, county members advocated for a number of priorities this year, including securing a refundable investment tax credit for farmers. With 2015 farm income down nearly 20 percent to $5.3 billion across the state, according to the latest figures from the National Agriculture Statistics Service, tools need to be in place to help farmers weather the downturn. This initiative would incentivize farm investment to meet the needs of global competition.

Additionally, advocates pushed to double the minimum wage tax credit from $30 million to $60 million. The first step of the minimum wage hike climbed at the beginning of the year on its way to $15 an hour for farms on Long Island and $12.50 for Upstate farmers. New York Farm Bureau (NYFB) led the way in opposition to the hike last year, resulting in a $250 tax credit per employee for this first year of the increase. That will cover only a small fraction of what it will cost family farms to implement the wage hike.

State funding for critical farm programs is another top priority for Farm Bureau. Governor Andrew Cuomo included a number of things in his budget plan which would help agriculture in the state. This includes funding for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPA), which will assist farms with water quality, conservation and farmland protection programs, as well as necessary investments into animal health programs. 

Farm Bureau asked lawmakers to restore funding for promotion and research programs that also benefit agriculture. NYFB also supports the governor’s proposed $2 billion clean water infrastructure program that includes $70 million for nutrient management and conservation programs to reduce farm runoff.

The Farm to Food Bank bill is another top priority for NYFB members who have seen the governor veto the popular legislation the past two years. Members asked their lawmakers to include the tax credit that encourages greater fresh food donations to regional food banks and local food pantries to be included in their one-house budget bills.

These priorities are based on member-approved public policies that originate every year at the county Farm Bureau level and are passed by the full delegate body at NYFB’s State Annual Meeting in December.

In addition to advocating for priorities with lawmakers, county Farm Bureau members also participated in a special panel discussion with the commissioners from the departments of Agriculture and Markets, Environmental Conservation, and Labor.

The Wyoming County Farm Bureau is dedicated to advocate for public policies that will not only benefit agriculture but support rural communities as a whole.

NYFB is the State’s largest agricultural lobbying/trade organization and is “the voice of New York agriculture.” It is dedicated to solving the economic and public policy issues challenging the agricultural community.

Friday, March 10, 2017 at 6:53 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, events, Agri-Palooza, Business, agribusiness, Castile.

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Press release (file photo).

The seventh annual Agri-Palooza 2017 will be held at Southview Farms, 5073 Upper Reservation Road, Castile. It is sponsored by Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism and the Wyoming County Farm Bureau and highlights agriculture in Wyoming County. The public is invited to discover, experience, and enjoy farming and all that it entails by spending the day on a working farm. 

The free event will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 4.

Southview Farms got its start in 1940 when James VanArsdale III  purchased a small farm in Castile. Today, it has become one of Wyoming County’s leading dairy producers. 

In 1964, Dick Popp joined the operation as a partner. Following his death in 1997, current General Manager John Noble joined the business. Jamie VanArsdale IV along with his wife, Margaret, continue to live and work on site. 

Cows are milked three times a day at two locations by the 47 employees.. In addition to taking care of more than 2,000 cows and 1,600 young stock, they harvest more than 3,100 acres of corn, alfalfa and wheat.

Agri-Palooza features educational displays, farm tours, and children’s games and activities. Attendees will also see the variety of Wyoming County products on both display and for purchase. 

For more information and updates follow Agri-Palooza on Facebook.

The Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism is the leading membership organization for local and regional growth, advocacy, and connection for Wyoming County’s business community. Its mission is to serve the members and community; promote and grow the area’s economic and tourism assets; and work collaboratively to create an environment that leads to the success and economic prosperity of Wyoming County. 

For more information or to become a member call (585) 786-0307 or visit  www.wycochamber.org

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at 9:59 am

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The Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism announces that Merle Maple Farm of Attica, has been named the 2017 Agribusiness of the year. The annual award was presented at the 10th Annual Pride of Agriculture dinner Saturday at the North Java Fire Department, Java.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, we were very pleased to present the Agribusiness award to Lyle and Dottie Merle and Merle Maple Farm for their commitment to Wyoming County’s agriculture industry and their support of the community,” said Chamber President Scott Gardner. “The Merle’s are a strong voice for the maple industry, dedicated to education and their craft, and are outstanding agricultural ambassadors for Wyoming County.”

In his opening remarks, Gardner touched upon the legacy those in agriculture leave.

“In that word are meanings like family, tradition, commitment, passion, and an eye to the future. The legacy is borne out of the blood, sweat and tears of our pasts, the hard decisions and the growing pains, achievements of innovation, and knowing that you’re doing this for posterity.

“To leave a legacy you have to love what you do and instill that in your children and grandchildren by fostering pride, purpose, and ownership, through dedication and a belief in the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ agriculture is important.”

The annual agribusiness award is given to a business that exemplifies the following criteria: contributions to the economic vitality and quality of life of Wyoming County, capital investments, business expansions, job growth, community involvement, and their contributions that strengthen their industry sector.

The Pride of Agriculture dinner also featured the annual presentation of the coveted Pride of Agriculture -- Good Neighbor Award, given to Charles and Velma Seewaldt, of Varysburg, and the new Friend of Wyoming County Agriculture award given to Jodi Smith, of Arcade. Both awards are given by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County, the Wyoming County Farm Bureau, and the Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism offices. 

See related: Merle Maple Farm awarded Agribusiness of the Year

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Monday, March 6, 2017 at 5:16 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, news, mAPLE, Attica, Business, agribusiness.

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A reporter caught them at lunchtime and with the graciousness of those accustomed to a tight-knit rural community, Lyle and Dottie Merle spent the next couple of hours chatting about their maple farm.

During the annual Ag Awards dinner Saturday evening, Lyle and Dottie were the recipients of the Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism Agribusiness of the Year Award for 2017.

“The annual agribusiness award is given to a business that exemplifies the following criteria: contributions to the economic vitality and quality of life of Wyoming County, capital investments, business expansions, job growth, community involvement, and their contributions that strengthen their industry sector,” said Chamber President Scott Gardner.

Merle (pronounced Mer-Lee) Maple Farm began around the 1870s with the “farm up the hill,” Lyle says.

The farm “up the hill” was located on Merle Road off Merkle Road in Attica. Although the farm was lost during the depression, their current farm, on Route 98 in Attica, well, “technically the Town of Bennington, with an Attica address, but with a Varysburg phone number,” has been in use since then. And it’s a good thing too, Lyle had said, because “fortunate for us, sap runs down – his family hails from both France and England – he is the fourth generation, of the six generations of Merles involved in agriculture, on the maple side of farming.

“When I was still in high school, my dad gave me the option of going to school (college) or continue on the farm,” Lyle said. “I opted to continue the tradition of making syrup.”

As with many of those who are self-employed, Lyle went to the “school of hard knocks,” learning the family business by virtue of growing up with parents who have carved out a niche by the sweat of their brow and determination.

“My dad was quite creative and innovative and involved in the cutting edge of the industry. I guess I inherited that from him.”

Lyle not only owns and operates the maple farm, he is also on the Cornell University advisory committee for New York State, as well as a delegate for the State’s International Maple Syrup Institute.

Merle Maple Farm has received a number of Best in Show ribbons for its maple syrup at the New York State Fair. And it was one of the very first maple producers to be listed with the Taste of New York tourism campaign, which featured their products at Taste of NY kiosks up and down the NYS Thruway.

Additionally, the Merles received the Maple Producer of the Year award in 2007. In 1988, Lyle’s father, Arthur, was inducted into the Maple Hall of Fame, and received the Hubbell Award by the New York State Department of Ag and Markets, which acknowledged their work to further education of maple sugaring.

Maple season typically begins in January with the season occasionally lasting until April 15, but is entirely weather dependent. While tapping can be done anytime the temperature rises above freezing, it’s the overnight temperatures that ensure a lengthy season. When it freezes overnight the tree draws up the sap from the roots. Anytime you have cold weather you can tap, but it has to be consistently cold at least a week or the syrup has a different flavor. Depending on the type of weather you have that season can also change the flavor of the syrup. Once the weather consistently stays above freezing both during the day and overnight, tapping is finished.

“The season is typically 25 days, but in those 25 days it’s pretty close to a 24-hour operation.”

When the Merle family began tapping, they never had more than 1,000 buckets to catch the sap and they used horse-drawn carriages to collect the buckets. That all changed with they began to use a tubbing system in 1958. 

About 10 years ago about a quart of sap a day was harvested from the trees, which produced about 4,200 gallons of syrup a day. To further increase production, they now use a reverse-osmosis process and vacuum pumps to extract and process the sap. 

The Merles have approximately 17,000 taps and at least 100 miles of line on the 400-acre farm. Of those taps, 4,500 run directly into the tap house, the remaining run into holding tanks scattered throughout the property. The sap is then collected and brought to the storage tanks at the tap house. 

Generally speaking, it takes approximately 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. On any given day, the farm produces two gallons of syrup a day per tap, which equates to approximately 20,000 gallons of sap a day to produce around 400 gallons of syrup a day. That’s about 8,500 gallons of syrup in one season.

In addition to the syrup production, the farm also makes sugar, spreads, candies, gummy leaves, and even barbecue sauce. To make the value added products it takes approximately 400 gallons of syrup to make sugar, 800 gallons for the maple spread, and 1,600 gallons for the candies. 

When asked how they keep up with production, Lyle’s answer was an easy “Well, there’s 24 hours in a day…” 

Operating one’s own business is no easy task, but they “do what it takes to get the job done.” With 15 employees – mostly part-time – Lyle says a typical day begins around 6:30 a.m.. And while his 102-year-old mother, Florence, still gets up and helps when she can, he said – with tongue-in-cheek – “since she turned 100, it was tough to get a full day's work out of her.”

Although working in the woods is taxing, Lyle said he has no desire to retire and “shuffle cards in Florida.”

“Many people may think we (business owners) only work half a day. And really, that’s true, it just depends on which 12 hours it is. Many people don’t get the opportunity to be a part of a family business, I’ve been fortunate in that department.” 

One of the most rewarding experiences Lyle has with working and owning the Maple Farm is that he is able to create new products and able to keep ahead of the industry. He also enjoys the value of Maple Weekend, which he says he is able to educate the general public about the maple industry and how it has evolved over the years.

A few of the innovative changes he has made to the business is the use of UV lighting which sterilizes the sap to allows them to keep the sap longer before processing without losing the quality of the product. The advances in how the sap is boiled has also allowed the company to produce more with using less energy. For example, instead of using wood to boil the sap they use fuel oil. Even with the use of fuel oil, Lyle has developed a way to use less fuel oil for boiling now than was used in years past.

“It used to take four gallons of fuel oil for every gallon of syrup made. Now it takes one gallon of fuel oil for processing. We are doing our part to be green and produce for efficiency.”

itstheir consumption of fuel oil, they also replace trees that are too old or have been damaged in some way for use. Additionally, Lyle “thins” the woods to allow for better growth of mature trees. A tree has to be about 30 years old for it to be tapped. Some of the trees he currently taps are around 100 years old. However, even with the thinning of the woods, he is conscientious in replacing the trees he removes with new ones. 

Sprawling over the land across the road, one can notice several dozen saplings planted for use for future generations, and as he says he likes “watching the trees grow.”

“What can I say, I like to plant trees. They don’t argue and you don’t have to send them to college. Some of those trees will be around 100 years after we are gone.”

In addition to developing better practices to increase productivity, the couple has developed a barbecue sauce recipe with no corn syrup in it. Dottie is certified to make acidified products – barbecue and hot sauce fall into this category.

Ever thinking of new products to make, the Merle’s decided to try their hand at making gummy leaves. 

“The first batch didn’t have the right consistency,” Dottie said. “We needed to find a way to make the product not quite as sticky.”

Working with students from the food science class at Cornell University, they have developed a better consistency for the product.

“Farmers don’t do it all by themselves,” Lyle said. “It also takes engineers that have developed the technology to help us advance in our field.”

Maple syrup is only produced in the northeastern part of the United States and Canada. And while there is a bit of “friendly competition” between the States and its northern counterpart, the demand for maple products has a growth rate of about 10 percent per year.

“Fifty years ago it was a 24 million pound worldwide market for maple products. Today, it has grown to about 170 million pounds,” Lyle said. “We in the industry feel that we can grow to 300 million pounds worldwide. People in Quebec (Canada), use maple products seven times more than we do here and live three years longer. I just think we need to use more maple products.

“We work to educate the consumer, because when you grow up in the field, it becomes second nature.”

As Lyle says, our customers don’t necessarily have to be our neighbors, a developed area to a farmer is an acre of woods or corn or wheat, because cities, well, they are “customer storage units.”

“I was told way back when that Western New York was a leader in agriculture. The reason we are leading is because we work with our neighbors and share ideas and knowledge. In a conversation, you always get something out of it. You may be giving away information, but you’re always getting something back.”

Lyle and Dottie have both contributed many hours and a great deal of maple products at various conferences and workshops, with the aim of helping other maple producers learn to make better maple, create a better value added maple product, and even the marketing and improvement of a maple display.

Last fall Lyle and Dottie hosted a value-added workshop at their maple kitchens, with the help of Eileen Downs and NYS Maple Specialist Steve Childs. Several batches of syrup were cooked for melt-in-your-mouth maple sugar pieces, including cinnamon flavored and cinnamon cream, and granulated maple syrup.

“A group came from Michigan to learn how to make a maple product. And the universal comment was that ‘no one would ever show us how to do this back home.’ But that’s the way it is here, not just in the maple business, but across agriculture in all of Western New York,” Lyle said. “If you get into other areas of the state, you may find a different view, but here, we believe in all boats rising.”

Even though Lyle and his brothers are no longer in business together – they had a combined farm that included some crops and cows – they still all support each other. During maple weekend, a patron may find at least 30 members of the Merle family working in some capacity to assist the 3,000 people that visit the farm during the event. And even though some of those who help during the two-day affair aren’t blood related, to the Merles, they are still family.

Maple Weekend will be held March 18 and 19, and 25 and 26.

For more information about Merle Maple Farm visit http://www.merlemaple.com/ or their Facebook page.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at 12:30 pm

Press release:

Legislation to move the H-2A Agricultural Visa program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture has been introduced by Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21). 

The Family Farm Relief Act of 2017 aims to better meet the unique labor needs of farmers and agricultural businesses.

"The last thing our farmers need is for the federal government to make it harder for them to make ends meet," Collins said. "Access to a willing and available labor force is absolutely critical for Western New York's agriculture community, particularly our dairy farmers. I am proud to join my colleague Congresswoman Stefanik in introducing this common-sense legislation to streamline and improve the H-2A visa program."

The Family Farm Relief Act of 2017 takes practical measures such as allowing visa applicants to fill out H-2A applications on paper or online, requiring a user-friendly online system, and ending burdensome requirements on advertising and prevailing practice surveys.

"Agriculture is the backbone of our North Country economy and I am pleased to introduce this important bill to address the labor shortages facing our farmers," Stefanik said. "When I travel the district speaking with our farmers, I often hear about how unnecessary delays in worker visas lead to difficulty meeting production goals. This common-sense legislation simply puts the H-2A Agricultural Visa Program in the hands of those who best understand the specific needs of our farms."

The current program is unworkable, especially for the dairy farms across the nation. The H-2A visa program does not currently provide a category for year-round livestock workers, including dairy. This has caused difficulties for dairy farms that need employees year-round. This legislation addresses this oversight, by creating a category for these workers.

"Immigration reform that allows for both seasonal and year round farm labor has been a longtime priority for New York Farm Bureau. For too long, the federal H2A guest visa program has been cumbersome, prone to delays and too rigid to fit the needs of both farmers and their employees. We thank Congresswoman Stefanik for taking the lead on the The Family Farm Relief Act that will provide real reform and address a critical issue in New York's diverse agricultural community," said New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher.

Additionally, the legislation also allows farm cooperatives and other agricultural associations to apply for workers for their members, makes the program more workable for dairy and other livestock operations, and requires reporting to Congress if delays occur in the H-2A visa application process.

Click here for full bill text.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 at 4:06 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, Perry, agriculture, agribusiness, farming.

Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma) says $10.1 million has been awarded to nine projects in the Finger Lakes Region to help protect 5,500 acres of property through the State’s Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program. Recipients include at-risk farmland in the towns of Perry, Leicester, Avon and Groveland, which will receive more than $6.2 million in grants to help maintain the land for agricultural purposes and protect it from development. 

“Farming is vital to our local and statewide economy,” Gallivan said. “By protecting these lands, we are ensuring that agriculture remains New York’s number one industry. We are also investing in future generations by making sure that farmers have the natural resources needed to produce food and products that New York families depend on.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Farmland Protection program, which is part of New York State's Environmental Protection Fund.  

Grant recipients include:

    • Genesee Valley Conservancy, towns of Leicester and Perry -- $1,988,110. This land trust will permanently protect Old Acres Farm, a 1,294-acre dairy operation located in Livingston and Wyoming counties. Old Acres Farm contains 39 percent prime and 27 percent statewide important soils. The farm is the first in New York to install a system that recycles its manure into bedding for its cows; doing so has eliminated the need for the farm to purchase any materials such as sand or sawdust for bedding. The landowners are contributing 12.5 percent of total project costs;

    • Genesee Valley Conservancy, Town of Leicester – $1,970,195;

    • Genesee Valley Conservancy, Town of Groveland – $1,977,545; and
    • Genesee Valley Conservancy, Town of Avon – $339,715.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets administers the Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program. Municipalities, counties, soil and water conservation districts and not-for-profit conservation organizations, or land trusts, were eligible to apply for individual grants. Farms protected under the program remain taxable.

Since 1996, the state has awarded nearly $238 million for farmland protection projects, assisting local partners in 30 counties. To date, 236 projects have closed, protecting in perpetuity, more than 59,800 acres of farmland. 

Monday, May 9, 2016 at 8:36 am
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, agriculture, agribusiness, Warsaw, Business.

Press release:

The Wyoming County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) recently announced the availability of a new low-interest loan fund for agriculture, new agriculture technology, agriculture diversification or food processing. 

The loan fund, known as Grow our Agricultural Industry Now (GAIN), is a gap loan fund that will subordinate to a lead lender for capital projects. Loans ranging from $25,000 to $200,000 will be available for up to a 10-year term at an interest rate of 1 percent.  

Priority will be given to ag-related projects that demonstrate:

    • Job creation/ job retention;

    • Farm diversification including: value-added agriculture products; farm-based retail/wholesale (farm markets, wineries, distilleries);

    • Investment in new technology including

        – renewable energy projects

        – production, harvesting and processing equipment;

    • An increase in the amount of land for productive agricultural use;

    • Growth in net revenue for agricultural enterprises;

    • Leveraging other sources of funding;

    • Renewable energy applications; and 

    • Projects that produce secondary economic development multipliers (e.g. other business expansions).

The GAIN program is a project that received a grant funded by NYS Empire State Development (ESD) for the Finger Lakes Region that includes Wyoming, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, and Yates counties. The Region contains three of the top five, and five of the top 10 agricultural counties in New York State and is considered the “bread basket” of the state. The diversity of the region’s agricultural industry is considerable with economic strength in such sectors as dairy, yogurt, apples, stone fruit, cash crops, grapes, wineries and more. GAIN is for farms and support businesses so they can continually innovate, expand and diversify in order to thrive.  

The Genesee Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council is administering the grant project on behalf of each county’s economic development organization. Each county will have a share of the $3 million based on the 2012 Agriculture Census. Wyoming County has the largest sales of agriculture commodities in the region will have access to nearly $600,000.

For more information about the GAIN Loan Program contact IDA Executive Director Jim Pierce at  (585) 786-3764 or via e-mail: jpierce@wycoida.org.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Press release:

Small business owners and family farmers joined together yesterday at a press conference in Batavia to ask state lawmakers to oppose the $15 minimum wage. The April 1 budget deadline is just days away, and the coalition remains united in its efforts to defeat what will be a tough blow to local employers.

The consequences of a 67-percent wage hike are far reaching. The small businesses shared their personal stories of what this will mean to each of them, including the decisions that will have to be made to compensate for the major increase in labor costs. A reduction in the number of employees and an increase in automation are on the table should this proposal pass in Albany.

The impacts will be felt statewide. A recent report conducted by the former director of the Congressional Budget Office, found that at least 200,000 jobs will be lost across the state. A separate independent analysis by Farm Credit East estimates a $15 minimum wage in New York State would cost farmers between $387 and $622 million in 2021 at the peak of the wage rollout and nearly 2,000 farms would no longer be profitable. Businesses that can’t make money, don’t stay in business.

Because of the statewide ramifications, today’s event coincided with more than a dozen others happening in communities across New York. It is a final push to make the compelling point to lawmakers that there are serious consequences, from job loss to higher consumer prices, should New York pass a $15 minimum wage. The small business owners asked their local lawmakers to vote no on $15.

“Businesses will be forced to raise prices to compensate. As a farmer, I cannot do this. I am a price taker not a price maker. This will make me uncompetitive with surrounding states, like Michigan and Pennsylvania, whose labor costs will be half what they are in New York. This will put some farms out of business or force them to move to a different state which will hurt our economy,” said Pat McCormick, NYFB District 2 Director and dairy farmer from Java Center.

Monday, March 7, 2016 at 11:07 am
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, agribusiness, Gainesville.

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Press release:

The Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism announced that the Marquart Companies from Gainesville, have been named the 2016 Agribusiness of the Year. The annual award was presented at the Ninth Annual Pride of Agriculture dinner March 5.

Marquart’s Farm originated as a family owned dairy farm in 1943, farming roughly 120 acres. Today, there are seven companies that have evolved over several years including: 

    • Marquart Brothers: Established in 1967 as a cash crop farm with 7,000 acres now under cultivation, growing beans, peas, potatoes, sweet corn and wheat; 

    • TJ Marquart and Sons, Inc.: Established in 1980. The local and long-distance trucking business serves the Northeastern United States with a fleet of 50 tractors and 150 trailers;

    • Marquart Products: Established in 1985, buys and sells food-grade agriculture products, sawdust and paper bedding, and lime;

    • Marquart Dairy: Established in 1998, milks 250 cows;

    • Marquart Realty, and Miller Marquart Lumber Company; and

    • Marquart Equipment Repair and Sales: Established in 2008; They repair heavy trucks and equipment, and providing road and inspection services.

Marquart’s is currently finishing a multimillion dollar expansion to the business by increasing the main shop in Gainesville to 25,000 square feet.

The newly launched New York Chips line of potato chips, found at Wegmans stores across the Northeastern part of the country, is their most recent endeavor.

“Tom Marquart and his wife Sandy built a strong foundation over many years and laid a ground work for the businesses of today,” said Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism President Scott Gardner. “Even though Sandy passed away several years ago, her presence is felt and memory lives on. Tom is particularly proud to have his sons Adam, Aaron, and Alex working in all aspects of the business with him.”

After going to college, each of the sons returned home and are now the third generation to be in the family business. Tom is also joined by his brother Ed who is involved in various operations. Other key employees are Mark Davis, Craig Smith and Corey Meyer.

Tom Marquart has always welcomed the Leadership Wyoming classes to the businesses. He makes the time to personally walk the groups through the facilities and gives his straightforward no-nonsense talk about the potato industry and other aspects of running the business. You’ll also see the Marquart team joining in at Agri-Palooza, working with the Farm Bureau to provide chips for the event. 

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, we are very pleased to present the Agribusiness Award to the Marquart Companies for their commitment to Wyoming County’s agriculture industry and their support of the community,” Gardner said. “They take great pride in their quality products and customer service, and we recognize the value of this company to the community. They certainly meet the award criteria and we thank them for growing the business here, creating good jobs, and providing a high level of excellence within their industry.” 

This annual agribusiness award is given to a company that exemplifies: 

    • Contributions to the economic vitality and quality of life of Wyoming County;

    • Capital investments;

    • Business expansions;

    • Job growth;

    • Community involvement; or 

    • Their contributions that strengthen their industry sector.

The Pride of Agriculture Dinner also featured the annual presentation of the Pride of Agriculture – Good Neighbor Award. This is a joint award given by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County, the Wyoming County Farm Bureau, and the Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism. 

See related: It's a New York kind of chip

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 3:20 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, agriculture, agribusiness, farming.

Press release:

The New York State Senate recently passed legislation to help provide additional economic development resources for farmers. The bill (S2250), co-sponsored by Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, (R-C-I, Elma), allows Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) to expand their support of New York’s agricultural economy by making technical and financial assistance available to farmers.

“We need to do all we can to support business in New York State, including our farmers,” Gallivan said. “IDAs have an opportunity to provide farmers and those directly associated with growing the food we depend on with the support they need to succeed.”

Under current law, IDAs can issue loans and provide technical support to manufacturers, processors, and those who warehouse agricultural products. However, IDAs do not offer those services to businesses that directly grow, harvest, or collect agricultural products. Expanding the authorization of already existing IDAs will help promote job growth in industries such as fruit cultivation, raising of beef and other animals, and additional agricultural pursuits.

This legislation continues the Senate’s commitment to keeping New York’s agriculture industry thriving. Earlier this month, Gallivan and his colleagues unveiled their 2016 Planting Seeds initiative. Planting Seeds builds upon key elements of the successful Young Farmers and Grown in New York programs.

It would: restore funding to 40 agricultural programs that were cut in the 2016-17 Executive Budget; provide research, education, and marketing assistance; create new tax and regulatory relief; advance initiatives to expand markets, promote quality, and increase food safety; and create job opportunities for veterans and others interested in farming.

The bill will be sent to the Assembly for consideration.

Monday, February 22, 2016 at 2:29 pm

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Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County (CCE) and Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan's office, are working together to help promote locally grown products, at no cost to the seller. The Wyoming County "Eat Fresh, Buy Local" (EFBL) brochure is currently being updated. This brochure is a resource guide to find locally grown or produced agriculture products and agritourism venues in the county. The 2015 guide has been enormously popular both inside and outside of the county. This year, CCE is adding additional content to incentivize more community members to buying locally produced, raised, and crafted products.

The EFBL brochure is distributed at the CCE office, on its Web site, at community and regional events and meetings, as well as through the Wyoming County Chamber & Tourism office and Gallivan's office. 

The guide offers listings in baked goods; bedding plants/seeds/herbs; berries; breweries/wineries/cideries; community supported agriculture; dairy/cheeses; farm crafts; fresh eggs; flowers/trees; honey/honey products; maple products; meats/poultry; pumpkins/gourds/Indian corn; restaurant/deli; tree fruits/cider; and vegetables/sweet corn.

To participate in this advertising opportunity click here. The contact information at the top of the form is for CCE’s information only and will not be included in the brochure. Participants will receive 10 Eat Fresh, Buy Local brochures to share with their customers.

Complete and return the form by March 7 to: CCE-Wyoming County, Attention: Eat Fresh, Buy Local!, 401 N. Main St., Warsaw, NY 14569.

For more information call Sarah Carlson at (585) 786-2251 or e-mail sac347@cornell.edu.

Monday, February 15, 2016 at 11:58 am
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, agriculture, agribusiness, farming.

Press release:

Senators Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma) and Patty Ritchie, (R-C, Heuvelton) recently unveiled their 2016 Planting Seeds legislative plan to support New York’s family farmers. Planting Seeds recognizes the economic impact of the state’s agricultural workforce and includes proposals to boost the agriculture economy. There are approximately 100,000 people in the state that work in agriculture.

“Agriculture is a $5-billion industry in New York and the Senate is committed to supporting hard-working farmers across the state,” Gallivan said. “These initiatives will benefit new and existing family farms, protect thousands of agriculture-related jobs, secure a safe and healthy food supply and further grow this vital sector of our economy.”

The initiatives would: provide research, education, and marketing assistance; create new tax and regulatory relief; advance initiatives to expand markets, promote quality, and increase food safety; and create job opportunities for veterans and others interested in farming.

“New York farms—and New York farmers—are the backbone of our rural communities and economies,” said Ritchie, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “We’re planting seeds to support the hard work of our farm families and grow the future of agriculture in New York State.”

Planting Seeds’ initiatives include:

Restoring funding cuts

    • Since 2011, Senate Republicans have succeeded in restoring more than $32 million in budget cuts for agriculture funding. The 2016-17 Executive Budget proposes to cut funding for 42 different programs in the largest single-year reduction in agriculture funding in five years. Senate Republicans will prioritize full restoration of these cuts, and work to achieve record levels of funding to support family farmers.

Strengthening farmers’ bottom lines

    • Estate Tax Reform – speed up the full phase-in of the estate tax reform enacted in 2014 as part of the Senate’s Young Farmers initiative to allow farmers to claim the federal exclusion amount; and

    • Farmer Personal Income Tax (PIT) Exemption – reduce taxes on family farmers by raising the PIT exemption for small and mid-sized family farms from the current 5 percent to 20 percent, and making even more farmers eligible for the exemption.

Supporting research    

    • Restore cuts to Cornell University’s important agriculture-related research and study programs to keep it as the nation’s premier center for agricultural learning and research; and

    • Increase state funding for Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to meet the growing demand from students for agriculture and veterinary instruction programs. Increasing support for these education programs will help hold the line on rising college costs and student debt.

“I am so pleased to learn of the Senator Majority’s initiative to help grow the agricultural community in New York,” said Assistant Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University Julie Suarez. “We are poised for incredible growth in farming and food production if we can simply take advantage of the sometimes insurmountable opportunities that exist today.

"By providing support for the critical partnership between New York State and the Land Grant mission at Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Senate is showing incredible leadership for the research based knowledge that gives New York’s farm families an economic advantage in today’s marketplace.”

Protecting food and human health 

    • The Senate supports programs that aim to detect and prevent the spread of diseases in plants and animals. It will also seek to increase funding for research into the prevention and spread of avian disease (“bird flu”); and salmonella Dublin, a virus that affects dairy cows and has sickened humans who drink raw milk. Additional funding would expand Cornell’s research into the recent honeybee die-off, which is critical to crop pollination. It will also expand programs that encourage farmers to reduce pesticide use;

    • Support the replacement of aging and outdated lab facilities. State funds would help leverage additional USDA support for a new lab to continue Cornell’s food and safety and research programs; and

    • Increase funding to efforts that stop the spread of wildlife rabies from Canada and across New York State. Additionally, it will provide reimbursement to local public health services for costly human post-exposure rabies preventive treatments.

Encouraging innovation

    • Restore budget funding for a third round of Beginning Farmer grants. The grants were created as part of the Senate’s 2014 Young Farmers initiative to encourage interest in agriculture and help protect the future of family farming. Already, nearly two dozen farms from across the state are benefitting from the first round of $15,000 – $50,000 grants for the purchase of seed, equipment and supplies. A second round of grants will be announced in the near future;

    • Provide new funding for established farmers to help them install innovative new technology to make their farms more efficient and profitable;

    • Increase funding for local cooperative extensions. They are often the first point of contact for experienced and beginning farmers in finding solutions to problems and challenges on the farm;

    • Increase investment in FarmNet. It provides services and assistance to farmers, including business and farm transition planning; and

    • Help dairy farmers who are dealing with price volatility by increasing funding for programs that help find ways to improve profits.

Supporting agriculture education

    • Extend the Beginning Farmer Student Loan Forgiveness Program to include students who are pursuing degrees in agriculture education. The program was a part of the Senate’s 2014 Young Farmers initiative to provide loan forgiveness for beginning farmers to encourage more young people to consider careers in agriculture;

    • Continued support for the high-school based FFA programs (formerly known as Future Farmers of America);

    • Create a new North Country Ag Academy. Modeled on a similar program in Western New York, the academy would provide hands-on learning experiences for aspiring young farmers to learn and practice the agricultural arts, and prepare them for future careers; and

    • Establish an agriculture management program at SUNY’s Canton College, which can serve as a lower-cost alternative to four-year agriculture degree programs. Originally founded as the School of Agriculture at St. Lawrence, the college eliminated most agriculture-related degrees in the 1990s. The Senate would support the provision of staff to provide courses and real work experience allowing students to study marketing, technology, and other practical skills necessary to survive and thrive in the farming industry.

Assisting our veterans

    • New funding for an innovative proposal by Cornell’s Small Farms Program to help establish up to five veteran-owned small farms through a ”first-in-the-nation” pilot program. Returning veterans and those seeking a career change could use benefits they’ve earned under the GI Bill for training and expertise to begin their own small business. In turn, these sites would be available to train additional veteran-farmers in future years.

Planting Seeds builds upon key elements of the Young Farmers and Grown in New York programs that have been enacted over the last five years. In addition to reductions in broad-based tax rates and a statewide property tax cap, an initiative to limit increases in agricultural land assessments has already saved farmers more than $11 million in its first year. 

Other measures have:

    • Reduced the estate tax to help preserve the tradition of family farming;

    • Connected young farmers with grants to help them start a new business; and

    • Reduced educational costs for those interested in beginning a farming career.

Gallivan and Ritchie are both members of the Senate Republican Conference.

Friday, February 12, 2016 at 5:41 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, farms, dairy, agribusiness, organic farming.

Press release:

The New York Organic Dairy Program (NYODP) has partnered with the New York Farm Viability Institute to make grant funding available for organic dairy producers. The funding allows farmers to participate in the Cornell Organic Dairy Farm Business Summary (DFBS) program and select a project for immediate attention through a modified Dairy Profit Team approach.

Farms currently participating in the program and those that have not completed a DFBS before are both eligible for funding. Priority for grants will be given to certified organic dairies, however, farms in transition to become organic are encouraged to apply.

Farmers may first apply for funds to:
    • Work with a qualified farm business consultant to upload the operating and financial information for the individual farm into the Cornell Organic Dairy Farm Business Summary; or
    • If the farmer has completed a 2016 Summary, to work with the consultant to review the data to select a short-term project that will benefit the farm. Varying levels of funding are available for this initial step.

Funding is also available for farmers to work with a consultant on a project that will help the business better meet its goals. Applicants for a project grant must first complete a 2016 DFBS.

Farmers requesting project funds will be required to work with NYODP to document their desired goal and projects must be achievable within 18 months of the formation of the consultant team. Examples of projects include, but are not limited to, developing a business plan, enhancing transitioning practices, and constructing facilities. NYODP will provide up to $1,500 for the consultant and team to complete its project work.

The Cornell Organic Dairy Farm Business Summary is a confidential program that collects operating and financial information from an individual farm. The summary is used to identify areas where the farm is doing well and areas that need improvement. The summary also helps farmers analyze if the farm is meeting the financial and long-term goals of the business. If enough similar farms participate, the Cornell Organic Dairy Farm Business Summary will create benchmarks against which the owners of farms of similar size can measure their performance.

NYODP Manager Fay Benson will assist farmers in identifying a qualified farm business consultant for each of the two levels of funding. Consultants who have already agreed to work with this modified Organic Dairy Profit Team approach are:

 • Klaas Martens, co-founder of New York Organic Certified, Penn Yan. He is a pioneer in organic field crop production and an advisor on general organic dairy management;
 • Tom Kilcer, Advanced Ag Systems, Kinderhook; with a specialty in crop rotations specifically fit to an individual farm to provide the best possible forage for dairy animals and livestock;
 • Sarah Flack, Sarah Flack Consulting, Enosburg Falls, Vt., working with grazers to improve the performance of farm pastures and livestock production; and
 • Consultants in the existing Dairy Farm Business Summary network.

Guidelines and application form for the NYODP consultant and project grants are posted at http://blogs.cornell.edu/organicdairyinitiative/. Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis until funding is spent. 

For more information, contact Fay Benson at (607) 391-2669 or afb3@cornell.edu.

This grant opportunity is funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute through its Dairy Profit Team program.

Friday, January 22, 2016 at 4:19 pm
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, Business, agribusiness, agriculture, Gainesville.

After years of planning and development, and having the foresight to construct an entire building just for the idea, the final product hit local stores Thursday. 

New York Chips. 

There are three ingredients, all of which can be easily pronounced: Potatoes. Avocado Oil. Sea Salt. And, the potatoes are grown right here in Wyoming County. A “Pride of New York” -- as the bag boasts, but more so, the pride of Marquart Bros. Farms.

“I don’t know what is going to happen,” said farm owner Adam Marquart. “This is a total crapshoot. We have no clue how it’s going to turn out.”

And as Marquart put it, they’ve “made mountains out of mole hills” getting the product just right.

“We spent the last six to eight months on the bag, in tweaking the seasoning, tweaking the oil temperature, tweaking the cook time; we’ve beat ourselves up over all of these stupid things we could control. But right now, it’s out of our control. We put our best foot forward. We made the best product that we could. We grew the best potatoes that we could. We did everything that we could to support it and put it out into the world to see what happens. It’s almost kind of a relief right now because...even though it’s exciting, I feel like we did the best we could and whatever happens happens.”

When Marquart’s grandfather first started the farm, it was strictly dairy. In 1972 when his dad and uncle took it over, they made it a potato farm. According to Marquart, his grandpa thought they were crazy.

“He was probably right,” he said. “But...my dad and uncle started farming the potatoes, we had contracts like everyone else and the farm has grown over the generations.”

Although Frito-Lay is one of the largest chip makers in the world, they do not do business with any New York State potato farmers. According to Marquart, they can buy potatoes cheaper elsewhere, yet they fry in Binghamton. Marquart Bros. does, however, supply potatoes to Pennsylvania-based Wise Foods, Inc., but at the end of the day, they can’t take all of their potatoes.

More chips in N.Y. spuds 

“Potatoes grown in N.Y. have a high fibrous content,” he said. “You get more chips because they’re denser because of the climate. Not only that, it’s cooler here, which allows us to store potatoes.”

And because New York has a conducive growing and storage climate for the vegetable, Marquart can grow four times as many on their 1,500-acre farm.

There are six storage bins on the farm. Each one can hold up to six million pounds of potatoes. It takes 200 acres of the spud to fill one bin. It takes one day to harvest. 

“We use different varieties (of potatoes) because they age at different times of the year,” Marquart said. “The differing varieties don’t change the taste of the chip because of how they mature in storage.”

The company employs 12 to 15 full-time employees, with as many as 60 seasonally.

“We have the best people that work here,” Marquart said. “The people have really been behind it. Everyone who works here jumped in for the extra work load; it didn't bother them a bit.”

Marquart’s starts planting in May and harvests in August and September. The spuds are in storage until Florida’s fresh crop comes in around the March/April time frame.

“When the fresh crop comes in, a lot of processors go down and get their potatoes from Florida,” he said. “Then they move up the coast and back to us.”

But Marquart Bros. felt the push for more products to be made locally. Though as with any company which starts out local, the volume of product isn’t quite there yet to give the stores the prices they need to be competitive. The volumes on the supply side are huge, Marquart said.

“We’ve been making potato chips for years,” he said. “We have gone around and have done shows like Agripalooza forever, frying them on a small basis and people have always loved the chips. When you eat these, you are eating a real potato chip. We left the skins on them, we don’t pick out the ones that have some color on them – that’s just sugar – so they look like a potato chip and it’s going to taste like a potato. It reminds you of a French fry, almost.”

However, when looking into marketing the product, to get the pricing even to a reasonable amount the consumer wants to spend on chips, 100,000 bags of the same size for the same style of chip would have to be purchased. It’s taken the farmers a long time to figure out if they were really ready to take the gamble.

“It’s always been ‘do a little more. Let’s do a little more.’ Well now is the ‘little more’ time,” Marquart said. “And we’ve got our chips. We’ve got our bags. Now it’s ‘Let’s give it a try and see if people like it and go from there.’ If people really get behind us, I think there’s a lot of opportunities for a lot of different things.”

A little niche

Although Wise Foods has a huge plant and markets their chips all over the place, they cannot do specialty runs – limited quantities.

“We want Wise to be able to use our brand. Our chips will be able to get into stores that traditional potato chips cannot, because they use a specialty oil, because they’re a whole chip,” he said. “We had gone to Wise with this idea and they thought it was great, but we don’t have any volume right now, we’re brand new. We need to build this up so there is volume there, and we want to make this an offering to Wise.

“Wise has stood by all NYS potato farmers, so we want to be the ones, that if this takes off and grows, that we can basically stand by them and maybe give them a product line to go out with. Nobody cares if they actually make it (the chips) there. If we’re willing to put our name and our potatoes and everybody else’s on this bag and Wise wants to distribute them, that’s great. We’re not there yet, but that’s the thought. We’re not trying to put something out that’s the same as everyone else. This has a little niche feel to it.”

According to Marquart, Wegmans has really gotten behind the project as well. So much so, they ordered 14,000 bags straightaway. As Marquart tells it, Bill Strassburg, vice president of Wegmans, heard about the project through the Wyoming County Industrial Development Agency (IDA). He told Danny Wegman about it and Wegman contacted Marquart.

“I didn’t think they’d be interested in us when we were first starting out. We were still developing our bag at that point,” Marquart said. “But they set up a meeting and they really got behind it. They guided us on the bag and basically, allowed us to learn from them. The reception has been great. The managers of the stores are calling us and telling us that there is a real demand for them (potato chips).”

New York Chips hit the shelves this weekend at all Wegmans stores.

Marquart would like to see that no N.Y. potato farmer has to dump their product again. At some point, they would like to make the chips at their Gainesville location year-round. Right now, their potatoes are processed by Bob Jones in Erie, Pa.

“We don’t want to be a one hit wonder,” he said. “It’s been all of our money, $15 million invested, so far. It gets more serious as you raise the bar. We are proceeding with caution. We are trying to be as methodical and careful as possible and still move forward.”

When the new building was being built, Marquart built it to meet the highest standards set out by the industry. Not only that, the company has a zero waste initiative: potato rinse water goes out to a pond and is used for irrigation and the cows get all the waste potatoes and peelings. According to Marquart, they either “feed it, use it or sell it,” nothing goes to waste.

“The reason why people are going to like these chips is because they are fresh; they’re local,” he said. “We are going to put out the freshest product possible. We run the trucks, we run the farm, we grow the potatoes, we wash the potatoes; when we get an order, we can streamline so much of that process that you can get the freshest chips you can (buy).”

Monday, January 18, 2016 at 11:49 am
posted by Julia Ferrini in Wyoming County, Warsaw, agriculture, agribusiness, Business.

Press release:

The Wyoming County Dairy Institute (CDI), working with Northern New York and the North West New York Team (NWNY), is holding a two-part course on Antibiotic Stewardship Feb. 17 and 24. The sessions will be held at Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) offices from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., both days, in Warsaw, Canandaigua and Albion. 

During session one, speakers with the Food Armor program will cover how farmers can establish verifiable, on-farm, drug quality assurance practices for their farms, regulatory issues, and Beef Quality Assurance programming. 

The Food Armor HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) for Proper Drug Use Farm Certification Program delivers a verifiable, drug quality assurance program by defining the roles and responsibilities of those using it, CCE officials report. The objective is to identify potential hazards and identify critical control points to limit these hazards. Correct implementation of this program ensures food safety, as well as transparency and accountability for proper drug use on a farm. Many residue issues result from poor communication and understanding by farm workers using legally approved drugs improperly.

During session two, statewide and regional experts will detail regulatory guidelines for antibiotic use, the new Veterinary Feed Directive, residue scenarios, bob calf challenges, microbial resistance, and antibiotic risk assessment.

This session will feature Dr. Dwight Bruno and Dr. Melanie Hemenway, both field veterinarians with the NYS Department of Ag and Markets. Dr. Bruno has more than 20 years experience working with the Food and Drug Administration on drug residue investigations. Dr. Hemenway heads the New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program (NYSCHAP) that offers a Food Safety and Drug Avoidance module. Dr. Jerry Bertoldo, dairy specialist with the NWNY Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops Team of CCE, will speak on the program as well.

Antibiotic Stewardship is offered as a collaboration by the CDI and NWNY Team working with CCE associations of NNY and Quality Milk Production Services with support by Cargill, the Dairy Farmers of America, Dairy Health and Management Services, Poulin Grain, Quality Milk Production Services, Caring Dairies, QMPS, W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, and the NNY Agricultural Development Program.

For more information, fee, and to register for programs call (585) 786-2251 or visit  wyoming.cce.cornell.edu/dairy-institute.

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