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High rate of farmer suicides needs government action, Schumer says

Staff Reports Posted 10 December 2019 at 9:54 am

U..S. Sen. Charles Schumer wants the federal government to increase mental health resources in rural communities, especially for farmers, who have a suicide rate 3.5 times the general population.

Sen. Schumer

Schumer was at a Wyoming County dairy farm on Nov. 27 for a news conference about the issue. Schumer said farmers face a number of stressors that can negatively impact mental health, including financial issues, climate and weather challenges, farm or business problems, and fear of losing their farm.

To address this escalating issue, which is doing real damage to farmers in the GLOW Region of Upstate New York, Schumer launched a two-pronged plan. First, he called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive study of suicides among farmers. Second, he called on Congress to expediently pass the Seeding Rural Resilience Act, which would establish a number of initiatives designed to quell farmer suicides.

“On a good day our family farmers work long hours on tight margins,” Schumer said. “Our farmers are beset by enormous pressures, and so many factors out of their control—from bad weather to bad government policy to giant swings in the economic cycle—that for too many it becomes too much and tragedy ensues. That is why we need to break through the silence, and why we must together confront this challenge, offer better avenues for our farmers who are hurting to getting help, and do more studies so we have a real handle on the depth of the mental health challenge we face,” said Senator Schumer.

Schumer explained that suicide has increasingly become a major public health crisis in Upstate New York and the GLOW Region. In New York State, the suicide rate has increased by more than 28 percent over the past two decades. Specifically, Wyoming County has the 8th highest suicide rate in New York State, and the highest in the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region.

According to the New York State Department of Health, 22 individuals died by suicide in Wyoming County from 2015 to 2017, representing a rate of 18 deaths per 100,000 people. Nationwide, a total of 47,173 Americans died by suicide in 2017, well above 2016’s recorded total of 44,695. Schumer said that this follows an alarming trend that has seen the national suicide rate increase by 33 percent since 1999.

“Farmers face a number of unique circumstances that can negatively influence mental health, including a constant fear of losing their farm,” Schumer said. “These stressors, which can be exacerbated by stigma and inadequate access to mental health services in underserved, rural areas, have manifested in a disproportionate rate of suicide among farmers. We need better mental health care for farmers, better information on how they can access that care, and better data on the nature and extent of the problem.”

The CDC has previously acknowledged that its 2018 report on suicides was limited in scope, as it only considered data from 17 states participating in the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) in both 2012 and 2015. Also, it is estimated that the 17 states included in the 2018 study only represented roughly one quarter of farms across the country. Now that all 50 states participate in the NVDRS, Schumer explained the CDC now has data that is representative of the entire nation and the farmer population.

Second, Schumer urged Congress to expediently consider and pass the Seeding Rural Resilience Act. Introduced in the Senate by Senators Jon Tester [D-MT] and Chuck Grassley [R-IA], this bipartisan legislation would establish three initiatives designed to help farmers cope with issues of mental health, including:

• Establish a requirement for USDA to offer voluntary stress management training to employees of the Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency and National Resources Conservation Service.

• Authorize the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and USDA to execute a $3 million public awareness campaign about mental health issues on farms and ranches and to destigmatize mental health care in rural areas

• Require the Secretary of Agriculture to collaborate with stakeholders from state and local governments, as well as the agricultural industry, to issue best practices to address mental health issues on farms and ranches.

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Schumer: Federal government issues new financial guidance to lenders in industrial hemp industry

Photo by Tom Rivers: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer a week ago visited Miller’s Organic Hemp Farm on Route 98 in Albion to discuss the emerging industry and the need for federal government to improve regulations for sampling and testing hemp. Terry and Gina Miller hosted Schumer’s visit on Nov. 27 to their farm, which is north of Albion and Gaines near the Carlton town line.

Posted 4 December 2019 at 10:39 am

Press Release, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer on Tuesday revealed, following his major push, that the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), in tandem with the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, have confirmed the legality of banks and other financial institutions extending services and products to industrial hemp-oriented businesses and farms.

Schumer explained that without access to traditional financial services, local farmers and the industrial hemp industry across Upstate New York had been unfairly restricted on capital investment, preventing further economic growth and the creation of good-paying jobs, and choking off valuable income for farmers.

Schumer explained that the lack of awareness by lending institutions about the legality of industrial hemp had created an unwarranted murkiness around the legality of financing hemp-oriented businesses—and that new guidance was urgently needed. With that now cleared up, the industrial hemp industry can continue to seed and grow across Upstate New York.

“This is a strong step in the right direction to boost the growth of the industrial hemp industry, and I am glad federal regulators, including the Fed, heeded my call to provide clarity to banks that industrial hemp is fully legal and their member banks are free to lend to farmers and producers,” Schumer said. “Now that the feds have issued to lenders updated guidance clarifying hemp’s legality as a crop, the industry will really start to take root and grow.”

Specifically, the Fed, FDIC, FinCEN and OCC announced that under the Bank Secrecy Act, banks will no longer have to file Suspicious Activity Reports for industrial hemp-oriented businesses seeking to attain loans or other services. Schumer explained that this will significantly increase the likelihood that these businesses receive financial services, and help the industry continue growing and creating good-paying jobs for New Yorkers.

Schumer explained that since the 2018 Farm Bill removed the federal regulatory shackles from industrial hemp production, manufacturing, and selling, New York’s industrial hemp industry has started to grow significantly, with new farms and businesses emerging and existing ones expanding operations. This has brought considerably more good-paying jobs and revenue to Upstate New York, making industrial hemp a critical new part of the state’s agricultural future.

That being said, as industrial hemp farmers and businesses are exploring the full benefits of the 2018 Farm Bill, they have experienced serious difficulty accessing financial products with regulatory uncertainty at financial institutions. While some companies have agreed to offer financial services to the growing hemp industry, many have not due to confusion over the crop’s legal status.

“I fought so hard to strip the burdensome and outdated federal regulations from industrial hemp because of all the good it can do for our farmers, our economy and our consumers,” Schumer said. “Today’s updated financial guidance related to industrial hemp means that we’re one big step closer to the complete emergence of a job-creating, economy-boosting industry across New York State.”

The Schumer-backed Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was introduced by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). It passed and was signed into law as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. This legislation:

• Removes industrial hemp from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act

• Empowers states to be the principal regulators of hemp

• Allows hemp researchers to apply for competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); and

• Makes hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance

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Schumer sees potential in WNY, upstate as major hemp growing region

Photos by Tom Rivers: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer visited Miller’s Organic Hemp Farm on Route 98 in Albion to discuss the emerging industry and the need for federal government to improve regulations for sampling and testing hemp. Terry and Gina Miller hosted Schumer’s visit to their farm, which is north of Albion and Gaines near the Carlton town line.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 November 2019 at 8:17 pm

Senator says federal government needs to establish regulations to help farmers and processors in emerging industry

Gina Miller said there need to be more standards from labs in testing hemp. Right now, she said the results vary wildly among labs in testing the same plants.

ALBION – U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer visited an Albion farm today that is part of an emerging sector in the state’s agricultural industry. Terry and Gina Miller are growing hemp, one of about 500 farms in the state with a permit to grow the plant.

Schumer said the soils and growing conditions in Western New York and the Finger Lakes have proven to be conducive to growing the plants that are about 5 feet tall.

The industry faces uncertainties in the regulations from the federal government. The senator is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend a comment period about the regulations. The USDA has set a deadline for Dec. 31 for comments on the regulations. Schumer is seeking a 60-day extension for comments.

Schumer also wants to the USDA to consider some of the challenges faced by growers and processors working with hemp.

“It’s like the Wild West right now,” Terry Miller said about dealing with the regulations.

Schumer is urging the USDA to establish clear standards that ensure the safety of the public but aren’t overly burdensome to farmers and processors.

“Industrial hemp has a real future for our New York farmers,” Schumer said at a news conference at Miller’s Organic Hemp Farm.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer shakes hands with Terry Miller, owner of Miller’s Organic Hemp Farm. Miller grew the crop on a quarter-acre of land this year.

Hemp is popular for the CBD oil that comes from the hemp plant. CBD is used to deal with pain, inflammation and anxiety.

Hemp, Schumer said, also is used for cosmetics, construction projects and in car doors.

Schumer is asking the USDA to listen to concerns from growers and producers, and to make improvements to the final regulations.

Schumer, at the Albion farm today, expressed his concern over USDA’s proposed Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program, which was published on Oct. 31. The U.S. senator said he’s been approached by farmers, producers and stakeholders from across the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region. They tell him the proposed regulations for sampling and testing of hemp are imprecise, and are not fully reflective of farmers’ challenges.

Chris Van Dusen of Holley is president of Empire Hemp Co. in Batavia. He said hemp is a proven product that helps people with pain.

Miller said growing the hemp plant proved a challenge.

“No one expected the harvest to be this laborious,” he said.

Schumer argued that given the new nature of this industry and the economic potential it holds, USDA should extend the comment period and improve the regulations.

“When it comes to an industry as promising as industrial hemp in the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, the feds need to get it right the first time, and not rush to any reckless regulatory decisions,” he said. “Regulating this rapidly-emerging industry is a must, but any rules must be part of a well-thought-out process that carefully considers the needs of all stakeholders—from farmers and growers to producers and manufacturers.”

Schumer explained that the proposed rule, which is a necessary step to support domestic industrial hemp production, potentially includes regulations that could have harmful effects on hemp production in Orleans County and the entire nation. The comment period for the proposed Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program began on October 31 and is set to end on Dec. 31.

Schumer noted some provisions under the proposed Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program final rule that have concerned farmers and producers, specifically related to the timeframe for sampling and testing of industrial hemp, the lack of available places to do this testing, the guidelines for THC level testing, and the restrictiveness for retesting if the threshold for THC exceeds allowable levels.

Hemp is a demanding plant to grow, peaking at about 5 feet tall.

For example, Schumer said under the rule, producers would have a 15-day timeframe for the harvesting, sampling and testing of crops. However, since this testing typically takes 5-6 business days alone, the proposed final rule creates a tight turnaround and affords farmers very little leeway in the prescribed timeline.

Furthermore, Schumer explained the short 15-day window may be further hindered by the potential scarcity of DEA-registered laboratories in state, to perform testing in a timely manner.

Additionally, Schumer said the current draft regulations do not afford any provisions for growers to salvage or retest crops that initial tests exceed the established .03 THC threshold. Crop insurance, which is often difficult to procure, still affords no protections for most farmers in these circumstances. Other concerns highlighted by Schumer pertain to the sampling methodology to determine accurate THC levels.

The Schumer-backed Hemp Farming Act of 2018 was introduced by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Schumer noted it had strong bipartisan support and was signed into law as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. This legislation:

•  Removed industrial hemp from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act

• Empowered states to be the principal regulators of hemp

• Allowed hemp researchers to apply for competitive grants from the USDA

• Made hemp farmers eligible to apply for crop insurance

The Millers created this display board of their first year growing hemp. Garland Miller, Terry’s father, helped grow the crop. He is shown in the photo, second from the upper right.

Industrial hemp is a type of cannabis plant that is grown largely for industrial uses, but it can also be utilized for food, oil and cosmetic products. Hemp contains a very small amount, typically between 0.2 and 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and while from the same species of plant as marijuana, it has varied widely in use.

However, due to the existence of THC in hemp, Schumer explained, both plants were considered “controlled substances” under federal law, meaning the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was the primary regulator for hemp production.

Schumer argued that this narrow view has undermined the crop’s agricultural and economic potential. With the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 passed by Congress and signed into law last year, this unnecessary roadblock has been lifted, and industrial hemp’s significant potential to become a cash crop in Upstate New York will be unleashed, he said.

“This has tremendous, tremendous potential,” Schumer said at Miller’s farm. “We can be one of the industrial hemp centers of the USA. I’ll do everything I can to get the USDA to be reasonable.”

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Tariff relief payments top $4 million for farmers in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 November 2019 at 3:09 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: These soybeans in Albion are pictured in October. The federal government has provided tariff relief payments for farmers who grow soybeans, corn and sweet cherries in Orleans County, as well as dairy farmers.

The federal government has approved a new round of tariff relief payments for American farmers hurt in a trade war.

The U.S. Agriculture Department is distributing another round of tariff relief payments.

In Orleans County, this year the relief payments will add up to $1,895,536 for about 150 farmers who grow corn and soybeans. Milk producers and sweet cherry growers also are receiving some of the payments in Orleans County, said Larry Meyer, director of the Farm Service Agency in Orleans County.

Last year the tariff relief totaled $2,139,065 for farmers in Orleans County, Meyer said.

The payments help make up for a drop in prices for corn, soybeans and the other crops.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Friday announced the second round of 2019 Market Facilitation Program payments.

The funding will be released beginning the week before Thanksgiving. Meyer, the FSA director in Orleans, said the local farmers have all signed up for the new round of funding.

“This second tranche of 2019 MFP payments, along with already provided disaster assistance, will give farmers, who have had a tough year due to unfair trade retaliation and natural disasters, much needed funds in time for Thanksgiving,” said Secretary Perdue. “President Trump has shown time and again that he is fighting for America’s farmers and ranchers. While we continue to have confidence in the President’s negotiations with China, this money shows President Trump following through on his promise to help and support farmers as he continues to fight for fair market access.”

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Albion recognizes dairy farm as ‘Friend of Education’

Posted 6 November 2019 at 11:59 am

Photo courtesy of Albion Central School: Ed Neal and his grandson Brian Neal are recognized at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.

Press Release, Albion Central School

ALBION – The Board of Education recognized Poverty Hill Farms as a Friend of Education at Monday’s board meeting.

Ed Neal and his grandson Brian Neal accepted the award on behalf of the entire family. Ed Neal is a former president of the Board of Education.

Adam Krenning spoke about the partnership that FFA has with Poverty Hill Farms.

“The Neal family has always been willing to assist our students in the agriculture programs at Albion with anything we have needed to make the program better for our students,” Krenning said.

Tim Archer thanked the farm family for always hosting his high school Interact exchange program with an inner city school in Rochester. He said the visit to the farm is always a highlight and giving students hands-on activities and experiences on the farm is one they will never forget.

Poverty Hill Farms on West County House Road has also hosted seniors from the Workplace Internship program. The Neal family is happy to educate students about careers in agriculture and give them hands-on experiences to determine if a life in agriculture is something they may want to pursue.

Thank you Neal family for your ongoing support and willingness to educate our students!

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Barre dairy farm is highlighted for energy efficiency

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 October 2019 at 8:56 pm

Van Lieshout Farm is first in Orleans with robotic milking units

Photos by Tom Rivers

BARRE – Mike Van Lieshout on Friday leads a tour of the family’s dairy farm on Route 98 in Barre. About 50 people from Western New York attended the tour which included representatives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, National Grid, and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

The farm was started by Mike’s parents, Leon and Hendrika Van Lieshout, in 1978. Mike’s son, Garrett, joined the operation in 2015, bringing a third generation into the dairy farm.

The Van Lieshout farm recently constructed new buildings and installed new equipment. On May 7 they started using eight robotic milking units.

The Van Lieshouts are the first farm in Orleans County with the robots. One of the robots is shown milking a cow.

The farm has about 400 cows milked by the robots and another 85 cows in a traditional milking parlor.

The robots milk the cows 24/7. They spare the farm owners worry over a reliable workforce. The robots also allow the cows to milk on their own schedule.

The cows go to the milking parlor on their own accord when they are ready to be milked.

Each cow has a RFID, which is like a Fitbit, on a collar. The RFID allows the robot to identify each cow and track the animal’s feed intake and milk output.

“Labor was a big reason why we went this route,” said Cyndy Van Lieshout. “We wanted the younger generation to be able to come home.”

Jay Snyder of National Grid speaks to the group gathered in one of the barns. He said the energy company offers many incentives to help farms install energy-saving equipment.

The Van Lieshouts participated in a no-cost energy audit with the Agriculture Energy Audit Program through NYSERDA. Equipped with the results of the energy audit, the dairy farm worked with National Grid to install robotic milking equipment and other energy efficient equipment.

National Grid’s Energy Efficiency and Economic Development programs provided about $90,000 towards some of the new equipment at the Van Lieshout farm. The more efficient equipment is estimated to save the Van Lieshouts about $22,500 in reduced electricity costs.

The Van Lieshouts made upgrades in the barn with fan controls, plate coolers, milking equipment, LED lighting and with VFDS for manure pumps and water pumps. Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) are a type of motor controller that drives an electric motor by varying the frequency and voltage supplied to the motor.

The Van Lieshouts said the upgrades at the farm were about 5 years in the making.

“It didn’t happen overnight,” Cyndy told the group on the tour Friday.

The Van Lieshouts also completed a Cornell Dairy Farm Business Summary on an annual basis to assess their business and plan for a sustainable future. For this project, they used Pro-Dairy’s Dairy Acceleration Program, now known as the Dairy Advancement Program, funded through New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to cost share their facility engineering.

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Dairy farm in Barre will host energy efficiency open house on Oct. 25

Staff Reports Posted 17 October 2019 at 8:48 am

BARRE – The Van Lieshout dairy farm at the corner of East Barre Road and Route 98 will host presentations and tours on Oct. 25, highlighting energy efficiency upgrades and resources available to farmers.

The farm is participating in a no-cost energy audit with the Agriculture Energy Audit Program through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Equipped with the results of the energy audit, the Van Lieshout dairy farm worked with National Grid to install robotic milking equipment and other energy efficient equipment.

National Grid’s Energy Efficiency and Economic Development programs provided approximately $90,000 to the project. By purchasing highly efficient products, the Van Lieshouts will save an estimated 311,000 kWh per year, which equates to approximately $31,000 per year in electrical costs.

During the open house from 10 a.m. to noon, farmers can hear directly from the Cyndy Van Lieshout about her family’s experience with various programs and services they used to help the farm become energy efficient and sustainable.

The Van Lieshout Dairy Farm, a third-generation family owned and run operation, has been in business since 1978. Investing in energy efficiency and making these upgrades will better position Cyndi’s son, Garrett, to manage the business in the future as the current generation prepares to retire in a few years.

The Van Lieshouts completed a Cornell Dairy Farm Business Summary on an annual basis to assess their business and plan for a sustainable future. For this project, they used Pro-Dairy’s Dairy Acceleration Program, now known as the Dairy Advancement Program, funded through New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to cost share their facility engineering.

Representatives from NSYERDA, National Grid, and Cornell Cooperative Extension will be on hand to answer questions and provide additional information.

Attendees will have the opportunity to tour the newly installed equipment. Light Refreshments will be provided. The farm’s address is 4775 Oak Orchard Rd.

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Fall warmth is helping crops to mature

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 October 2019 at 9:16 pm

23,000 acres weren’t planted in Orleans due to wet spring

Photos by Tom Rivers: These soybeans in the Albion FFA Land Lab have benefitted from the warm weather in the fall, without a hard frost.

Farmers in Orleans County who took a chance by planting crops later than usual are getting some nice warm weather to help the crops mature.

Normally a hard frost has hit by now, with shuts down corn and soybeans.

But the freezing temperatures have stayed away, allowing crops to mature. Farmers would like about two more weeks of warmth for the corn and soybeans to reach good yields and high quality, said Larry Meyer, director of the Farm Service Agency in Orleans and Monroe counties.

In Orleans, there are usually about 125,000 acres planted each year with corn and soybeans. Meyer said the wet spring delayed planting with farmers deciding not to plant 23,170 acres. There were about 90,000 acres that went unplanted in Orleans, Genesee, Niagara and Monroe counties, Meyer said.

“There is still a lot of corn that is green,” Meyer said today. “But most of the soybeans are drying down. Most are looking good.”

Farmers who planted late will know in couple weeks if they have a quality crop with a good yield.

“If we can get a couple more weeks without a killing frost, we’ll catch up,” Meyer said. “It could turn out OK for people who did plant.”

The FFA Land Lab is on Clarendon Road behind the school campus. This year the FFA is growing soybeans after doing corn last year.

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3 local residents in new class for LEAD NY

Provided photo: The new class in LEAD NY is pictured at Camp Oswegatchie in Croghan, NY, during a Sept. 26-28 retreat that included introductions, teambuilding exercises and and introduction to leadership theory.

Staff Reports Posted 8 October 2019 at 3:49 pm

Three local residents are part of the new class for LEAD NY, a two-year program for agricultural and food leaders in the state.

Jessica Decker of Kendall (Quality Systems Manager for the Brockport plant of Bonduelle USA), Matthew Toussaint of Medina (Partner/Manager of Toussaint Farms LLC in Medina) and David Bittner of Lyndonville (Orchard manager for Bittner-Singer Orchards in Appleton) have been selected to participate in the intensive leadership development program.

LEAD New York, established 32 years ago as the Empire State Food and Agricultural Leadership Institute, has inspired nearly 500 graduates to take on leadership roles and make meaningful contributions in virtually every segment of the food, agricultural and natural resource industries of the Northeast.

LEAD New York consists of seminars, workshops, and field travel experiences both in and out of New York State, including a week-long international study trip. It is designed for women and men who provide leadership to the food, agricultural and natural resource industry. The program focuses on leadership skill development, self-awareness, civic engagement, a greater understanding of rural issues and cultivating leadership networks.

Participants enter the program with diverse backgrounds, goals and levels of leadership experience, but all share a common commitment to the future of New York’s food and agriculture system and rural communities. Through LEAD New York they will become immersed in the latest trends, issues, perceptions and technological advancements in food and agriculture and get hands-on experience through facility tours and face-to-face meetings with influential figures.

Class members improve leadership and communication skills including public speaking, meeting management, and effective listening while building valuable professional relationships. The program enhances an overall understanding of agriculture and our food system from production to consumption, allowing individuals to seek creative solutions to today’s problems and anticipate tomorrow’s needs.

For more information about LEAD New York, click here.

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Schumer visits upstate apple orchard, touting federal crop research funding

Posted 8 October 2019 at 10:10 am

Press Release, Sen. Charles Schumer

File photo by Tom Rivers – Honeycrisp apples are pictured in October 2016 at the Roberts Circle R fruit stand and farm market on Route 18 in Carlton.

Standing at the Boehm Farm and Orchard in Greene County, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer on Monday touted his recently-secured fix to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) as part of the federal budget extension.

Schumer detailed how a matching requirement for SCRI limited access to millions of dollars in grant funding for researchers, including the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who had to provide an equal amount of matching funds to their own projects, which is often not possible for researchers working with constrained budgets.

This would’ve reduced access to funding to study specialty crops like apples and how to increase crop yields, boost resiliency and adjust to other 21st century challenges. Schumer explained that this would have been a major detriment to Upstate New York apple producers, like Boehm Farm and Orchard, which are a major component of New York State’s vibrant agricultural economy.

To address this issue that threatened Upstate New York’s access to this critical funding, Schumer successfully fought for a provision in the budget extension to eliminate this matching requirement, to ensure that the state’s specialty crop industry continues to have the support it needs to thrive and boost New York’s agricultural economy.

“New York State is the second-largest apple producer in the country, with apple farming having an estimated economic impact of $574 million to the state, and much of it is thanks to family farms like Boehm Farm,” Schumer said. “Even though we produce the highest quality product around, for the industry to continue being grown and cultivated, it depends on critical USDA research funding being sent to first-rate organizations like Cornell.”

Schumer pointed to a 2016 grant from the SCRI as a means of showing its value and importance to apple production in New York State. Cornell University received $4,218,618 through the program to advance research in the commercial apple industry.

This funding allowed Cornell to invest in new candidate rootstock and work to identify new genetic markers to select improved plant traits. These rootstocks can reduce the need for crop fumigation, improve disease resistance, reduce fruit disorders, and make orchards both more economically and environmentally sustainable. Considering that apple producers face annual costs of nearly $300 million to replant orchards to improve tree health in the face of persistent disease threats and changing soil conditions, this research provided to them through Cornell can make a major difference to their bottom lines.

Schumer explained that without the SCRI, Cornell would have struggled, financially, to execute such valuable research for apple farmers and other specialty crop producers.

New York is the second-largest apple producer nationwide, harvesting a total of 29.5 million bushels annually from over 650 farms and roughly 55,000 acres across the state. According to the New York Apple Association, there are 600 commercial apple growers, with the industry providing 10,000 direct jobs to New Yorkers, and another 7,500 indirect jobs.

The USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) was created in order to improve the quality and efficiency of farms through innovative research. Eligible projects must address research subjects like plant genetics to improve crop characteristics, invasive species, new technology, food safety hazards in production and more. Over the past 5 years, roughly $30 million in SCRI grant funding has been awarded to Cornell University for specialty crop-oriented projects.

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