NY farmers donated 8 million pounds of food last year

Photos by Tom Rivers: Albion FFA members and some of the Albion football players are pictured on Dec. 12, 2020 after loading a flat-bed trailer and another smaller trailer with 53,000 pounds of produce, milk and other food. They then delivered and unloaded the food at Community Action on East State Street. The Albion FFA has been leading the food drive for 14 years.

Posted 21 March 2024 at 8:55 am

Press Release, New York Farm Bureau

New York Farm Bureau is reporting that its members donated 8 million pounds of food to regional foodbanks across the state last year through the Harvest for All program.

The number was announced this month at the annual American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference in Omaha, NE.

Once again, New York State had the second highest donation total in the country, only behind Florida.

The “Harvest for All” donation program is a nationwide annual farm donation partnership linking Farm Bureau and Feeding America in each state. In New York, NYFB’s YF&R Committee and Feeding New York State administer the statewide donation partnership.  The food is then distributed among the 10 Feeding America food banks throughout the state.

The work highlights the importance of our regional food banks in helping reduce food insecurity in the state. NYFB and Feeding NYS continue to advocate for full funding of Nourish NY and the Healthy School Meals for All programs in the New York State budget. The vital programs, in part, provide food banks with resources to purchase healthy, local food which benefit New Yorkers in need and the state’s farming community.

“New York agriculture has a long commitment of giving back,” said Rich De Meyer, New York Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers chairman. “We understand the importance of fresh, healthy food to our communities, and how it makes a difference. I would like to thank every farm that donated last year and to give thanks to Feeding New York State for its work to bridge the connection between our farm families and those in need. New York Farm Bureau will continue to work hard to build a stronger food system and increase food access for all New Yorkers.”

Dan Egan, Feeding New York State Executive Director said, “Feeding New York State thanks the farmers of New York for their incredible donations of top-quality fresh food. Our 10 food banks feed millions of our neighbors, but we could do none of this work without the farmers who produce our food. My dad used to say, ‘Work is love made visible.’ Our work together is how we all love our neighbors. We look forward to the year ahead with hope for a good growing season, good health and good shared work.”

Scott Oldenburg, left, is the Albion FFA advisor. Kaitlynn Basinait, second from left, is the FFA president. They help unload 37,000 pounds of produce and donated food from local farmers on Dec. 9, 2023. The food was delivered to Community Action of Orleans & Genesee.

County will take questions about ag district during April 15 session at Hoag Library

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 March 2024 at 10:04 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: A farmer plants seeds in May 2019 in Carlton on Waterport-Carlton Road. That sunny day gave farmers a chance to get their big equipment out in the fields during a soggy spring that year.

ALBION – The Orleans County Department of Planning and Development will have a session from 3 to 7 p.m. on April 15 where property owners can learn about the Orleans County Agricultural District No. 1.

The county has one consolidated agricultural district and property owners this year have their once-every-8-year chance to remove land from the district. Property owners every year have an opportunity to add land to the district.

County officials will be at Hoag Library on April 15 to answer questions about the ag district. There will be a map of the current district for people to look up their land to see if it’s in or out of the district.

The Orleans County Agricultural District No. 1 covers over 118,000 acres or approximately 48% of the land mass of the county. All currently included landowners will receive notification of the ag district review and the forms should be returned by March 31.

The recent Agricultural Census showed sales for farm products in 2022 totaled $233.6 million in Orleans County, up 50.4 percent from the $155.3 million in 2017, a growth of $78.3 million. That includes sales of fruit, vegetables, milk, livestock and other farm products.

A snapshot of Orleans County’s ag economy in 2022 includes:

  • 444 farms (498 in 2017)
  • 130,055 land in agriculture (129,573 in 2017)
  • average size of farm – 293 acres (260 in 2017)
  • estimated value of land and buildings – $1.416 billion
  • 33 farms at more than 1,000 acres, but 140 are 10 to 49 acres, and 131 are 50 to 179 acres.
  • 132 farms sold less than $2,500, while 126 sold $100,000 or more.

For more information about agricultural districts or the ongoing review of the Orleans County Agricultural District No. 1, contact Corey Winters (Planner, Orleans County Department of Planning & Development) at (585) 589-3197.

Hawley attends ‘Taste of New York’ reception celebrating agriculture

Posted 6 March 2024 at 7:53 am

Provided photos: Assemblyman Steve Hawley is shown with Bessie the Cow and Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball.

Press Release, Assemblyman Steve Hawley

ALBANY – Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia) attended the New York Farm Bureau’s Taste of New York Reception in Albany on Monday.

The event was hosted in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center and attended by Farm Bureau members and public officials from around the state. During this time, Hawley met with local farmers and members of the Farm Bureau about the importance of New York agriculture.

New York is one of the leading states for agriculture, the fifth-largest producer of dairy in the nation and has roughly seven million acres of farmland. The industry has also created nearly 200,000 jobs, with the vast majority of farms in the state being family-owned. Hawley is proud to have been able to attend this event and hopes it will bring more awareness to one of the state’s largest industries.

“It was great to meet with so many New Yorkers yesterday who share a passion for local agriculture,” Hawley said. “As a farmer once myself, I have a special appreciation for this industry. From the grocery store to the food in your pantry, we all rely on local farms like the ones we have here in Western New York. Holding this event in Albany will  shine a light on this vital industry and bring more attention to our family-owned farms.”

Hochul praises growth of FFA programs in state

Photos by Tom Rivers: Roy-Hart FFA students work on their float for the Parade of Lights in Medina on Nov. 25. Roy-Hart’s FFA chapter is among the 89 in the state that have started since 2016. Its members are involved in many community projects, as well as competing in FFA contests.

Posted 23 February 2024 at 8:55 pm

Number of ag teachers has grown by 75 percent in NYS since 2016

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

During National FFA Week, Governor Kathy Hochul today announced significant growth in New York State’s agriculture education and FFA Programs. Since 2016, the number of agricultural teachers has grown to 412 in 2023, a more than 75 percent increase from 2016.

In addition, New York’s FFA chapters and membership continue to grow, with 36 new FFA chapters created since 2022 and 89 since 2016, making for a total of 200 FFA chapters established across New York today. The Governor’s 2024 State of the State and FY 2025 Budget both prioritize agricultural education, with the creation of a youth agriculture leadership conference and the dedication of $1.25 million to support the FFA, an increase of $250,000 from last year.

“As a former 4-H kid, I know firsthand how important agricultural education is to developing a generation of leaders that understand where our food comes from, value the work of our farmers, and are committed to supporting our agricultural communities,” Governor Hochul said. “There are endless opportunities for our students to build a career in agriculture, from farming to food science, bio-technology, engineering, veterinary medicine, and so much more. New York will continue supporting our passionate educators and grow these critical programs across the state.”

The increase in agricultural teachers, through programs such as Cornell University’s Agriculture Education and Outreach Program, New York Agriculture in the Classroom, and the New York State FFA Association, is allowing more schools and students to participate in a formal agricultural curriculum, providing a direct boost to the pipeline of students who will go on to enter into the agricultural industry as a future career.

Alongside this growth in teachers, the number of FFA charters and members has also increased. With 200 chapters established in 53 of New York’s 62 counties, there are now nearly 12,000 FFA members in New York State, an increase from 9,300 in 2022. In 2016, State Agriculture Commissioner challenged the FFA to increase its number of charters across the State by 100; the FFA is nearing that goal with 89 created since then.

Albion FFA students march in Medina’s Parade of Lights on Nov. 25.

The New York FFA Association is a youth organization that helps middle and high school students become leaders in a variety of career fields, including agriculture. In the FY 2024 Budget, $2 million was invested to support the New York FFA, Association of Agricultural Educations, and New York Agriculture in the Classroom, and $50,000 was allocated to support the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) program.

The Governor’s 2024 State of the State address and FY 2025 Budget builds on this work, with the Governor continuing to prioritize investments in agricultural education to support workforce development and ensure that agriculture remains a viable industry in New York State.

She has proposed a youth agriculture leadership conference, increased support for the FFA in the Executive Budget by $250,000 for a total of $1.25 million and dedicated $1 million to support the New York Agriculture in the Classroom program and increase the number of certified agricultural educators in the state. In addition, $250,000 is included in the Executive Budget in support of Urban Agricultural Education and $50,000 for the MANRRS program. Together, these programs help meet the growing demand for agricultural education across New York.

National FFA Week, which is celebrated from February 17 – 24, honors the positive impact that FFA and agricultural education programs have on students across New York and the nation.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Our agricultural teachers and FFA leadership are so passionate about building the future of this industry. They are the driving force behind these powerful programs that are helping our young people to learn about the industry and obtain the skills they need to be successful in agriculture and its related industries. When I look at our schools’ ag programs and our FFA students, I’m optimistic and excited about the future of our industry. I want to thank our existing ag teachers and FFA leaders for their dedication and welcome our newest teachers, who are embarking on this significant work of educating our young people. I also want to thank our Governor, and our Legislature, for their continued support of these critical programs that are making a lasting impact on agriculture and will continue to for generations to come.”

The Medina FFA also had a float in Medina’s big lighted parade.

New York State FFA Director Juleah Tolosky said, “Whether it’s chapters starting in new communities or students starting their journey toward relevant, personal success, the story of New York FFA is growth. I am so proud of the work of our teachers to cultivate environments where students have the opportunity to thrive. We know just how much work it takes to go beyond the classroom and beyond the school year to move our communities forward through agriculture.”

New York State FFA President Ella Underberg said, “In New York FFA, we are offered the opportunity to witness so much growth within our members, communities, and chapters. FFA has helped me see new perspectives on what it means to lead and truly be passionate.”

About NY FFA

Administered by Cornell University, NY FFA develops premier leadership, personal growth and career success through activities and opportunities nationwide. FFA was founded by a group of young farmers in 1928. Their mission was to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population. They showed that agriculture is more than planting and harvesting – it’s a science, it’s a business and it’s an art.

NY Farm Bureau says ag census shows concerning loss of farmland

Posted 16 February 2024 at 8:10 am

In 5 years, NY down 364,000 acres of farmland and 2,800 farms

Photo by Tom Rivers: A farmer harvests soybeans on East Barre Road in Barre on Oct. 13, 2019.

Press Release, NY Farm Bureau

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its 2022 Agriculture Census revealing a cause of concern for New York agriculture.

While 98-percent of farms remain family owned in the state, the overall number of farms declined by nearly 2,800. That is about a 9 percent drop from the previous 2017 Agriculture Census and the steepest decline in the past three decades. The state also lost 364,000 acres of farmland over the past five years.

A significant portion of the decline is in dairy farming, the largest commodity value in New York State. New York saw a decrease of nearly 1,900 dairy farms, though the total number of dairy cows slightly increased. This reflects the market consolidation that has been happening in the industry. Others that also saw losses include vegetable, berry and organic farms.

The census did reveal some bright spots, including an increase in the number of orchards as well as oyster producers. Market value also rose significantly, topping $8 billion. This is in large part due to temporary increases in major commodity prices during the pandemic, which have since fallen in the past year.

USDA predicts farm income to be down another 25% in 2024. There is also a significant climb in farms using conservation practices like no-till and cover crops with an increase of about 200,000 acres statewide.

Another significant increase is farm costs. Every production expense saw a rise, from fertilizer and fuel to seed and lease prices. The biggest increase in production expenses is labor, which saw an astounding 41 percent jump in five years. This is not surprising with the surge in wage rates and overtime expenses on farms in New York. Employment increased slightly with about 1,000 new farmworkers in the state totaling 56,678 employees.

“The numbers do not come as a surprise but should be a renewed wakeup call for the state,” said David Fisher, president of New York Farm Bureau. “As we continue to see the decline in the number of farm families, we must do all that we can to reduce regulatory costs and expand market opportunities. New York Fam Bureau has stressed that the costlier it is to do business in this state, the harder it is for farms to stay in business. The loss of farmland and food production has major impacts on the economy and quality of life for all New Yorkers. We must work together to reverse this trend, include passing a strong Farm Bill that supports New York’s diverse agriculture.”

Additional NYS numbers in the 2022 USDA Ag Census:

  • 30,650 farms in New York, down from 33,438 in 2017.
  • 6,502,286 acres in production, down from 6,866,171 in 2017.
  • Average farm size is 212 acres, up from 205 acres in 2017.
  • The average net farm income of $76,281 per farm is slightly below the national average.
  • 21,894 female producers and 35,664 male producers
  • The average producer age is 56.7 years old, up from 55.8.
  • 6,335 farmers under the age of 35, a drop from 6,718 producers in 2017.

Editor’s Note: In Orleans County, sales for farm products totaled $233.6 million in 2022, up 50.4 percent from the $155.3 million in 2017, a growth of $78.3 million. That includes sales of fruit, vegetables, milk, livestock and other farm products.

A snapshot of Orleans County’s ag economy in 2022 includes:

  • 444 farms (498 in 2017)
  • 130,055 land in agriculture (129,573 in 2017)
  • average size of farm – 293 acres (260 in 2017)
  • estimated value of land and buildings – $1.416 billion
  • 33 farms at more than 1,000 acres, but 140 are 10 to 49 acres, and 131 are 50 to 179 acres.
  • 132 farms sold less than $2,500, while 126 sold $100,000 or more.

Orleans ranks 15th among counties in NYS for ag revenue

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 February 2024 at 1:06 pm

Cayuga dethrones Wyoming County as state’s top ag producer

Photo by Tom Rivers: Farm equipment heads down Route 31 in Ridgeway on Sept. 19, 2023. Agriculture is a huge economic driver in Orleans County.

Orleans County saw a big jump in farm revenue in the 2022 census, and the county’s $233.6 million puts it as the 15th-leading county in the state for ag revenue.

The county’s revenue for farm products sold totaled $233.6 million, up 50.4 percent from the $155.3 million in 2017, a growth of $78.3 million

The county’s ag bounty is only about half of the state’s top county for agricultural revenue. Cayuga tops the 62 counties at $461.9 million. Cayuga also dethroned Wyoming as the state’s agricultural king.

The ag census is done every five years. During the previous census in 2017, Wyoming was the top ag producer at $307.5 million, followed by Cayuga at $287.9 million, Genesee in third at $234.9 million, Suffolk at fourth $225.6 million and Wayne in fifth at $221.3 million.

With the new ag census, Genesee drops from third to fifth, while Wayne jumps up two spots to third place.

Overall, statewide ag revenue was $8.04 billion in 2022, up by 49.7 percent from the $5.37 billion in 2017.

The 2022 Ag Census was released on Tuesday by the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Here are the ag revenues for the 62 counties in NYS:

  • Albany – $47.9 million
  • Allegany – $69.8 million
  • Bronx – D (withheld)
  • Broome – $54.1 million
  • Cattaraugus – $144.8 million
  • Cayuga – $461.9 million
  • Chautauqua – $242.0 million
  • Chemung – $34.5 million
  • Chenango – $123.0 million
  • Clinton – $325.8 million
  • Columbia – $111.2 million
  • Cortland – $108.1 million
  • Delaware – $66.8 million
  • Dutchess – $45.1 million
  • Erie – $192.0 million
  • Essex – $11.8 million
  • Franklin – $149.0 million
  • Fulton – $9.4 million
  • Genesee – $359.7 million
  • Greene – $25.0 million
  • Hamilton – D (withheld)
  • Herkimer – $93.1 million
  • Jefferson – $238.9 million
  • Kings (Brooklyn) – D (withheld)
  • Lewis – $178.6 million
  • Livingston – $288.1 million
  • Madison – $190.7 million
  • Monroe – $101.1 million
  • Montgomery – $126.1 million
  • Nassau – $8.8 million
  • New York (Manhattan) – D (withheld)
  • Niagara – $156.9 million
  • Oneida – $190.1 million
  • Onondaga – $271.5 million
  • Ontario – $293.6 million
  • Orange – $95.6 million
  • Orleans – $233.6 million
  • Oswego – $68.9 million
  • Otsego – $62.6 million
  • Putnam – $1.5 million
  • Queens – $285,000
  • Rensselaer – $61.9 million
  • Richmond (Staten Island) – $79,000
  • Rockland – $4.0 million
  • St. Lawrence – $270.4 million
  • Saratoga – $115.5 million
  • Schenectady – $6.4 million
  • Schoharie – $63.5 million
  • Schuyler – $68.1 million
  • Seneca – $110.4 million
  • Steuben – $251.8 million
  • Suffolk – $364.2 million
  • Sullivan – $37.5 million
  • Tioga – $67.0 million
  • Tompkins – $89.8 million
  • Ulster – $105.5 million
  • Warren – $2.5 million
  • Washington – $263.0 million
  • Wayne – $381.5 million
  • Westchester – $11.6 million
  • Wyoming – $421.0 million
  • Yates – $152.4 million

Note: “D” is used in the ag census for a county with few farms to avoid disclosing information on individual producers.

Ag revenue jumped in Orleans County, NYS in latest census

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 February 2024 at 2:14 pm

Orleans County sees 50% jump to $233 million; Statewide farm economy at $8 billion

File photo by Tom Rivers: The mucklands in Barre and Clarendon provide fertile soil for onions, one of many crop grown in a diversified agricultural economy in Orleans County.

The federal ag census, which track’s the farm economy every five years, came out today and the numbers for 2022 and much bigger than the previous census for 2017.

In Orleans County, receipts for farm products sold totaled $233.63 million, up 50.4 percent from the $155.28 million in 2017, a growth of $78.35 million. That includes sales of fruit, vegetables, milk, livestock and other farm products.

Statewide the ag revenue was $8.04 billion in 2022, up by 49.7 percent from the $5.369 billion in 2017.

The revenue went up dramatically, and so did farm expenses. In Orleans County, production costs went up about $60 million from $119.00 million in 2017 to $179.90 million in 2022, a 51.2 percent hike, according to the ag census.

Statewide production costs increased by $1.85 billion from $4.33 billion in 2017 to $6.18 billion in 2022, up by 42.7 percent.

A snapshot of Orleans County’s ag economy in 2022 includes:

  • 444 farms (498 in 2017)
  • 130,055 land in agriculture (129,573 in 2017)
  • average size of farm – 293 acres (260 in 2017)
  • estimated value of land and buildings – $1.416 billion
  • 33 farms at more than 1,000 acres, but 140 are 10 to 49 acres, and 131 are 50 to 179 acres.
  • 132 farms sell less than $2,500, while 126 sell $100,000 or more.

Orleans County begins 8-year review of agricultural district that includes 118K acres

Posted 12 February 2024 at 10:37 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: These apples are in a bin at Kirby Farms in Brockport last fall.

Press Release, Orleans County Department of Planning and Development

ALBION – The Orleans County Agricultural District No. 1 is Orleans County’s only Agricultural District that covers over 118,000 acres or approximately 48% of the land mass of the county.

Orleans County is currently undergoing an eight-year review of the Orleans County Agricultural District No. 1. During this process, landowners must affirm in writing their intent to be included in the agricultural district.

All currently included landowners will receive notification of the review and the forms should be returned by March 31.

Agricultural Districts are established by New York State Agriculture and Markets Law to provide for the protection of agricultural lands. The law was enacted to allow for the creation of a local mechanism to ensure agricultural land remains a viable segment of the local and state economies as well as an environmental resource.

Agriculture is the dominant industry in Orleans County and as such, the Orleans County Agricultural District No. 1 is important to maintaining our economic base.

Agricultural districts do not have to be made up completely of farmland. However, they must contain a predominance of viable farmland. At the same time, the rural nature of an area is protected when viable farmland is included in the agricultural district.

The County Agricultural Farmland Protection Board, formed by the Legislature, is given the job of making recommendations concerning the effect of new water lines on land in an Agricultural District. Undeveloped land that is included in an agricultural district is not able to connect to new water lines for non-agricultural use because of the potential adverse effects on agriculture. Existing homes, residences, and farms within an agricultural district are not prohibited from connecting to new water lines.

For more information about agricultural districts or the ongoing review of the Orleans County Agricultural District No. 1, please contact Corey Winters (Planner, Orleans County Department of Planning & Development) at (585) 589-3197.

Farmers urged to register for refundable overtime tax credit

Posted 31 January 2024 at 9:24 am

Gradual phase-in to lower overtime threshold in agriculture starts in 2024

File photo by Tom Rivers: A farmer plants seeds on May 23, 2019 in Carlton on Waterport-Carlton Road.

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul

Governor Kathy Hochul on Tuesday announced the launch of the State’s new Farm Employer Overtime Credit advance portal, which is now open for farmers to register and begin preparing the documents they will need to apply for reimbursement.

Later this year, eligible farm employers may apply to the Department of Agriculture and Markets for a certificate of advance payment of eligible overtime paid to their employees between Jan. 1 and July 31, 2024. As tax season opens, this opportunity is part of Governor Hochul’s plan to support New York’s farmers through a series of new and increased tax credits and other initiatives.

“Our farmers and farm workers are essential, and I want to do everything in my power to ensure that they can thrive in their work to bring fresh, local products to the tables of New Yorkers,” Governor Hochul said. “The Farm Employer Overtime Credit is a big part of that, reducing the tax burden for our farm businesses while allowing them to continue supporting their hardworking staff. I encourage all eligible farmers to learn more about this program, get registered and talk to their tax preparer so they can be prepared to apply later this year.”

The Farm Employer Overtime Credit is a refundable tax credit available for eligible farm employers who pay overtime wages after January 1, 2024, based on the gradual phase-in of the overtime threshold in New York State. Farmers can apply for this refundable credit if they or their business:

  • are an eligible farmer; and
  • employ eligible farm employees that were paid eligible overtime.

Farm employers are encouraged to prepare to apply this year by taking the following steps:

  • Ensuring that they are registered for a ID through
  • Taking the farm employer eligibility assessment to establish if they (the farm employer) expect to meet the eligible farmer income requirements for their tax filing type at the end of the tax year.
  • Discussing the program with their tax and payroll advisors to ensure they are keeping necessary records during the January 1 – July 31 period this year.
  • Registering their farm in the online portal now if they plan to apply for the advance payment in 2024. The application portal can be accessed by visiting
  • Optionally, choosing to delegate authority to a representative (e.g., a tax preparer), who may complete and submit the application on the farm employer’s behalf later in the year.

A user guide to assist farmers with these preparatory steps is available at

After July 31, farm employers may upload supporting payroll documentation to the portal and submit to the Department of Agriculture and Markets AGM for a certificate of advance payment of eligible overtime paid between Jan. 1 and July 31. Applications must be submitted to AGM by Sept. 30.

After eligibility review, AGM will issue a certificate of advance payment to each approved farm employer. With a certificate of advance payment, the approved farmer or business owners (for example, partners or shareholders) can then request their share of the advance payment from the New York State Department of Tax and Finance (DTF). This request must be made no later than November 1, using the online services account at DTF’s website.

Additional information and resources, including important dates and a chart where upcoming educational events will be available when scheduled, can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Markets’ website at and the DTF website at Questions may be directed to or (518) 457-7076.

“Farm labor is a critical issue, and we at the State are working hard to ensure that farmers have the resources they need to support their workforce and while meeting their food production goals,” said State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball. “I encourage farmers to take a look at the resources we have available, learn more about the Farm Employer Overtime Credit program, and talk to their tax and payroll advisors to ensure they can take part in this great opportunity.”

Ag commissioner, in Orleans County stop, sees farm sector as important economic driver

Photos by Tom Rivers: Richard Ball, the  state’s agriculture commissioner, spoke at the Legislative Luncheon on Friday for the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce. About 75 people attended the event at the White Birch Golf Course. Agriculture is a $155 million industry in Orleans County, according to the 2017 federal ag census.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 January 2024 at 12:10 pm

LYNDONVILLE – Richard Ball, the state’s agricultural commissioner, sees brighter days ahead for the New York’s farm economy, which totals nearly $6 billion in total revenue.

In Orleans County, the total farm receipts are $155 million annually. Those figures are according to the 2017 ag census.  The census is done every five years and data from 2022 will be released on Feb. 13.

Ball said Gov. Kathy Hochul sees the agricultural sector as critical to the state’s economy. Hochul kept Ball as the ag commissioner after she took over on Aug. 24, 2021 following Andrew Cuomo’s resignation.

“Whenever she calls me or whenever I see her we talk ag,” said Ball, who spoke at Friday’s Legislative Luncheon organized by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce. “When she started, she told me she wanted me to stay and asked what do I need. We have a governor who gets agriculture.”

Ball, a farmer from Schoharie County, has been the state’s agricultural commissioner for nearly a decade.

He highlighted the governor’s executive budget, including these new investments for agriculture:

  • $34 million in capital grants for on-farm milk storage technologies and processing infrastructure to improve supply chain efficiency.
  • $21 million to a new Alternative Waste Management and Enhanced Precision Feed Program to further the mitigation of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions
  • $10 million to continue a multi-year investment in support of kitchen facilities that prepare meals for K-12 schools from New York State farm products.
  • $10 million to reinvigorate New York’s aquaculture industry through the Blue Food Transformation and to grow New York’s bioeconomy.

Ball said the agriculture economy also can play a role in helping the state meet its climate change and resiliency goals by sequestering carbon. The state Department of Agriculture and markets supports renewable energy projects, Ball said in response to a question at the luncheon, but those projects shouldn’t be at the expense of good farmland. The state is working on a plan to have solar projects be pushed to land that isn’t being farmed or isn’t considered good for growing crops, Ball said.

Richard Ball said agriculture remains a critical industry in the state, especially in rural communities like Orleans County.

Agriculture does face challenges, including a shortage of workers. He said Congress needs to overhaul the immigration system, which hasn’t been updated in about three decades. He isn’t optimistic Congress will pass meaningful legislation about the issue.

That leaves farmers to try to work with a federal guest-worker program that is cumbersome, costly and doesn’t fill the employment needs for farmers, Ball said told.

Ball said some farms are turning to technology and robotics to get some farm work done. The state is also stepping up workforce recruitment for local residents to learn skills and work in the ag industry, Ball said.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, said the industry is particularly challenged in New York due to high taxes, high costs for equipment and escalating expenses for workers, especially now that an overtime threshold has dropped from 60 hours a week to 56 hours, part of a phase in to get agriculture’s OT standard down to 40 hours .

Ball said the state is working to strengthen the food supply chains, including a stronger relationship between upstate farmers and the big market of New York City.

He sees an industry that will remain strong in the long-term future.

“New York has good land and access to water, the best land-grant system and some of best farmers in the world,” he said. “I like our chances.”

During his presentation, Ball also commended Amy Machamer of Holley for serving on the state’s agriculture task force. She is the owner of Hurd Orchards.

Albion dairy farmer, 2 sons take 2nd in national ag innovation competition

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 January 2024 at 9:28 pm

Provided photo: Jody Neal and his sons Zachary, left, and Jayden, formed Udder Ways LLC.

An Albion dairy farmer and his two sons finished second today in an agricultural innovation challenge at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Jody Neal and sons Jayden and Zachary have formed Udder Ways LLC, a startup business with their new system to sanitize and prepare udders for milking.

The Neals won a $20,000 prize for second place. In September, American farm Bureau announced Udder Ways was one of 10 finalists for the ag innovation competition. On Saturday, they made it to the final four.

Jody Neal is a partner a Poverty Hill Farms in Albion, a dairy farm on East County House Road. His sons were active in the Orleans County 4-H Robotics program, where they learned programming and tech skills as part of a team that competed in the Rochester region.

The Neals worked on their udder cleaning system the past eight years. The device is used just before a cow is milked. Their invention uses a unique, brushless technology to gently stimulate cows and ensure clean and dry teats, the family states on their website.

“With our patented vortex-style application, you can achieve consistent stimulation and promote milk letdown effortlessly,” they said.

The $50,000 first prize went to Barn Owl Precision Agriculture from Colorado which utilizes small robots (micro-tractors) for planting crops, precision weeding and collecting soil samples.

Roy-Hart doing farm boot drive in community to support ag program

Posted 17 January 2024 at 3:06 pm

Provided photos: Businesses and organizations in the Roy-Hart community are displaying posters and boots in a fundraiser for the Roy-Hart Agriculture Foundation.

Press Release, Roy-Hart Agriculture Foundation

MIDDLEPORT – At the National Agriculture in the Classroom conference, author Lisl H. Detlefsen shared her book, “Farm Boots” with educators from across the country. This joyful verse text that takes readers through the seasons and many types of boots that are needed to get all the jobs at the farm done.

The book is published by Feeding Minds Press – a project of the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture whose mission is to build awareness and understanding of agriculture through education.

“Farm Boots” especially touched the heart of Roy-Hart Elementary teacher Shelly Budziszewski because farm boots were always part of the back room decor at her grandparents farm.

“I was inspired with the idea to host a boot drive, much like the firefighters do, to collect donations for our Ag program at RH,” Budziszewski said.

The story was shared with the Green Team, Roy-Hart Elementary’s afterschool ag club, and members were asked to write about how they currently use their farm boots for work or play and how they will plan to use farm boots in future.

Green Team members’ boots are now on display at local businesses in Middleport, Gasport, Lockport, and Medina for the Roy-Hart Agriculture Foundation Farm Boot Drive. If you see a pair around town, please drop your spare change or a few dollars in to help the RHES Green Team and all PreK-12th grade Ag programs at Royalton-Hartland.

The boot drive concludes on Friday, January 19th, when RHAF will also be hosting a Movie Fundraiser showing “The Biggest Little Farm.” Farm-themed concessions open at 6 p.m. and the movie begins 6:30 p.m. at Roy-Hart High School. This event is open to all community members.

The boot drive locations include:

• Gasport – Chop’s Shop, Ports Pizza & Subs, Harland Abattoir, US Post Office, Stockham Lumber, Schwab’s Farm Market, Drum Oil & Propane, Olear’s and Hartland Town Hall.

• Middleport – Village Pizzeria, RH Community Library, US Post Office, Middleport Family Health Center, Darrell’s Place, T+S Crop Services, Alternative Grounds, Amy Hansen Training Center and Royalton Town Hall.

• Lockport – Ace Hardware, Scapelliti’s, Half Baked Cookies and Howell Motors Ford.

• Medina – Car Quest and Tractor Supply.

Lower overtime threshold starts for New York agriculture

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 December 2023 at 10:04 am

Weekly overtime drops from 60 to 56 hours, as part of phase-in reduction to 40 hours

Photo by Tom Rivers: Workers harvest cabbage on Route 98 in Gaines in August 2017.

The threshold for overtime will decrease for agricultural workers starting Jan. 1. The current limit is 60 hours a week at straight pay before workers can earn overtime. That will drop to 56 hours in the new year.

It is part of a phase-in reduction where the overtime threshold will be lowered by four hours every other year to 40 hours a week in 2032.

“Our agricultural industry is the backbone of New York, feeding people across the country, and farm workers are an essential piece in that process,” said New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “Introducing a phased transition allows farmers the necessary time for adjustments while protecting the farm workers who are a huge part of putting food on New Yorkers tables. These regulations reinforce New York State’s ongoing dedication to its workers.”

The change has been fought by many in the agricultural community, who said it would increase farms’ operating costs in a state where New York already is at a competitive disadvantage with other states and countries. Farmers during previous hearings said the change may lead to smaller paychecks for workers because the ag businesses may need to rein in costs by avoiding overtime. (The state is offering some tax credits to farms to help offset the increase in wages.)

“Commissioner Reardon’s decision to lower the farm labor overtime threshold will make it even tougher to farm in this state and will be a financial blow to the workers we all support,” New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said when the lower threshold was finalized. “Moving forward, farms will be forced to make difficult decisions on what they grow, the available hours they can provide to their employees, and their ability to compete in the marketplace.”

Hochul signs legislation banning some pesticides to protect pollinators and wildlife

Posted 26 December 2023 at 9:00 am

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

File photo: A bee pollinates a flower in an apple orchard in May 2020 in Knowlesville.

Governor Kathy Hochul has signed into law Legislation S.1856-A/A.7640, known as the Birds and Bees Protection Act.

This nation-leading legislation protects New Yorkers from potentially harmful toxins by prohibiting the use of certain neonicotinoid pesticide (neonics) treated corn, soybean, or wheat seeds and neonicotinoid pesticides for outdoor ornamental plants and turfs, creating important protections for New York’s pollinators, birds, and other wildlife.

“By signing the Birds and Bees Protection Act, New York is taking a significant stride in protecting our kids, environment and essential pollinators,” Governor Hochul stated on Dec. 22. “This law underscores our commitment to fostering a thriving ecosystem while we prioritize sustainable farming and agricultural practices.”

Legislation S.1856-A/A.7640 is a proactive measure to protect pollinators by restricting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on certain seeds, outdoor ornamental plants, and turf.  It allows sufficient time for innovative research on alternatives and the development of more cost-effective products that are less harmful to the environment. After this period, the use of neonicotinoids will be subject to science-based evaluations and waiver provisions to assist farm and agriculture operations in the transition to this new program.

New York is committed to promoting the health and recovery of pollinator populations, as highlighted in the State’s Pollinator Protection Plan (PDF). Pollinators contribute substantially to New York’s environment and economy. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators provide approximately $344 million worth of pollination services to New York and add $29 billion in value to crop production nationally each year. The state’s ability to produce crops such as apples, grapes, cherries, onions, pumpkins, and cauliflower relies heavily on the presence of pollinators.

This new law will build on action the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has already taken to restrict the use of many neonics and work with registrants to narrow the uses of many of these products to protect pollinators or state resources.

Last year, DEC took action to limit the unrestricted use of pesticides that can harm bee and other pollinator populations by reclassifying certain products containing the neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and acetamiprid as “restricted use” to ensure applications are limited to trained pesticide applicators in specific situations.

Governor Hochul continues to prioritize agriculture and recognizes its critical importance to New York’s economy and role in protecting the environment. The state is proud to be home to over 33,000 farms producing some of the world’s best food and beverages.

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said, “New York Farm Bureau greatly appreciates Governor Hochul’s leadership in offering thoughtful chapter amendments on the “Birds and Bees Protection Act.” She sought input from all sides and reached consensus on a balanced approach that ensures farms will have safe risk management tools that they need to grow food for our state. New York Farm Bureau also is pleased about the continued role the Department of Environmental Conservation will have in consultation with the Department of Agriculture and Markets to make science based regulatory decisions. The Governor once again demonstrated her willingness to find a reasonable pathway forward to support New York agriculture.”

New York Corn and Soybean Growers Association Vice President Brad Macauley said, “On a very complicated and consequential issue, Governor Hochul showed great leadership in protecting the agricultural industry while advancing environmental policy. Our association believes strongly in our role as stewards of the environment and following science backed policy. Governor Hochul struck the right balance for our industry and we look forward to continuing to work with the Administration on the implementation of the new law to properly protect both our environment and industry.”

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York Policy Manager Katie Baildon said, “By signing the Birds and Bees Protection Act Governor Hochul is protecting human and ecosystem health and supporting the viability of the thousands of NY farms that rely on native and honeybee populations to pollinate their crops each year. By restricting wasteful neonic use, NY is protecting not only pollinators but also insect predators that farmers count on for natural pest control and soil microbial life critical for capturing carbon and nutrient cycling. NOFA-NY is celebrating this important win that will significantly curb contamination of our environment, our bodies and the entire NY food system.”

Farm Bureau urges governor to veto proposed ban on neonicotinoid pesticides

Posted 29 November 2023 at 7:51 am

Farmers could be forced to use older, more toxic pesticides to control pests

Press Release, New York Farm Bureau

ALBANY — Harvest season has wrapped in what has been a challenging year for New York’s farmers, including a wet growing season and increased pest and disease pressures.

Farmers need safe and effective risk management tools at their disposal to grow food needed to feed a growing population. This is why New York Farm Bureau is asking Gov. Hochul to veto the so-called “Birds and Bees Protection Act” (S1856-A/A7460) that would ban an entire class of pesticides and treated seeds known as neonicotinoids.

The bill is deeply concerning, especially because of the precedent it sets. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and its scientific expertise should maintain the authority to properly review and register risk management tools, something the legislature is attempting to strip away. This is the same justification cited by Gov. Hochul in her veto message earlier this month of S5957/A5949, that would have allowed local governments to ban the use of certain pesticides in freshwater wetlands.

Seeds treated with neonicotinoids were designed to be safer and reduce pesticide use. In many cases, it uses 99 percent less of a chemical versus traditional broadcast spraying. While New York Farm Bureau shares the same goal as supporters of the legislation, to always look for ways to reduce our environmental footprint, we believe the result of this ban will force farms to revert to spraying greater amounts of older, more toxic pesticides as well as increasing tillage to combat harmful pests. This would release more carbon from the soil and increase the likelihood of soil erosion, creating additional environmental and climate issues for the state, moving us backward.