Fruit farmers fret with snow-covered orchards

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 April 2021 at 11:56 am

Buds of trees in sensitive stage after warm start to spring

Provided photos: These peach trees at Hurd Orchards are in the blossom stage and now covered in snow.

The snow-covered landscape today in Orleans County is more than an annoyance for local fruit growers, who are concerned their crop of cherries, peaches, apples and other fruit could be damaged from the cold temperatures.

Fruit growers are hopeful they will get by without significant damage, because the temperatures aren’t expected to go below 28 degrees where there can start to be damage.

These apple buds at Kast Farms are just breaking out of the tight cluster stage, where they are more vulnerable to cold temperatures.

Although the snow-covered orchards is a scary sight for fruit growers, the bigger worry is tonight with how low the temperatures will go and for how long, said Craig Kahlke, a fruit specialist for the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Lake Ontario Fruit Program.

If it drops to 28 for about 4 hours, growers can expect a 10 percent loss in the crop. Dropping to 25 degrees in the full blossom stage could result in a 90 percent loss, according to Michigan State University which has developed a chart of critical spring temperatures during bud development.

Kahlke has worked as a local fruit specialist for 14 years. He recalled 2012 when half of the fruit crop was wiped out when freezing temperatures killed buds in early May.

He doesn’t expect the snow today and cold later tonight to do much damage. But he worries the buds still have two or three more weeks of being vulnerable to the cold.

It hit 80 on one March day and locally there have been other days in the 70s. That has the fruit trees more advanced than normal with their budding stages. Many of the apples trees broke bud in late March, Kahlke said, when there are still several weeks remaining where the weather could drop to damaging freezing levels.

Amy Machamer, co-owner of Hurd Orchards, said she is concerned for the crop, but remains hopeful. Last year, the temperatures dropped to dangerous cold in early May and on Mother’s Day. She thought the crop would be significantly diminished but Hurd Orchards had a full crop in nearly everything.

“We are hoping beyond hope that that kind of mini miracle will be the reality for 2021,” Machamer said.

If the buds aren’t damaged, Machamer said there is also the worry that the blossoms may not get properly pollinated due to the snow.

Machamer said the temperatures don’t affect the orchards and farmland uniformly.

“There are micro-micro climates,” she said.

There can be pockets with slight temperature variances, and a contrast by even a couple degrees can make a huge difference in damage.

“It’s not a one size fits all,” she said. “And there are different varieties at different stages. It’s certainly scary but hopefully it will be OK.”

Brett Kast of Kast Farms in Gaines was nervous with the snow last night, but felt better the temperature didn’t drop below 30.

“28 is the magic number (when there can be damage),” he said. “Tonight will be a cold one and that is a concern.”

He also was encouraged checking the orchards and spotted a bee out looking to pollinate despite the cold.

The snow could benefit the sensitive peach blossoms by providing some insulation with expected low temperatures tonight.

Farmers urge to take tax credit for food donations in 2020

Photo by Tom Rivers: Albion FFA members are pictured on Dec. 12, 2020 with 53,000 pounds of produce donated by local farmers. The FFA has been doing the food drive for 11 years. The 53,000 was a new record, topping the 40,000 pounds in 2019.

Posted 16 April 2021 at 11:40 am

Press Release, NYS Department of Agriculture

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today reminded New York farmers ahead of the tax filing deadline of May 17, 2021 that they are eligible to receive a tax credit for qualifying food donations made to food banks and other emergency food providers in the tax year 2020.

According to the New York Farm Bureau, farmers across the state donated more than eight million pounds of food in 2020, helping to feed many families who faced increased food insecurity due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“New York’s farmers are consistently among the nation’s leading donors to food banks, food pantries, and other charitable food organizations – a great feat in any year and especially during 2020 when our producers faced difficult challenges brought on by the pandemic,” Ball said. “Our farmers’ donations have provided fresh, healthy foods to millions of New York families who needed assistance more this past year than ever before.”

The farm donations to food pantries tax credit was enacted in 2018 to compensate farmers for costs associated with harvesting, packaging, and distributing local products to eligible food pantries, food banks, and other emergency food programs across the state.

New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Michael Schmidt said, “We welcome the opportunity to join with our government partners to administer and support this commendable program, which provides fresh and nourishing food to struggling families while simultaneously encouraging farmers to reinvest in their land and vital operations.”

The tax credit, which is supported by the New York State Council on Hunger and Food Policy, is a refundable credit equal to 25 percent of the fair market value of qualified donations up to $5,000. Eligible donations include fresh fruits and vegetables grown or produced in New York State and provided to emergency food programs that qualify for tax exempt status. To claim the credit, the taxpayer must receive proof of the donation in the form of a receipt or written acknowledgment from the eligible food program.

Information about eligibility requirements for the tax credit is available by clicking here. For additional tax credit and exemption programs available through the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, agri-businesses can are encouraged to click here and choose “Farming and Agriculture.”

NY announces it will target vaccine to farmworkers, food production companies

Posted 13 April 2021 at 4:04 pm

State will partner with community health centers, local health departments to bring pop-up vaccination sites to farms

Photo from Governor’s Office: Andrew Cuomo speaks at Angry Orchards in Orange County today, announcing a push to get farmworkers and food production workers vaccinated.

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a new targeted effort to vaccinate workers at New York State farms and food production facilities. The state will coordinate with local health departments and Federally Qualified Health Centers to bring pop-up vaccination sites to workers, including migrant workers, at their places of employment.

The Governor also announced that as part of the new vaccination effort, New York State will provide 500 doses to Sun River Health, a local health care network, to administer to Angry Orchard employees, as well as farm and food production workers from other facilities in the Orange County area. Vaccines will be administered beginning Wednesday, April 21.

“As we continue to expand eligibility for the Covid-19 vaccine and establish more pop-up sites to reach New Yorkers in underserved communities, it’s critical that we bring the vaccine to every part of the state, not just those with high populations,” Cuomo said at Angry Orchards in Orange County today. “That’s why we’re making sure food production workers and farm workers in rural areas, including migrant workers, get vaccinated for Covid-19.”

New York Farm Bureau State Director Chris Kelder said, “Farmworkers are essential to the success of agriculture and to feeding millions of New York’s consumers, from St. Lawrence County to Manhattan.  It is critical that workers have ongoing access to Covid-19 vaccines to ensure their health and safety as they do their work. Access to vaccines has been the leading priority of New York Farm Bureau and farmers from across the state.”

The effort to vaccinate food production workers and farmworkers builds on New York’s efforts to combat food insecurity during the Covid-19 pandemic. The FY 2022 Enacted Budget adds $50 million to Nourish New York for a total $85 million investment to extend the program through 2021. This critical program helps people who are food insecure access the nourishment that they need, leveraging the vast agricultural industry of New York State to connect food banks and providers to purchase locally grown and produced food.

Since the Governor launched Nourish NY at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in April 2020, 21 million pounds of surplus agricultural products have been purchased from New York farmers and delivered to more than 1.3 million households in need across New York State.

Rural & Migrant Ministry Executive Director Reverend Richard Witt said, “It is important for all of us involved in the food system: farmworkers, farmers, consumers, the health system and the State continue to work diligently to ensure that farmworkers are protected and vaccinated. Today’s announcement is a critical step forward.”

Rural & Migrant Ministry Catskill Regional Coordinator Juanita Sarmiento said, “I have seen first hand, while translating and helping our local rural and migrant communities with testing and vaccines, the impact of this pandemic. We need to continue to uphold not only the efforts to keep New York healthy but to establish an accessible educational campaign on the importance of the vaccination and testing efforts. I’m glad to see us take these steps forward.”

Farm Credit East announces merger with Yankee Farm Credit

Posted 9 April 2021 at 7:29 am

Press Release, Farm Credit East and Yankee Farm Credit

WILLISTON, Vt., and ENFIELD, Conn. — Farm Credit East and Yankee Farm Credit are pleased to announce the board of directors of both associations have unanimously approved the signing of a letter of intent to merge the two organizations. This letter sets forth the terms and conditions of a proposed merger, which requires regulatory and stockholder approval.

Farm Credit East and Yankee Farm Credit are both successful Farm Credit associations that already partner on a number of programs, including Crop Growers crop insurance, FarmStart investments for beginning farmers and the Farm Credit Northeast AgEnhancement grant program.

The combined association will operate under the Farm Credit East name and, if all conditions are met, the newly merged association is expected to begin operation under the management of Farm Credit East CEO Mike Reynolds on January 1, 2022.

“This is a strategic merger for both Farm Credit East and Yankee Farm Credit,” said Celeste Kane-Stebbins, chair of Yankee Farm Credit’s Board of Directors. “Our board has worked diligently to determine how best to support the long-term success of Yankee members and their Farm Credit association. Both Farm Credit East and Yankee are financially strong, and the two associations have successfully partnered in the area of customer services for several years.  Together we can enhance these services and provide even greater value for our members.”

“This is a good merger for members of both cooperatives,” said Laurie Griffen, chair of Farm Credit East’s Board of Directors. “Both associations are closely aligned in their missions and their focus on customer owners’ success, and both are optimistic for the future of Northeast agriculture, forest products and fishing. Together, the combined association will benefit from increased loan diversity, a stronger capital base and enhanced earnings.”

Over the next several months, both associations will undertake due diligence to assess the benefits of a merger for stockholders and to finalize the terms of the merger agreement. There will be no office closures or staffing changes considered as part of this merger, so customers can expect the same personalized service from the newly merged association. Following review by the associations’ regulator, the Farm Credit Administration, the merger vote will go to customer-stockholders for consideration later this year.

Yankee Farm Credit is a member-owned cooperative which provides loans and financial services to farmers and other rural customers. Yankee is an agricultural credit association (ACA) within the national Farm Credit System. Yankee serves all of Vermont, four counties in New Hampshire (Cheshire, Coos, Grafton and Sullivan) and two counties in New York (Clinton and Essex). Yankee Farm Credit is governed by a 12-person board of directors, nine are elected by Yankee members and three are appointed by the board. For more information, visit

Farm Credit East is a member-owned cooperative with 20 local offices, including Batavia, in its seven-state service area. In addition to loans and leases, the organization also offers a full range of specialized financial services, such as tax preparation, payroll, record keeping, appraisal and consulting for farming, forest products and commercial fishing businesses. Farm Credit East is governed by a 16-person board of directors, comprised of 13 customer-elected, one customer appointed and two outside appointed directors. For more information, visit

Grant will fund project in Orleans with youth growing produce for local pantries

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 April 2021 at 1:56 pm

KNOWLESVILLE – The Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County has been awarded a $12,862 grant for a project where local youth grow produce for food pantries.

The grant will use $10,000 to reimburse youth who grow the produce and donate it to local pantries. They will receive the market value of the produce.

“We’re hammering out details and will kick it off in May/June,” said Robert Batt, CCE director in Orleans County. “It’s a really cool project and something I hope we can maintain work on beyond this initial funding.”

The grant was announced today by the State Department of Agriculture & Markets. It is among $150,000 awarded for projects in the nine-county area that makes up the Genesee Valley.

The funding, which was approved by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority in collaboration with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, will support critical education, workforce development, and marketing and promotion initiatives, said Richard Ball, the state’s agriculture commissioner.

A portion of the funding, more than $50,000, will support projects that engage Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities in agriculture, providing hands-on workforce training opportunities at local farms and farmers’ markets.

“Congratulations to the all of today’s award recipients,” Ball said in a news release. “They have developed creative and exciting projects that will help move the agricultural industry forward.”

The following entities were awarded funding to help engage New York’s BIPOC communities in agriculture:

  • The Vineyard Farms, Inc., $15,000 – This project will train 12 young people, ages 10-18, to participate in the Youth Organic Farming & Farmers’ Market Training Program. Participants will learn the principles of organic farming in a greenhouse to maximize the yield of fresh fruits and vegetables through year-round production. They will also receive training in urban and sustainable farming and general business principles that will lay the foundation for a career in the agricultural industry. Participants will learn marketing techniques to operate an on-site farmers’ market to sell and distribute fresh fruits and vegetables. The project will also help address food access in an underserved area.
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension in Monroe County, $14,750 – This project will support the Landscape Technicians’ Training Program, which is a 120-hour, six-week training program in the field of horticulture. Students learn basic horticultural knowledge and are introduced to the many resulting possible career paths. Students also receive their 10-hour OSHA Construction Safety certification. The goal of the program is for all students to gain immediate employment upon completion of the program.
  • Green Visions, $15,000 – This project will support Green Visions, which provides supervised workforce experience, job certifications and career development training to 15 young people, ages 17-24, in industries such as agriculture and food processing. Participants will install, maintain, and harvest cut-flower gardens on former vacant city lots in Rochester. Arrangements will be sold through Wegmans stores and at the Rochester Public Market, giving participants experience in production, sales, and marketing.
  • Westside Farmers Market (WFM), $10,000 – This project will launch a pilot program to connect local farmers, including BIPOC farmers, to the WFM. The project goals include having new vendors at the WFM during the 2021 season and to help build small BIPOC-owned farms and connect them with farmers’ markets.
  • Food for the Spirit, $15,000 – This project will engage 5 Black farmers from the Genesee Valley and create a marketing campaign featuring Black farmers in the region. It builds on a collaborative effort to develop a New York State Black farmers marketing co-op.

In addition, the following projects were awarded funding for the promotion and marketing of New York agricultural products and programs, and agricultural education:

  • NY Kitchen (NY Wine & Culinary Center), $15,000 – This project will support and promote hands-on cooking, craft beverage and agricultural education at the NY Wine and Culinary Center, including their 100% New York State Tasting Room.
  • Finger Lakes Wine Alliance (FLWA), $15,000 – This project will support the updating of strategic marketing content through photography used to improve websites, print material for distribution, social media advertising, etc., brochure redevelopment, and website upgrades and updates.
  • CCE – Orleans County, $12,862 – This project will increase the capacity for youth to engage in agriculture and the food system in a meaningful and economically successful way that encourages engagement in agricultural careers and increases community connection to the food system.
  • CCE – Yates & Steuben Counties, $15,000 – This project will support the creation of a professional video promoting Keuka Lake wine history, viticulture, and enology, which will be provided to winery owners who may not have funds to support their own promotional videos. Video will be shared on social media and the websites of Tourism Promotional Agencies and CCE Extensions.
  • Marcus Whitman High School, $15,000 – This project will support the construction of an on-campus maple syrup sugarhouse, allowing students to learn about the maple syrup industry, food processing, and on-farm work skills.
  • Bishop Kearney High School, $15,000 – This project will continue to enhance the high school’s horticulture and agriculture program through a partnership with CCE. Through CCE, students will develop cultivation and harvesting skills and increase their knowledge about organic gardening, natural resources, nutrition, and the impact we all have on our environment.

For more information on the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, click here.

Jacobs hears concerns from ag leaders in 27th District about farm labor, broadband gaps

Posted 30 March 2021 at 8:15 pm

Press Release, Congressman Chris Jacobs

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) held the first official meeting of his Agriculture Advisory Committee this past Saturday. The meeting was held virtually, and members discussed a wide range of topics and issues facing Western New York agriculture, including dairy and farm labor needs, trade enforcement, infrastructure and rural broadband development, and vaccine eligibility for farm workforces.

Each member also provided a brief overview of their business and the commodities they represent.

“In order for me to craft effective policy and ensure the long-term prosperity of our region’s farmers and agribusinesses, it is critical to make sure they have a seat at the table,” Jacobs said. “We had a productive introductory meeting and discussed many of the pressing issues facing Western New York agriculture. I look forward to continuing our work together.”

The NY-27 Agriculture Advisory Committee is comprised of members from across the eight counties of the New York 27th District and includes stakeholders affiliated with farms, agribusiness, academia, and advocacy organizations. Its members produce a large variety of commodities including dairy, cash crops, vegetables, fruits, maple, and poultry.

“We are very pleased that Congressman Jacobs asked to be appointed to the House Agriculture Committee, and the agricultural community lauds Congressman Jacobs in recognizing the diverse agriculture businesses in his district. His first meeting of his Agriculture Advisory Committee was a major success as all facets of agriculture from dairy, vegetables, apples, grapes, peaches, poultry, flowers, grain, greenhouse, family farms small and large, and agribusinesses had a chance to share trends and concerns about this major economic driver in his district with him,” said Maureen Torrey of Torrey Farms Inc.

“The Agriculture Advisory Committee gives all categories of agriculture a voice and representation in matters that directly impact our lives and our family’s lives. We appreciate Congressman Chris Jacobs for caring what that voice is and following through with what he says, I can’t wait to continue that partnership and collaboration,” said Stacie Rogers of Rogers Dairy.

“As a farmer in Western New York, I am honored to be part of Congressman Jacobs’ Agriculture Advisory Committee. His willingness to serve on the House Agriculture Committee demonstrates his commitment to Western New York and the businesses that are its economic engine. Most recently, he supported the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which will benefit every employee on my farm and those around us. Congressman Jacobs has also introduced a bill to allow dairy farms to participate in the H-2A visa program. This will have long-term benefits which will preserve our industry. As discussions continue, I appreciate his willingness to learn what is important to those who feed our citizens and how to support it through legislation,” said Jim Bittner of Bittner Singer Orchards.

“I believe the first meeting went very well, and I hope that the topics discussed give Rep. Jacobs a better understanding as to how crucial these issues are to agriculture. Labor and infrastructure are just two of many ongoing concerns that affect how we can be competitive in today’s global environment. I look forward to our next meeting,” Bruce Naas of Naas Farms LLC.

“The Agriculture Advisory Committee is very promising, with participants from every aspect of the ag industry represented across NY-27.  Congressman Jacobs will have a wealth of knowledge to pull from and very active members of the farming community to look to as a resource.  I look forward to providing the Congressman with updates and concerns that NY-27 farmer members have.  I think committee’s like this are critical in regard to connecting our needs with Congress to ensure our family farms are represented appropriately going forward,” said John King, president of Niagara County Farm Bureau.

Drought monitor puts Orleans as ‘abnormally dry’

Photo by Tom Rivers: Matt Panek of Panek Farms plows a field on Gaines Basin Road in Albion last week. The dry conditions have allowed farmers to get out in their fields earlier this year.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 March 2021 at 8:56 am

Below normal precipitation the first half of March has much of upstate New York, including Orleans County, “abnormally dry.”

The U.S. Drought Monitor has a large swath of the northeast as abnormally dry. At that condition, crop growth is stunted, fire danger is elevated, lawns brown early and surface waters decline. (New York has an outdoor burn ban in effect through May 16.)

The Drought monitor is produced through a partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows areas in yellow that are “abnormally dry” and the light brown/tan areas as in “moderate drought.”

Jacobs forms Agriculture Advisory Committee with 8-county representation

Posted 24 March 2021 at 6:42 am

Press Release, Congressman Chris Jacobs

ORCHARD PARK – Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) announced he formed an agriculture advisory committee.

That group includes the county Farm Bureau presidents from the eight counties in the 27th Congressional District, representatives from the New York Farm Bureau, and other farmers from each of the eight counties. The representation spans the dairy, crop, poultry, and maple industries.

“Agriculture is the number one economic sector in our region, and our farmers provide nutritious produce and dairy nationwide,” Jacobs said. “I am proud to represent them on the House Agriculture Committee, and I want to make sure that they have a seat at the table as well. This committee serves as a way for me to hear directly from our farmers about their needs and concerns and will allow me to share pertinent information.”

The committee is set to have its first official meeting later this month and will meet quarterly. Jacobs is also a member of the House Agriculture Committee for the 117th Congress, serving on three subcommittees.

“Western New York is home to over 4,400 farms,” Jacobs said. “This committee ensures the voices of Western New York farmers and agribusinesses are heard and I am able to represent them as best I can. I look forward to working with them.”

Jacobs picked for co-chairman of House Maple Caucus

Posted 21 March 2021 at 2:51 pm

Press Release, Congressman Chris Jacobs

ATTICA – Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) visited Merle Maple in Attica today to celebrate NYS Maple Weekend and announce his co-chairmanship of the House Maple Caucus.

“Maple production is an important part of the agricultural economy in Western New York,” Jacobs said. “In fact, Wyoming County is one of the largest maple producers in our state.”

In 2017, 1,695 New York maple farms with over 2,000,000 taps produced 714,372 gallons of syrup. Wyoming County accounted for over 91,000 of those gallons. Overall, farms in the eight counties throughout New York’s 27th District produced over 110,000 gallons of maple syrup.

“Generations of Western New Yorkers have provided maple syrup and other products to consumers nationally; it is part of our regional heritage and identity,” Jacobs said. “I am proud to announce I have joined the House Maple Caucus as a co-chair, which puts me in a strong position to advocate for this important industry.”

Jacobs serves as a co-chair of the House Maple Caucus along with Representatives Chris Pappas (NH-01) and Peter Welch (VT-AL). The bipartisan caucus was formed in the 116th Congress (2019-2020) to advocate for the American maple industry.

Apple growers vote to continue research and development program

Posted 19 March 2021 at 9:19 am

Farmers contribute $400K annually for research to boost profitability, battle pests

Press Release, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets

Photo by Tom Rivers – This photo from October 2015 shows apples at an Albion orchard. Orleans County is one of the leading apple-growing counties in the state, behind only Wayne and Ulster counties. New York State is the country’s second-leading apple producer, behind only Washington State.

ALBANY – The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced that the state’s apple industry has voted in support of continuing the Apple Research and Development program.

New York apple growers are asked to approve of the program through a referendum vote every six years. The program is administered by Ag & Markets.

“The Apple Research and Development program has been important to funding much-needed research in pest management, potential disease, and other areas that make an impact on our farmers’ crops,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “We thank our growers for participating in the referendum vote and look forward to continuing to support the program moving forward.”

The Apple Research and Development program was first established in 1990 by New York’s apple industry to fund research activities. In recent years, the program has been collecting nearly $400,000 in grower assessments annually, which are used to fund research critical to increasing the profitability of New York’s apple growers.

Research is conducted in the areas of pest management, bacterial infection, proper storage, product research, and overall best practices for growing and harvesting apples. The ARDP Advisory Board makes recommendations on the projects and establishes priorities based on the regions they represent.

For additional information on all current Marketing Order programs, including the ARDP, click here.

Soil & Water awarded $600K for conservation projects on farms in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 March 2021 at 3:33 pm

ALBION – The Orleans County Soil & Water Conservation District has been awarded two state grants for more than $600,000 for conservation projects on farms that will reduce sediment and runoff into local waterways.

The funding is part of $15 million announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to support agricultural water quality conservation projects across the state, benefiting 147 farms. The funding is being provided through the Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control program, which supports projects that address water quality challenges in priority watersheds and protect the environment.

“Through the installations of these projects we are improving the water quality in Orleans County and in Lake Ontario,” said Katie Sommerfeldt, Soil & Water district manager in Orleans County. “Lake Ontario is used not only for recreation purposes, but is our drinking water source. This is just another reason why we need to protect this valuable resource.”

The first grant in Orleans County is for $282,934 for implementing 4,710 total acres of cover crops over three years on six different farms, Sommerfeldt said.

“By installing these cover crops we are reducing sediment and nutrient runoff from bare fields into nearby waterways,” she said.

The second grant is for $324,951 for implementing five Agrichemical Handling Facilities on five separate farms, including three farms in Barre, one in Ridgeway and one based in Hamlin. The Hamlin farm also operates land in Orleans County.

These facilities give the farms a safe place to store and mix pesticides, Sommerfeldt said. These buildings are designed to contain 125% of the volume of the farm’s largest sprayer.

If there is a spill while filling the sprayer, the floor will contain it. The farm would then be able to recover all spilled materials and reuse them for their intended purpose, Sommerfeldt said. “All of these facilities are located 100 feet from any watercourse or well,” she said. “By installing these facilities we are eliminating outdoor mixing sites that are located close to water bodies, thus eliminating any further water quality concerns from agrichemical spills.”

Farm Bureau leader wants farmworkers eligible for vaccine

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 March 2021 at 8:15 am

New York Farm Bureau is disappointed the state’s growing eligibility list for people to get the Covid-19 vaccine doesn’t include farmworkers.

NYFB President David Fisher issued this statement on Wednesday, a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited a mass vaccination clinic in Syracuse. The governor this week announced the age eligibility for the vaccine would be lowered from 65 to 60 years old. Farmworkers haven’t been included among the eligible essential workers for the vaccine.

“It is frustrating that Governor Cuomo visited a location synonymous with New York agriculture, the State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, to announce the expansion of the state’s COVID vaccine eligibility list, yet he still refuses to protect farmworkers by including them in the ongoing rollout of phase 1b,” Fisher said in a statement. “The CDC recommends that food and agricultural workers be eligible for their own safety and that of our food system. It is time do what is right and prioritize the essential workers who help ensure New Yorkers have food on their tables.”

Jacobs wants dairy workers to be eligible for H-2A visa program

Posted 9 March 2021 at 7:13 pm

Press Release, Congressman Chris Jacobs

ORCHARD PARK – Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) introduced legislation that would make the dairy industry eligible for H-2A temporary agricultural visas.

“As I have traveled throughout NY-27 and met with farmers, one thing that has become clear is the need for dairy producers to have access to a steady and legal workforce. Currently, dairy workers are not eligible for H-2A status because of the way current law is interpreted by federal agencies,” Jacobs said. “This simple legislation would fix an urgent need while Congress works on broader reforms to the H-2A program.”

The Dairy H-2A Eligibility Act would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to include “dairy worker” as an eligible candidate for H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa status. Employers are currently only eligible for H-2A non-immigrant classification if they offer a temporary or seasonal position. Though H-2A workers are themselves temporary, dairy production has been interpreted to not qualify for these visas because it occurs year-round.

“Dairy’s workforce crisis is especially severe because dairy farms, which operate year-round, can’t use the H-2A program, which is seasonal. NMPF has fought for decades for H-2A access for dairy. We thank Congressman Jacobs for stepping up and making ag labor reform a priority issue, and we look forward to continuing to work with Rep. Jacobs to address the workforce needs of dairy farmers in New York and across the country,” Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of National Milk Producers Federation said.

“Agricultural labor reform has long been a New York Farm Bureau priority. We must address the seasonal and long-term needs of agriculture, including for the state’s dairy farms that currently do not have access to a year-round federal guest worker program. We thank Rep. Jacobs for his efforts to fix a broken system and moving the conversation forward for the betterment of our farms and food system,” David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President said.

“The bottom line is that we need a migrant worker program that respects and enforces our immigration laws while providing farmers with the workforce that they need,” Jacobs said.

State approves $25 million more to continue Nourish NY through July

Posted 2 March 2021 at 1:08 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Photo by Tom Rivers: Heather Smith, director of the Orleans Community Health Foundation, volunteered at a food distribution in Medina on June 12.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced an additional $25 million has been directed to New York’s network of food banks and emergency food providers to support the Nourish New York program through July 2021.

Since the Governor launched Nourish NY at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in April 2020, 21 million pounds of surplus agricultural products have been purchased from New York farmers and delivered to more than 1.3 million households in need across New York State.

Purchasing and food distribution using this third round of funding – which was first announced during the Governor’s 2021 State of the State Address – are currently underway. Since the launch of Nourish NY, a total of $60 million has been invested in the program.

“New York is on the path to recovery from the pandemic, but there is a continued need to assist families and our farmers across the state who are still struggling,” Governor Cuomo said. “Since its launch last spring, the Nourish New York initiative has had incredible success in connecting our agricultural producers with food banks in every corner of the state to bring fresh local foods to families in need.”

The Nourish New York program provides funds to New York’s food banks and emergency food providers, who then purchase agricultural products from New York farmers and dairy manufacturers and deliver the food to families in need.

Emergency food providers can use Nourish New York funds to:

  • Set up food-drive through events/giveaways;
  • Distribute dairy vouchers that can be redeemed in grocery stores for products like cheese, yogurt, milk, sour cream, and butter, throughout the state, and/or;
  • Purchase products directly from New York dairy/food manufacturers for their feeding programs.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, farmers experienced a drastic supply chain shift, which resulted in the loss of markets and income and in the waste of fresh surplus foods, particularly fluid milk. Simultaneously, the demand for food through emergency food providers escalated across the state. Seeing the opportunity to feed residents and aid farmers, the Governor launched the Nourish New York initiative. This initiative provided $25 million in funding for the first round and $10 million in the second round of the program for the purchase of foods grown, raised, or processed in New York State and has served as an important alternative revenue stream for farmers and dairy processors during the pandemic.  More than 4,150 farms have been impacted through the program.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Over the last 10 months, the Nourish New York program has helped feed more than one million families with nutritious dairy, fruits and vegetables, and so much more, and helped make sure our farmers had a market for their products.”

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said, “This additional funding for Nourish NY is good news for many farmers and low-income people who are still dealing with fallout from the pandemic. The program has coordinated a pathway to move food from farms to food banks in every region of the state, compensating farmers for their products and reducing food waste at the same time. It has proven to be a lifeline for people in need, and we thank Governor Cuomo for continuing the program.”

Albion Merchants want to bring farmers market to downtown Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 March 2021 at 9:07 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: Dennis Stymus looks over his display of vegetables on Oct. 27, 2014 at the former Orleans County Farmers Market, which was located at the Save-A-Lot parking lot. That market was in operation for 10 years before closing in 2014.

ALBION – The Albion Merchants Association is proposing to bring a farmers market back to Albion.

A market operated on Saturdays at the Save-A-Lot parking lot on Route 31 until 2014. The Merchants Association wants to bring the market to downtown Albion on Sundays.

The Merchants Association filed a special events permit with the village, seeking to run a farmers market on Sundays from June 13 to Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Merchants want to use the village-owned lot at 19 North Main Street. This is the space next to the First Presbyterian Church.

In the application, the Merchants said the market would include vendor tents, food trucks and possibly music.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Mayor Eileen Banker said during last week’s Village Board meeting. “I would encourage that.”

The board wants to check with the Presbyterian Church to see if the congregation has concerns about any music from the market and possibly set a timeframe for when there shouldn’t be music at the market so it doesn’t interfere with the church service.

The village also wants to hear from the church leaders if the parking lot is used by the congregation on Sundays.

Interested vendors can email for more information.