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Triple G named ‘Conservation Farm of the Year’ in Orleans County

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District on Thursday presented Triple G Farms with the “Conservation Farm of the Year” in Orleans County for 2018. Pictured form left include: Megan McAnn, a technician for Soil & Water; Guy Smith, Triple G co-owner; and Katie Sommerfeldt, Soil & Water district manager.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 February 2019 at 9:32 am

ALBION – A muck farm that started in 1925 was named the 2018 “Conservation Farm of the Year” in Orleans County. Triple G Farms is now run by brothers Guy and Greg Smith, and their nephew Pete Smith.

They grow potatoes and onions on 645 acres of muckland in Barre, Clarendon and Elba.

Megan McAnn, the Soil & Water technician, holds the Ag Environmental Management sign that Triple G can display for its conservation work. Guy Smith, Triple G co-owner, holds the trophy for the award.

Triple G has worked hard to preserve the soil and improve the soil health, putting I many miles of drainage tile, and putting in cover crops and wind breaks. They have also reduced chemical usage through Integrated Pest Management, including field scouting and targeted application of pesticides, the Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District said on Thursday when it presented the farm with the award.

Triple G also has installed an agrichemical handling and mixing facility which prevents pesticides and chemicals from spilling onto the soil.

“Triple G Farms takes pride in packing a quality product to be enjoyed by consumers while proving their excellent stewardship of the land and desire to protect our natural resources,” Sil & Water leaders said in presenting the award at the agency’s annual meeting at Tillman’s Village Inn.

Guy Smith, one of the farm co-owners, thanked Soil & Water staff for their work in helping the farm implement many of the initiatives at the farm.

“The mucklands are highly erodible and we need to preserve it so it’s there for the next generation,” said Smith, who was worked at the farm full-time since 1981.

The farm continuously is focused on drainage tile, putting in new drainage or replacing tile from decades ago that has deteriorated. The tile helps move water off the muck. Smith said the big rain storms used to be an inch, but now they are 2 inches. That water can flood fields and submerge crops without proper drainage.

The cover crops help hold down the soil after a planting or when a field is plowed. Triple G tends to plant barley as a cover crop for onions and rye in its field of potatoes.

“I just want to thank the Soil & Water staff,” Smith said. “Without the staff we wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

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U.S. Apple Association urges Trump to promote trade after exports take a hit

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 February 2019 at 7:44 pm

Apple exports were down 30% or about $300 million last year

Photo by Tom Rivers: SnapDragon apples are pictured on Tuesday at the Albion Tops.

Export sales of apples grown in the U.S. plunged 30 percent or about $300 million last year. The U.S. Apple Association (USApple) is urging President Donald Trump to resolve trade disputes and promote the U.S. agricultural sector.

Orleans County is the second-leading apple growing county in the state, behind only Wayne County, and New York is the country’s second-leading apple producing state, behind Washington.

“The U.S. Apple Association welcomes President Trump’s State of the Union remarks on the importance of trade, especially as it pertains to the agriculture sector,” Jim Bair, president and CEO of USApple, said in a news release. “With more than 30 percent of fresh apples destined for overseas markets, trade policies play a critical role in the health of the apple industry.”

U.S. Apple said Mexico and Canada are leading export markets for apples, totaling nearly $500 million in sales. The association supports ratifying the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“The agreement is good for apples as it maintains duty-free access and other important provisions from the North American Free Trade Agreement, including dispute resolution,” Blair said. “However, because of current trade disputes regarding U.S.-imposed section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum, and resulting retaliatory tariffs by our major trading partners, apple exports are down 30 percent, or about $300 million. Exports to our number one market Mexico are down 23 percent, and down 70 percent and 40 percent respectively to growth markets India and China.”

USApple is asking Congress to ratify the USMCA and the Trump Administration to remove the steel and aluminum tariffs on important trading partners, particularly Mexico and Canada.

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BCA Ag Technologies acquired by LandPro Equipment

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 January 2019 at 2:52 pm

Flansburg siblings started company that provides precision agriculture services to farmers

Provided photos: Ben Flansburg is the manager of the BCA Ag Technologies division and leads the technology sales team. He is pictured with his wife Sara and daughter Molly.

ALBION – A local precision agriculture services company has been purchased by LandPro Equipment, which is a North East John Deere dealer with 20 stores.

Ben and Chris Flansburg have been running BCA Ag Technologies. The business is based on Route 31A. They started BCA with their sister Amanda in 2008. (She now works as a manager for Western New York Energy, an ethanol plant in Medina.)

Ben and Chris will remain with BCA. Ben will manage the newly formed Ag Technologies division of LandPro. He has a degree in Agriculture Sciences from Cornell University.

Chris will lead the Agronomy and Data Management portion of the division. Chris brings with him a degree in Agronomy and Horticulture from Iowa State University. He is a Certified Crop Advisor.

The brothers are both active firefighters with the Barre Volunteer Fire Company.

“We offer a wide variety of solutions to our customers to help them become more efficient and ultimately more profitable,” Ben Flansburg said. “We’re excited to integrate those solutions into the LandPro operations.”

Chris Flansburg is the BCA Ag Technologies division agronomist and leads the data management team.

According to Tracy Buck, President of LandPro Equipment, “Ag Technology has come to play a significant role in the agriculture industry, especially as customers struggle with low milk and commodity prices. LandPro felt a responsibility to continue to get better at helping our customers in their use of technology. We believe that BCA will help our customers increase their efficiency and productivity, ultimately adding to their bottom line.”

Some of the BCA services include soil sampling, prescription mapping for fertilizer and planting, yield mapping with average bushels per acre and field variability, and data management. Tracy said the addition of BCA allows LandPro to help its customers improve their efficiencies and better utilize technology with their farm equipment.

“Both companies were built and have grown their reputations through a continued focus on customer service,” said Ryan Payment, vice president of LandPro Equipment. “We’re confident that the combination of these two companies will be an overwhelmingly positive experience for our customers and employees.”

For more information on LandPro Equipment and its new Ag Technologies Division, click here.

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NY Farm Bureau’s 2019 legislative priorities include focus on improving downturn in ag economy

Posted 24 January 2019 at 7:36 am

Press Release, New York Farm Bureau

Photo by Tom Rivers – This photo from October 2015 shows apples at an Albion orchard.

ALBANY – New York Farm Bureau on Wednesday released its 2019 state legislative priorities that look to address important budget and economic needs of its farmer members who make up the diverse agricultural community in New York. The priorities are based upon member approved public policy positions.

According to the USDA Economic Research Service, the value of agriculture production for 2017, the latest numbers available, is just over $5 billion. It remains more than a $1 billion below where it was five years ago, a testament to the lingering downturn of the farm economy.

“It is important for lawmakers, many of whom are new to the Senate and Assembly this year, to understand not only the economic situation many farmers find themselves in, but also the positive impacts farms make to the rural economy and overall well-being of New York State,” said New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher during a press conference call with members of the media.

A top priority for New York Farm Bureau is making sure the final state budget agreement reflects the needs of farmers. The organization was very pleased to see Governor Cuomo increase the aid to localities budget for agriculture by $5 million to more than $29 million. This commitment to much needed research, promotion and marketing programs supports a wide range of commodities, including dairy, wine, maple, apple, Christmas trees, onions and more.

The Governor’s office has traditionally left this funding to the legislature to fill in the gaps, but with a new Senate majority, the Governor is expressing to the members and the rest of the state, why agriculture funding is so important.

“New York Farm Bureau will firmly make the case that this appropriation is much needed so New York farms can access the latest research available and improve their ability to compete in the marketplace,” said Fisher.

New York Farm Bureau also supports the $300 million slated for the Environmental Protection Fund, including money to assist farms that must cope with extreme weather conditions and to improve soil health.

“Farmers take great pride in passing on their land to the next generation, and that means having productive land and clean water that are protected for the future,” said Fisher.

Another legislative priority this year is for New York State to expand on the Farm Workforce Retention Tax Credit that left out many farm families when it was enacted in 2016.

New York Farm Bureau has repeatedly expressed how the rising minimum wage in New York makes it difficult on farms’ bottom lines. The minimum wage climbed again at the end of last year. It is now $11.10 in upstate New York and $12 on Long Island and Westchester County.

Farm Bureau opposed the hike but was successful in getting an employee tax credit to offset a fraction of the rising costs. However, it did not apply to all farm employers including Christmas tree and maple operations, farm wineries and cideries.  New York Farm Bureau is hoping that will change.

“State investment can help offset a portion of the state mandated wage hike. We were pleased to see the Governor has included this in his budget as well,” said Fisher.

Another public policy goal is to change the unemployment insurance law that currently requires farmers to pay unemployment insurance for H-2A workers, even though the workers are unable to collect it.

H-2A is a federal guest worker program that allows farms to hire and transport seasonal workers from other countries to New York for a set period of time. Once a farmworker’s contract expires, the employee must return to their home country. However, New York requires farms to pay the unemployment insurance on these farmworkers…even though the employees will never collect it. If they leave the job, they must return home and are ineligible to collect. The money is then absorbed by New York State.

“This is a common-sense fix to a long-standing regulation that increases the cost of doing business with no tangible benefit to the farmworker or farm,” said Jeff Williams, New York Farm Bureau’s Director of Public Policy.

Another top priority for New York Farm Bureau is to support training for police and district attorneys who investigate animal cruelty laws under the current statute in Agriculture and Markets Law.

New York Farm Bureau was successful in 2015, by working with the New York State Humane Association, to pass a law to help train law enforcement on animal cruelty laws already on the books. However, there has been no budget funding made available to implement this training. New York Farm, Bureau believes that needs to change.

“Farmers take animal care seriously and believe law enforcement could be better equipped to deal with abuse cases by receiving adequate training on Agriculture and Markets Law,” said Williams.

In the end, President Fisher said, “New York Farm Bureau will work hard to educate lawmakers, especially new members of the State Legislature, on the value our farms provide to all of New York and hopefully help them understand the impacts their decisions have, both positively and negatively, on our farm families, farmworkers and the rural economy.”

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USDA reopens Batavia office temporarily to help farmers process payments

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 January 2019 at 9:51 am

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has temporarily reopened some Farm Service Agency offices during the government shutdown to help farmers process payments.

The FSA office in Albion remains closed, but Genesee County’s office in Batavia is open today and on Tuesday. Orleans County farmers are welcome to go there for any assistance.

The office is at 29 Liberty St., Batavia. Call (585) 343-9167 for more information. The FSA wants to help farmers close out the calendar year and process their 1099 tax forms.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that many Farm Service Agency offices will reopen temporarily in the coming days to perform certain limited services for farmers and ranchers.

FSA offices have been closed since Dec. 28 because of the lapse in federal funding. The USDA has recalled about 2,500 FSA employees to open offices yesterday, today and Tuesday during normal business hours. The offices will be closed for the federal Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday.

In almost half of FSA locations, FSA staff will be available to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans and to ensure the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline.

“Until Congress sends President Trump an appropriations bill in the form that he will sign, we are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America’s agricultural producers,” Perdue said in a news release. “We are bringing back part of our FSA team to help producers with existing farm loans. Meanwhile, we continue to examine our legal authorities to ensure we are providing services to our customers to the greatest extent possible during the shutdown.”

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Governor signs legislation allowing tractors to go 35 mph on NY roads

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 January 2019 at 9:58 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: A combine is shown on Oct. 12 in Barre on West Barre Road during the harvest season.

Tractors and other slow-moving vehicles will be able to go faster on public roads in New York after the governor signed legislation, increasing the maximum speed from 25 to 35 miles per hour.

“A NYFB legislative victory in 2018 is now law thanks to the Governor’s signature,” New York Farm Bureau posted on Twitter on Friday. “Farm equipment can now travel at speeds up to 35 mph while using the slow moving vehicle emblem.”

The legislation will take effect in the spring.

The tractors, combines and construction vehicles need to have orange triangular signs to show they are slow-moving vehicles.

The legislation was sponsored in the State Senate by Pam Helming, a Republican from Canandaigua, and in the Assembly by Carrie Woerner, a Democrat from Saratoga County.

State legislators approved the higher speed limit, saying farm equipment has improved and can go faster than 25 mph – even 35 mph.

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3 state legislators who represent Orleans named Farm Bureau ‘friend’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 January 2019 at 8:06 pm

ALBANY – The New York Farm Bureau has recognized three state legislators whose districts include part of Orleans County to the annual “Circle of Friends.”

The award is an indication of the individual lawmaker’s support of New York agriculture and Farm Bureau, NYFB said. The Circle of Friends includes 160 of the state’s 213 members of the Legislature.

State Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, and Assembly members Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, and Michael Norris, R-Lockport, were all named to the Circle of Friends.

The designation is not an endorsement, and this distinction only recognizes the 2018 legislative session, NYFB said.

“New York Farm Bureau recognizes these Senators and Assembly members for their legislative work that has a positive impact on the diverse agricultural community in this state,” David Fisher, president of New York Farm Bureau, said about the 160 state legislators. “We appreciate their support of bills and budget items that matter to farm families, and we look forward to continuing the partnership in the 2019 session. The collaboration ultimately benefits the rural economy and all the people who value local food production.”

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Kendall farmer will be featured panelist at upcoming Corn Congress

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 December 2018 at 9:32 am

BATAVIA – Next month’s Corn Congress will include advice from three corn growers who have topped 300 bushels per acre in yields.

Matt Kludt of Kendall, Henry Everman of Dansville and Jay Swede of Pavilion will be panelists at the Corn Congress on Jan. 9 in Batavia and Jan. 10 in Waterloo.

Kludt of Kludt Brothers Farm in 2017 was the state champion for the third straight year in an annual corn yield contest. Kludt won the title last year with a yield of 322.4 bushels per acre.

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s NWNY Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Team organizes the Corn Congress to help farmers improve corn grain and silage production.

The three farmers will be on a panel – “NY 300 Bushel Corn Club – How Do They Do It?” Reaching 300-bushel corn is not an easy feat to accomplish in the Corn Belt let alone New York, the Extension said.

“It takes a lot of knowledge of your land, good agronomics, some experimentation, good soils and the right weather from Mother Nature,” the Extension said.

These three farmers have all topped the 300-bushel milestone in official corn yield contests.

The guest speaker for the Corn Congress will be Dr. J. Julian Smith, who will discuss, “Fertility Management for High Yield Corn.”

Dr. Smith is currently president and co-founder of CZO Agronomics, a global consulting group devoted to technical advisory and end-to-end project management services in agribusiness and horticulture. His career has been primarily concerned with plant nutrition and specialty products, as well as their positioning within the agricultural market-places of North America and Europe. The latter half of Dr. Smith’s career has focused on micro-nutrient, bio-stimulant, biological and plant growth regulator product application for all crops.

The forum on Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 will also include discussion about corn diseases in 2018; the Pigweed Invasion: Waterhemp and Palmer Amaranth; pesticides and pollinators; Corn caterpillar pests on the rise; and the new farm Bill.

For more information, click here.

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Veggie flag is a patriotic display at produce show

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 December 2018 at 9:38 pm

Photo courtesy of Tony Piedimonte

Holley vegetable grower Tony Piedimonte took this photo last week in New York City when he was at the New York Produce Show and Conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Piedimonte spotted this display at the show and was impressed with the creativity. The red stripes in the flag were created with rows of red peppers and the white stripes are cauliflower. The stars in the upper left corner are garlic.

Piedimonte said the show is a chance for farmers and ag organizations to connect with wholesalers, chain stores and other buyers in the New York City area and northeast.

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USDA launches second round of payments to farmers hurt in trade fight

Posted 18 December 2018 at 10:49 am

Press Release, US Department of Agriculture

Photo by Tom Rivers: Corn is pictured in Albion in August 2016. The USDA is providing $192 million to corn growers to help offset some of the impact of a trade dispute. Soybeans are getting $7,259,400 or 76 percent of the $9,567,400 total.

At the direction of President Donald J. Trump, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has launched the second and final round of trade mitigation payments aimed at assisting farmers suffering from damage due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations. Producers of certain commodities will now be eligible to receive Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments for the second half of their 2018 production.

“The President reaffirmed his support for American farmers and ranchers and made good on his promise, authorizing the second round of payments to be made in short order,” Perdue said. “While there have been positive movements on the trade front, American farmers are continuing to experience losses due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations. This assistance will help with short-term cash flow issues as we move into the new year.”

Secretary Perdue announced in July that USDA would act to aid farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation. President Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a short-term relief strategy to help protect agricultural producers while the Administration works on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets to help American farmers compete globally. In September, USDA initiated three programs to aid American agriculture in sustaining the short-term damages associated with the trade disputes and securing long-term, stable export markets.

Details of programs currently employed by USDA:

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has been administering MFP to provide the first payments to almond, corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, fresh sweet cherry, and wheat producers since September 2018 for the first 50 percent of their 2018 production.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is administering a food purchase and distribution program to purchase up to $1.2 billion in commodities unfairly targeted by unjustified retaliation. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is distributing these commodities through nutrition assistance programs, such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program and child nutrition programs. So far, USDA has procured some portion of 16 of the 29 commodities included in the program, totaling more than 4,500 truckloads of food. AMS will continue purchasing commodities for delivery throughout 2019.

Through the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program, $200 million is being made available to develop foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products. The program will help U.S. agricultural exporters identify and access new markets and help mitigate the adverse effects of other countries’ restrictions. The application period closed in November with more than $600 million in requested activities from more than 70 organizations. FAS will announce ATP funding awards in early January.

Market Facilitation Program

Producers need only sign-up once for the MFP to be eligible for the first and second payments. The MFP sign-up period opened in September and runs through January 15, 2019, with information and instructions provided at www.farmers.gov/mfp. Producers must complete an application by January 15, 2019 but have until May 1, 2019 to certify their 2018 production. The MFP provides payments to almond, cotton, corn, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, fresh sweet cherry, and wheat producers who have been significantly impacted by actions of foreign governments resulting in the loss of traditional exports. The MFP is established under the statutory authority of the Commodity Credit Corporation CCC Charter Act and is under the administration of USDA’s FSA. Eligible producers should apply after harvest is complete, as payments will only be issued once production is reported.

For farmers who have already applied, completed harvest, and certified their 2018 production, a second payment will be issued on the remaining 50 percent of the producer’s total production, multiplied by the MFP rate for the specific commodity.

Market Facilitation Program

Here is a list of the crops in the program, the payment rate and estimated cost to the USDA:

• Almonds, 3 cents a pound, $63.3 million

• Cotton, 6 cents a pound, $553.8 million

• Corn, 1 cent a bushel, $192 million

• Dairy (milk), 12 cents per hundredweight, $254.8 million

• Pork (hogs), $8 pe rehaz, $580.6 million

• Soybeans, $1.65 per bushel, $7,259,400

• Sorghum, 86 cents per bushel, $313.6 million

• Sweet cherries (fresh), 16 cents a pound, $11.5 million

• Wheat, 14 cents a bushel, $238.4 million

MFP payments are limited to a combined $125,000 for corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat capped per person or legal entity. MFP payments are also limited to a combined $125,000 for dairy and hog producers, and a combined $125,000 for fresh sweet cherry and almond producers.

Applicants must also have an average adjusted gross income for tax years 2014, 2015, and 2016 of less than $900,000. Applicants must also comply with the provisions of the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation regulations.

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