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State will hold hearings about lowering new overtime threshold for farmworkers

Photo by Tom Rivers: Farmworkers harvest vegetables last August by Townline Road in Barre.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 February 2020 at 6:20 pm

New legislation on Jan. 1 gives overtime wages for farmworkers after 60 hours in a week

BATAVIA – New state legislation started on Jan. 1 that gives overtime wages to farmworkers after 60 hours in a week. This is the first time farmworkers have had overtime pay.

State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon announced on Monday she will convene a wage board for farm laborers that will hold hearings, review and make recommendations regarding overtime work for farm laborers in New York State. That could include requests to reduce the number of hours worked in a week for farm laborers to qualify for overtime.

There will be public hearings at five locations in the state, including one at 11 a.m. April 23 in Batavia at Genesee Community College, at the William Stuart Forum, 1 College Rd. (Click here to register to speak at the hearing and see other hearing locations.)

Under the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, which Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law last year, the wage board will consider and make recommendations as to overtime work and, specifically, will hear testimony about reducing the threshold for overtime below 60 hours per week and whether to do so in phases.

“We worked hard to ensure this bill included the proper labor protections and benefits that our farm laborers are entitled to,” said Commissioner Reardon. “We have an opportunity to improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of farmworkers. Overtime is a key component and we need to get it right.”

The Wage Board includes the following members:

• David Fisher, President of the New York Farm Bureau

• Denis Hughes, former President of the New York State AFL-CIO

• Brenda McDuffie, President of the Buffalo Urban League

Fisher, as president of NY Farm Bureau, released the following statement:

“What will be especially challenging for farmers and their employees alike is the timing of the statutorily required hearings.  The law directs the Wage Board to hold its first meeting by March 1 with a report due by December of this year.  It will be incredibly difficult for board members to reasonably determine if the overtime threshold should be justifiably lowered.

“Farmers have just started to implement changes on their farms to comply with the new law and are still determining what is best for their small businesses and employees. Further, crops are not even in the ground for the spring planting season, let alone having no real-world examples of how this new law will impact harvest season. This short window of time also does not allow any ability to see how different growing conditions due to extreme weather can impact overtime needs.

“New York Farm Bureau strongly believes it will take data from multiple growing seasons to appropriately evaluate the economic realities and labor challenges facing New York agriculture as a result of the new overtime threshold implemented only weeks ago. And until that can happen, it should not be lowered.

“New York Farm Bureau appreciates that the Department of Labor accepted our organization’s suggestion to hold the Wage Board hearings in areas of the state that provide easier access for the farming community to attend. We highly encourage our members to take the time to speak at one of the hearings or submit public comments to help better inform the Wage Board members.”

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SBA making loans available for farms, small businesses hurt in August hail storm

Photo courtesy of Adam Krenning: Powerful winds on Aug. 16 snapped apple trees that were in a trellis system on Howlett Road in Knowlesville. A big chunk of the apple crop was damaged and destroyed in Knowlesville by the wind and hail.

Staff Reports Posted 14 February 2020 at 10:08 am

Hail and wind ruined big chunk of apple crop in Knowlesville

Orleans County farmers and small businesses hurt by an Aug. 16 hail and wind storm are encouraged to seek low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The SBA announced it is making Working Capital Disaster Loans available to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and private nonprofit organizations located in New York as a result of hail on August 15-16.

The loans are available in the following counties: Cayuga, Cortland, Genesee, Madison, Monroe, Niagara Onondaga, Orleans and Oswego in New York, the SBA announced.

Under this declaration, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is available to eligible farm-related and nonfarm-related entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster. With the exception of aquaculture enterprises, SBA cannot provide disaster loans to agricultural producers, farmers and ranchers.

The loan amount can be up to $2 million with interest rates of 4 percent for small businesses and 2.75 percent for private nonprofit organizations, with terms up to 30 years. The SBA determines eligibility based on the size of the applicant, type of activity and its financial resources. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition. These working capital loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred. The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at

Disaster loan information and application forms may also be obtained by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an email to Loan applications can be downloaded from Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

Submit completed loan applications to SBA no later than Oct. 5, 2020.

Photo by Tom Rivers: A utility pole was knocked down by strong winds on Aug. 16 in Carlton on Winding Road, near Lake Ontario, just north of Kuckville.

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SK Herefords in Medina receives environmental award

Posted 12 February 2020 at 9:30 pm

New York Beef Council honors farm for stewardship

Provided photo: Pictured from left include: NY Beef Producers’ Association President Phil Trowbridge, SK Herefords partners Phil & Dawn Keppler, New York Beef Council Executive Director Jean O’Toole, and SK Herefords partner Dave Schubel.

Press Release, New York Beef Council

MEDINA – SK Herefords, LLC in Medina was presented with the Environmental Stewardship Award at the New York Beef Producers’ Association 2020 Annual Winter Conference.

This award was presented during the council’s annual meeting in Syracuse. The award was established to recognize the outstanding stewardship practices and conservation achievements of a New York beef producer.

The winner of this award is commended for their commitment to protecting the environment and improving fish and wildlife habitats while operating profitable cattle operations. The winner will be nominated for regional recognition through the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

SK Herefords is a family cattle operation which includes a long-standing partnership between Dave Schubel, Dawn & Phil Keppler, and Alana Welker and family. The operation consists of approximately 1,200 acres of pasture, row crops, and woodland. SK Herefords calves nearly 250 females every spring.

SK Herefords produces feed for their cattle on their farm, growing acres of corn hay and pasture. The corn is harvested for grain or chopped for silage for the cows to eat during the winter. As big believers in planting cover crops and following no till practices for almost four decades, SK Herefords covers their corn fields in cereal rye after harvesting.

“It really helps cut down on erosion and improve the health of our soil,” Phil Keppler said.

SK Herefords has passionately worked to develop the wildlife on their farm. Woodlot management techniques are implemented to optimize forest health, productivity and protective habitat.

Fostering healthy pasture and crop land is important to them, as is providing natural habitat for birds. In fact, each year hay harvest is delayed allowing grass nesting songbirds to fledge out. A parcel of hay ground is left unharvested each year to provide a protected habitat for the birds. The farm is located within the Atlantic flyway. Fostering habitats for the birds, this flyway means that a visit to the farm can provide opportunity to see dozens of different species of birds throughout the year during migration seasons.

In addition, the Oak Orchard Creek, part of the Great Lakes Ontario Watershed, runs through the farm. Buffer zones have been implemented to protect the water from runoff and cattle have been fenced out of the creek. These management practices are essential in assuring the quality of the water which feeds into a world-class trout fishery, a popular recreation area for brown and rainbow trout.

Implementing new practices and approaches on the farm is an important cornerstone of the farm philosophy at SK Herefords. When asked what Phil’s view on the future of agriculture was and how creativity plays into it, he shared, “Creativity is desperately needed in agriculture, let’s focus on solutions, let’s get creative, that’s what makes things work. Creativity helps you look at things not as being a problem, but helps you find the solution and that’s the exciting thing. Creativity gives you hope and that is the most important thing in life-hope.”

The common trait among all Environmental Stewardship Award winners is the desire to leave the land in better shape for future generations while also inspiring the next generation of land stewards. SK Herefords LLC. exemplifies these traits. The New York Beef Council and New York Beef Producers’ Association are thrilled to honor this exemplary farm.

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Gillibrand, Schumer say unfair trade subsidies from Canada hurting NY onion growers

Posted 7 February 2020 at 1:18 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Some local onions from the Elba muck are shown in this photo.

Press Release, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer

WASHINGTON, D.C. —U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are calling for investigations into unfair trade subsidies to Canadian growers, as New York State onion farmers struggle against an influx of produce, priced below the price of production, coming across the border.

“New York State is home to prime onion-producing land, yet our farmers are unable to sell their goods in a domestic market that is flooded by cheap Canadian exports,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Farmers across the country have been struggling to keep up with growing production costs, while Canadian exporters have been able to dump cheap onions onto the market at prices comparable to 30 years ago.

“Since Canada has similar production costs, the only way this could be happening is through some type of government subsidy that is lowering their costs,” Gillibrand said. “This would amount to an unfair trade practice and needs to be immediately investigated. I stand with the National Onion Association in calling on the U.S. International Trade Commission and the United States Trade Representative for a full review of Canadian pricing, subsidies and exporting practices.”

New York State is home to Orange County’s famous “Black Dirt” Region, one of the premier onion-producing regions in the nation. Yet, New York farmers, including those who grow highly-prized black-dirt onions, are being forced to sell produce at market prices comparable to the 1980s.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that Orange County onion growers received between $5.25 and 5.75 for a 50-pound bag of medium yellow onions, which would amount to around $13.00 or $14.00 today. Today, those farmers are offered only $7.00 per 50-pound bag, less than $2.00 more than what they were paid nearly 30 years ago.

“Some of the best onions in the country come right from Orange County’s Black Dirt region, as well as from other upstate counties,” Schumer said. “However, due to Canada’s suspected unfair pricing practices, cheap Canadian onions are flooding United States markets and leaving New York onion farmers at a steep competitive disadvantage.

“As costs of production, labor, and equipment continue to rise, it’s time for the US International Trade Commission and US Trade Representative to immediately investigate Canadian onion exporters’ pricing practices along with the Canadian government’s trade regulations and level the playing field once and for all, allowing New York farmers to finally harvest the massive potential of their onions.”

Gillibrand’s and Schumer’s push for an investigation into the onion industry will help identify which factors contribute to unfair prices and ensure increased market transparency.

The two senators from New York sent a letter on Feb. 6 to the U.S. International Trade Commission and the United States Trade Representative.

In their letter, the senators asked for the following:

1. Initiate a fact-finding investigation into the alleged unfair pricing practices of Canadian onion exporters, including:

a. A review of any potential anti-competitive pricing practices, including the sale of Canadian onions in the U.S. market at prices below the cost of production;

b. A comparison of U.S. and Canadian tariffs and nontariff trade regulations that apply to onions; and

c. A review of Canadian government subsidy programs that support reducing the costs of shipping, fuel, imported seed and farm inputs, or crop price guarantees relating to onions through either country-wide or provincial-level support, or any other market-distorting practices;

2. Keep their offices apprised of any findings that result from such an investigation; and

3.  Work in tandem with other relevant U.S. government entities, including the Office of the United States Trade Representative as the agency moves to implement and enforce obligations as part of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and other international trade agreements, to address and rectify any discriminatory pricing or other unfair trade practices relating to Canadian onion imports.

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NY corn and soybean champs, both from Orleans, honored at Expo in Syracuse

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 February 2020 at 8:31 am

Provided photo: Adam Kirby, left, and Robin Root hold the trophies for winning the yield contests through the New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association.

SYRACUSE – The New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association honored two farmers from Orleans County for having the highest yields in the association’s annual corn and soybean contests.

Adam Kirby of Albion won the corn yield competition with an entry of 277.44 bushels per acre.

Root Brothers Farm in Albion had the top soybean yield with 80.56 bushels per acre. Robin Root accepted the trophy on behalf of Root Brothers.

The two farms were recognized on Jan. 23 during the New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association’s annual Winter Expo in Syracuse.

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Orleans among 43 counties approved for disaster declaration due to wet spring

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

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 January 2020 at 2:17 pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Orleans County has been named one of 43 counties in the state approved as a natural disaster designation after suffering heavy rains and severe flooding during the 2019 farming season.

This designation allows communities hurt by extreme weather to access certain federal assistance, such as emergency loans and other aid programs, from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to help recover their losses.

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

The disaster declaration includes the following counties: Albany, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango, Clinton, Columbia, Delaware, Erie, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Greene, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Schuler, Seneca, Steuben, Sullivan, Tioga, Washington, Wyoming and Yates, which were designated primary natural disaster areas and farm operators in these counties are eligible for FSA emergency loans, provided they meet other requirements.

Additionally, farm operators in Broome, Cortland, Dutchess, Orange, St. Lawrence, Tompkins, Ulster, Warren, and Wayne counties are also eligible for assistance.

U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced the declaration today.

“After weathering a brutal farming season last year, the USDA’s disaster designation will provide much needed assistance to farmers and growers throughout Upstate New York,” said Senator Charles Schumer. “From corner to corner of the state, I have seen firsthand the aftermath of last year’s severe rain and flooding. Thankfully, this disaster declaration means our Upstate farmers and growers will have access to critical emergency loans and more, at a time when they need it the most.”

USDA offers a variety of programs and services to help communities, farmers, ranchers, and businesses recover from production and physical losses due to drought, flooding, and other natural disasters. Click here for more information on the federal disaster programs to assist farmers.

“I’m pleased that the USDA has approved natural disaster designations across Upstate New York for counties that suffered extensive damage due to severe weather during last year’s farming season,” said Senator Gillibrand, member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “This will allow FSA emergency loans and other assistance to flow to communities that need it. New York has a strong farming tradition, and it is past time for our farmers to get the help they need to recover. I will always do everything I can to ensure that New Yorkers have the resources to rebuild.”

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Tax benefits for farmers, other agriculture funding included in executive budget

Posted 29 January 2020 at 9:21 am

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the FY 2021 Executive Budget includes an expansion of the current income exclusion for farmers and sole proprietors and an expansion of the refundability of the investment tax credit so that more farming businesses can qualify.

“Agriculture remains a key industry in New York and we are committed to helping the farmers who help all of us put food on the table,” Governor Cuomo said. “These businesses are economic engines for their local communities, and with these key reforms, we are investing in a stronger Empire State for all.”

The Executive Budget triples the existing sole proprietor and farm business income AGI subtraction from 5 percent to 15 percent. This will further uplift small businesses that have an annual income of $250,000 or less and are paying taxes through personal income tax.

The budget also expands the refundability of the investment tax credit, which is currently offered only to new businesses, so that all taxpayers whose primary source of income is from farming operations can qualify, allowing them to receive the full benefit of their credits earned.

Building on these important tax benefits, the budget continues to support the agricultural industry at significant levels through local assistance funding. The Governor has proposed a budget of $27.4 million to ensure the future of New York State agriculture.

This funding is integral to the success of a number of programs that provide specialized technical assistance, research, agricultural education, workforce development, and marketing initiatives for the agricultural community. These include the NY FFA, Pro-Dairy, commodity-specific research and development at Cornell, funding for the Farm-to-School program, and more.

The Executive Budget would raise the spending threshold for school districts procuring local food for breakfast and lunch through the federal Child Nutrition Programs. This change will give schools more flexibility in realizing the Governor’s goal for schools to source 30 percent of their menu items from local farms as part of the No Student Goes Hungry initiative.

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Root Brothers Farm wins state soybean yield contest

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 January 2020 at 10:18 am

ALBION – Root Brothers Farm in Albion has won the New York State soybean contest with a yield of 80.56 bushels per acre.

Root Brothers grew the top yield with a FS HiSoy seed, number HS 18X70.

Verratti Farms in Gasport had the second and third highest yields in the state, with entries of 76.40 bushels and 74.56.

Root Brothers Farm is the second farm in Orleans County to win a yield contest in the state in 2019.

Adam Kirby of Albion won the corn yield competition with an entry of 277.44 bushels per acre.

For more information on the competitions, click here.

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Adam Kirby of Albion has top NY corn yield

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 December 2019 at 10:26 am

ALBION — Adam Kirby of Albion has the top corn yield in New York in the 2019 Corn Yield Contest, which is organized by the National Corn Growers Association.

Kirby had a 277.0 bushel yield in the strip till, non-irrigated category. That topped Jason Swede of Pavilion with a 259.8 yield and Gary Swede of Pavilion at 255.4 bushels.

Kirby’s yield also topped the other category leaders from New York. Jeremy Silsby of Gasport won the conventional non-irrigated category with a yield of 254.6 bushels. John Macauley of Mount Morris won the no-till non-irrigated category with 229.3 bushels and Paul Campbell of Nichols won the conventional irrigated division with 258.5 bushels.

Kirby used a Pioneer seed, P0843AM, to grow the winning corn.

The National Corn Growers reported the results of the contest, including a new all-time record yield of 616.2 bushels by David Hula of Charles City, Va.

Corn growers were able to achieve impressive yields despite adverse growing conditions that impacted most farmers, the National Corn Growers said.

This is the 55th year of the annual contest. The organization said improved seed varieties, advanced production techniques and innovative growing practices allowed corn growers to boost their yields.

“Yield contest participants create and share information that shapes the future of the industry while participating in friendly competition,” said Roger Zylstra, chairman of the Corn Growers’  Stewardship Action Team. “At both the state and national levels, contest winners find new ways to excel in a variety of situations. In turn, these innovations can help their fellow farmers face challenges as well. Our contest emphasizes invention and improvement, both from growers and technology providers, that enables U.S. farmers to meet the growing demand for food, feed, fuel and fiber.”

You’re here checking the site, so you know: Orleans Hub is a vital resource for our community. Day in and day out, we share information and insights that matter to those who live and work in the towns, villages and hamlets of our county. Local advertisers help make the Hub possible, and so can you.

Donate today to keep Orleans Hub healthy and accessible to all. Thank you!

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50th annual Corn Congress set for Jan. 8 in Batavia

Posted 26 December 2019 at 1:58 pm

Press Release, Cornell Cooperative Extension

BATAVIA – Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Northwest NY Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Team will be hosting the 50th Annual Corn Congress for producers from across the region on Jan. 8 in Batavia and Jan. 9 in Waterloo.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., with presentations starting at 10 a.m. DEC Recertification points and Certified Crop Adviser credits will be available.

• Wednesday, January 8 – Quality Inn & Suites, 8250 Park Rd., Batavia, NY

• Thursday, January 9 – Quality Inn, 2468 NYS Route 414, Waterloo, NY

Guest speaker Clarence Swanton, Weed Scientist at University of Guelph in Canada, will present: Talking Plants: The Science Behind Good Weed Management.

His research is focused on weed ecology and the development of integrated weed management systems for field and horticultural crops. He has won numerous awards for his research including: the Ontario Agricultural College Distinguished Researcher Award, University of Guelph Presidential Distinguished Professor Award, Excellence in Weed Science for Canada and the Weed Society of America’s Outstanding Researcher Award.

Guest speaker Jake Kraayenbrink, farmer/entrepreneur in Ontario, Canada, will present: Soil Compaction: Measuring and Mediating Machinery Damage.

He has always had a passion for soil health and has worked with the Ontario Ministry of Ag, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the University of Guelph. He is a Compaction Action team member in Ontario is the director of the Innovative Farmer’s Association of Ontario (IFAO), that helps organize Compaction Action field days for the Ag community.

Additional topics to be discussed by Cornell University researchers include:

• Changing Pathogens, Hybrids, and Weather: Wither Corn Diseases?

• Effective Programs for Controlling Waterhemp in Corn

• Building a Corn Yield Potential Database in New York

• Biocontrol of Corn Rootworm

Registration is $65 per person and includes proceeding book, morning refreshments and hot buffet lunch. To register online, and choose your location, click here. To register by phone, contact Brandie Waite at 585-343-3040 x138.

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