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FFA honors Maziarz, Schumer and other supporters with honorary degrees

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 May 2013 at 12:00 am

Provided photo – State Sen. George Maziarz received an honorary Empire Degree from the FFA during last weekend’s state convention in Albion. He is pictured with state FFA officers, including Adam Eick of Medina, next to Maziarz at right.

ALBION – Last week’s state FFA convention, which drew 1,100 students from across New York to Albion, wouldn’t have been possible without an army of local volunteers and generous community donations.

Many of those supporters were recognized by the local FFA chapter with honorary “Empire Degrees,” the highest honor an FFA student can attain in New York.

FFA advisor Adam Krenning and FFA students presented the honors to FFA Alumni President Barry Flansburg, Paula and Steve Nesbitt, Gary Kludt, Jim and Kerry Panek, Alan Panek, Kathy and Jacob Jurs, Jeremy and Tina Neal, Ed Neal and local contractor Jim Babcock.

“They’re always here to help out,” Krenning said about the honorees. “They’re huge supporters of the FFA. They have the same vision I have for keeping agriculture thriving in our county.”

The FFA also gave Empire Degrees to Albion Central School leaders, who welcomed the three-day convention to the school campus. The FFA honored Michael Bonnewell, the district superintendent; Leslie Stauss, high school principal; and Mary Leto, the assistant superintendent.

The state FFA also bestowed two honorary degrees to politicians who the organization said have been advocates for agriculture. State Sen. George Maziarz, who represents all of Orleans County, was given an Empire Degree. He is regularly recognized as a “Friend of Agriculture” by New York Farm Bureau.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-Brooklyn, also was honored by the FFA, although he was unable to accept the award in person. Schumer attended the convention in 2007, the last time Albion hosted the event.

He frequently is in the area, visiting fruit and dairy farms. He is a key leader of the immigration initiative in Congress that would increase the number of legal foreign workers for agriculture, an issue that farm organizations say is a top priority.