New York Farm Bureau members lobby Legislature
ALBANY — Hundreds of farmers have taken the rare day off to participate in New York Farm Bureau’s annual lobby day at the Capitol in Albany advocating for support of policies that will benefit all of New York’s farms. From capping skyrocketing agricultural land assessments at 2 percent to raising the threshold for the estate tax to match the federal $5 million mark for agriculture, these farm-friendly bills will help keep the land in farming for the next generation.
Agriculture generates more than 200,000 jobs on the farm and off in New York State. Studies have shown that if you have healthy farms, you have a healthy economy. In these days of high costs of farm production and the high land-tax burden in New York, it is imperative state lawmakers pass legislation that supports local family farms.
“Our advocacy agenda is at the root of what we do at New York Farm Bureau. Our farmer members from every region of the state adopted the policies we are promoting here today in the halls of the State Capitol, and we take great pride on being a strong voice for all of agriculture,” said Dean Norton, NYFB president.
New York Farm Bureau is working with both sides of the aisle to advance their causes and has advocates in the chairs of both agriculture committees, Sen. Patty Ritchie and Assemblyman Bill Magee. In partnership with them and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, they are confident New York will do what is right for its farmers and the people who depend on having healthy, local food to feed their families.
Additional priorities include the establishment of tax-deferred Farm Savings Accounts to use as a risk-management tool to combat severe weather impacts or extreme price downturns. Farmers will also be opposing a hike in the minimum wage, as well as advocating for a new training wage for workers 18 and younger who hold seasonal employment during the summer months. Plus, they are supporting a state tax credit for donations of locally grown food by farmers to food banks. New York farmers last year donated more than 8 million pounds of food to New York food banks.
For more information on NYFB’s state priorities, visit http://nyfb.org/legislative_affairs/Priority_Issues_for_2012_57_pg.htm.
Search for America’s Farm Mom of the Year under way
ST. LOUIS – Monsanto’s search for America’s Farmers Mom of the Year is back for a fourth year to acknowledge the contributions of more than a million female farm operators in the United States.
Anyone can nominate their favorite farm mom by visiting AmericasFarmers.com before April 23 and submitting a brief essay explaining how she contributes to her family, farm, community and agriculture. One regional winner will be selected by a panel of judges from American Agri-Women and Monsanto for each of the contest’s five regions. Profiles of the regional winners will be posted to AmericasFarmers.com, where online voting will determine the national winner, to be announced on Mother’s Day. Each regional winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize from Monsanto; the national winner will receive an additional $5,000 cash prize.
“The number of female farm operators has grown exponentially over the past decade, and farm moms play a significant role not only on their farms and communities, but also to the American food supply and economy,” said Lisa Safarian, U.S. Row Crops Lead, Monsanto. “The America’s Farmers Mom of the Year contest is one small tribute to the amazing women who balance the responsibilities of family, home and farm, often while volunteering or working in their community and promoting agriculture as well.”
Last year the America’s Farmers Mom of the Year contest received more than 900 nominations from 45 states. From this vast pool of worthy candidates, the judges selected five regional winners as diverse as their farming operations. Online voting on AmericasFarmers.com selected Debbie Lyons-Blythe, a rancher from White City, Kansas, as the national 2012 America’s Farmers Mom of the Year winner. Gov. Sam Brownback hosted a ceremony at Kansas’ Department of Agriculture to honor Lyons-Blythe in front of her family and friends as she was presented with her grand-prize check from Monsanto.
Complete eligibility requirements and official rules can be obtained at www.AmericasFarmers.com or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to America’s Farmers Mom of the Year, Attn: Nancy Hallahan, 914 Spruce Street, St. Louis, MO., 63102.
America’s Farmers Mom of the Year is an element of Monsanto’s America’s Farmers program, an advocacy effort promoting, recognizing and supporting U.S. farmers through communications, awards and special programs that highlight the importance of agriculture.
Funding offered to help farmers with energy costs
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has made available $6.4 million in funding to help farmers reduce energy costs, protect the environment and remain economically viable. This new funding expands a successful program launched in 2011, which has already assisted 170 farms in securing annual energy savings of $850,000 and reducing power usage by 6,800 megawatt hours.
Administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the Agriculture Energy Efficiency Program (AEEP) facilitates energy audits to help identify energy-efficiency measures and provides funding that pays for 75 percent of the implementation cost of electricity and gas efficiency projects on farms and at on-farm producers.
“The agricultural sector represents a $4 billion industry in the state and is a critical driver in New York’s economy,” Cuomo said. “The Agriculture Energy Efficiency Program will help our farmers and on-farm producers reduce their costs through investments in energy-efficient projects and equipment. Additionally, these projects will have a very beneficial impact on the environment.”
Program incentives are available to offset the cost of equipment or projects, including energy efficiency, facility and productivity improvements and expansions that support electric and natural-gas efficiency.
Farms that are eligible include orchards, dairies, greenhouses, vegetables, vineyards, grain dryers, egg and poultry farms and others as well as on-site farm producers such as cider mills. Energy efficiency upgrades include process improvements; lighting upgrades; high-efficiency fan, pump and motor systems; and other measures. Eligibility is limited to farms that pay into the System Benefit Charge.
Launched in 2011, AEEP’s first round of funding made available $3.2 million to assist farms in becoming more energy efficient and, therefore, more sustainable, helping to build and strengthen the rural economy of New York State.
Today’s announcement follows Cuomo’s recent announcement outlining two programs to help dairy farmers lower their energy costs and help expand their production and efficiency. NYSERDA is doubling the maximum incentive for its Anaerobic Digester Biogas to Electricity (ADG) program from $1 million to up to $2 million per installation. The governor also announced that $450,000 was being made available for a Dairy Acceleration Program (DAP) that will provide grants and coordinate funding and technical programs to help farmers interested in expanding their operations or increasing their efficiency.
For more information on the AEEP funding opportunity, go to http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/Funding-Opportunities/Current-Funding-Opportunities/PON-2644-Agriculture-Energy-Efficiency-Program.aspx.
Extension to hold pest-control update
PLATTSBURGH — A Vegetable and Berry Pest Management Update for commercial growers will be held Monday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Essex County Cornell Cooperative Extension Office at 3 Sisco St. in Westport.
The cost is $15 per person for the whole day and $10 per person for a half day. Pesticide recertification credits available.
The morning session is 10 a.m. to noon and is called Vegetable Weed Management, Pest and Disease Update. The instructor is Chuck Bornt, regional vegetable specialist with the Eastern New York Horticulture Team. Weed-management strategies for vegetable production including tillage practices and pesticides will be discussed, and a review of key disease and insect pest challenges on potatos, pumpkins and sweet corn will be offered.
The afternoon session is 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and is called Berry Pest Update. The instructor is Laura McDermott, regional berry specialist with the Eastern New York Horticulture Team. A review of local berry pests including the new spotted wing drosophila, prevention and control strategies, and weed management options and strategies in berry crops including strawberries, raspberries and blueberries will be featured.
For more information, contact Amy Ivy, firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 570-5991.
Gov. Cuomo urges New York be used for yogurt pilot
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to choose New York State to implement the strained Greek yogurt pilot program.
A letter from New York State Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Darrel Aubertine to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined the state’s interest in being chosen for the pilot program, as well as encouraged USDA to amend the protein-crediting standards to better reflect the nutritional value of Greek yogurt.
“As the nation’s leader in Greek yogurt production, New York is the natural fit to be selected to implement this pilot program,” Cuomo said. “Our state government is partnering with the private sector to bring down barriers to business growth, and the results are showing in New York’s tremendous yogurt boom. New York State is eager to demonstrate that serving delicious Greek Yogurt in our cafeterias will both improve the health of our children while helping our schools save money, a real win-win.”
In January, USDA announced that it would begin a pilot program to test the cost-effectiveness of including Greek yogurt in school meal programs. Through the State Food Policy Council and Farm to School Program, New York has demonstrated the expertise and infrastructure necessary to implement the program.
This pilot program will demonstrate the benefits of including strained Greek yogurt as a healthy, cost-effective food entitlement for school meals. Strained Greek yogurt offers higher nutritional benefits than unstrained yogurt with less sugar, carbohydrates, sodium and lactose as well as an increase in protein per ounce.
If the USDA recognizes the higher protein content for strained Greek yogurt, schools offering it could save $.02-$.20 per four-ounce cup.
As a result of New York’s conducive environment to yogurt production, the state has become the nation’s leader in strained Greek yogurt production with plants such as Chobani, Fage, Alpina and Mueller-Quaker throughout the state. In the last five years, New York’s yogurt plants have more than doubled in number and production, and milk production grew by nearly 850 million pounds. Following the state’s first Yogurt Summit last year, Cuomo announced new initiatives aimed to increase milk production while lowering cost for dairy farmers in New York.
The USDA pilot program would be part of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, which provide meals in public and private non-for-profit schools.