Agriculture

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New York’s dairy industry likely won’t see more of the good times next year farmers experienced in 2014, largely because dairy prices and profits are expected to level off.

Andy Novakovic, a professor of agriculture economics at Cornell University, says dairy markets in New York are already starting to decline to be in balance with the rest of the world, "but we have quite a bit of altitude to lose before we get to where the rest of the world is," he said. 

This was a great year for the dairy industry, he said. 

Sam Van Aken / courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Art

Imagine dozens of different kinds of fruit all hanging from a single tree. It's the dream of a Syracuse artist, who is building such a tree, branch by branch.

Grafting fruit trees is a practice almost as old as fruit trees themselves. Mending branches from two different varieties of fruit is how we get hybrid fruit varieties.

Syracuse University art professor Sam Van Aken is taking the art of graft to another level.

In a make-shift tree nursery behind the school’s art building, Van Aken has been slowly grafting together what he's calling the Tree of 40 Fruit.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Federal food regulators are backing off of proposed changes to what craft brewers can do with the leftover grains from the beer making process.

Craft brewers in New York have said the proposal would hurt their businesses.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) had called for the Food and Drug Administration to abandon the change. He announced Thursday FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg agreed to revise the rule to avoid "unintended consequences" that would harm brewers and farmers.

Brewers provide spent grain to dairy farmers as a low-cost or free source of cow feed.

Robyn Lee / via Flickr

Upstate New York grocery store chain Wegmans has come out and said federal food regulators should develop standards and labeling practices for foods that contain genetically modified ingredients.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

This winter’s cold temperatures are creating tough survival conditions for honeybees. Come spring, the bees will be relied on to pollinate upstate New York apple, cherry, and other fruit trees.

Mike Martino began the winter with a hundred bee colonies on his Honey Hill apple orchard in Chittenango. He estimates he’ll lose about 30 colonies by spring time. He’s hoping the prolonged frigid temperatures of the past few months don’t kill off more.

Sponsors of a bill to require the labeling of genetically modified foods, or GMO's, say they hope they have better luck this year advancing the legislation after it died in committee late last session.

The bill would require that all genetically engineered food sold in New York be clearly labeled. Assembly Sponsor Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat, says the measure would give consumers the choice of whether they want to buy genetically altered food, or not.

messycupcakes / Flickr

Central New York yogurt powerhouse Chobani won’t be able to call its yogurt “Greek” in the United Kingdom after a court ruling.

A British court ruled yesterday that because Chobani’s Greek-style yogurt is made in New York state, not in Greece, they can’t call it Greek. The legal challenge came from a Chobani rival, Fage.

The court said the labeling misleads consumers. Chobani hit U.K. store shelves in 2012, but withdrew its products last year, according to the Associated Press.

Ian Lamont / Flickr

New York Sen. Charles Schumer says it’s “a good day” for upstate New York farmers now that there is a deal in the House of Representatives and Senate for a Farm Bill.

Congress is expected to begin voting on the bill later today. The five year farm bill, agreed upon in committees on Monday, reduces crop subsidies and increases crop insurance.

Farm Bills were first written during the Great Depression. This latest one took two years of negotiation.

Schumer, a Democrat, says the bill is especially good for small dairy farmers and maple sugar tappers in New York.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

A new dairy processing facility under construction in Cayuga County plans to make most of its money on the export market and its owners are hoping trade rule changes don’t hinder that.

An $80 million dairy facility going up in Auburn plans to sell powdered milk to countries in Asia and North Africa, but current trade rules with some of those countries could make exporting their products difficult.

Local food craze hits booze market, too

Oct 30, 2013
Joanna Richards

The local food trend in the North Country is starting to fill a new niche: alcoholic beverages. And not only are brewers and winemakers crafting their products there, but they're also taking advantage of the rural region to double the local appeal, with homegrown ingredients. Several of these businesses just opened in Jefferson County.

fishhawk / Flickr

A Northeast dairy cooperative headquartered in Syracuse plans to merge with a larger national operation from Missouri.

Century-old Dairylea told members at its annual meetings this week of its plan to merge with Dairy Farmers of America. Dairylea has been a partner organization since 2002.

The move, pending approval from members, will better position its farmers for the future, Dairylea spokeswoman Karen Cartier said.

New work space fills gap for small food producers

Sep 26, 2013
Joanna Richards

A new commercial kitchen in Sackets Harbor is starting to help small food producers grow their businesses. The shared-use facility is the first of its kind in Jefferson County.

In a dining room full of chattering officials from local government, agriculture and economic development, people dug into the first products of the new kitchen: Christine Hoffman's pepper jelly and fruit jam.

Robert S. Donovan / Flickr

Farmers in the Champlain Valley often use tile drains in their fields. They help the region’s clay soil drain faster and produce higher crop yields. But for years, Lake Champlain has had high levels of phosphorus pollution, which can result in toxic blue-green algae blooms, and farm runoff is one of the primary contributors.

Now scientists are trying to figure out whether there’s a link between tile drainage and phosphorus pollution.

Doug Kerr / Flickr

Back in the 1930s, when Finger Lakes resident Carl Mortensen was a kid, agriculture was his small town’s link to the rest of the state.

“New York City was full of horses,” Mortensen said. “They used horses for everything. And our big thing then was to put up oats, straw and hay and like that and ship it to New York City.”

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy filled in for Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the official opening of the New York State Fair in Syracuse today.  While Cuomo was hosting President Obama in Buffalo, Duffy was tasting New York state products in the new Taste New York Tent at the Fair.

The Daily Refresher

As people increasingly stray from mass-produced products, demand is growing for locally produced food, wine and beer. In upstate New York this trend is spilling over into the field of craft distilleries, and the state is seeing a comeback of the small, artisan liquor operations of the pre-Prohibition era.

From the Adirondacks to the Hudson Valley, and down to New York City, dozens of micro-distilleries are popping up.

In western New York, Jason Barrett is adding another operation to the ranks.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Brian Reeves is plucking dead leaves off of pepper plants on his farm in Baldwinsville.

"If it keeps up, they will lose more and more leaves and you come back here in two weeks and it's like a stem with no leaves," he says. "It's just gone."

Low-lying spots in his fields are wetter than they should be with large puddles collecting in some areas. Crops trying to grow in those areas are showing signs of too much moisture - like dead leaves and disease.

It's a result of the wetter-than-average summer so far in upstate New York.

Protesters pressure Watertown Walmart on animal welfare

Jul 9, 2013
Joanna Richards / WRVO

Animal welfare demonstrators caught motorists' and shoppers' attention Monday morning along Watertown's busy Arsenal Street. A giant balloon showed a bruised and wounded pig confined to a tiny metal crate, and two activists held a sign reading, “Walmart tortures pigs” on the grassy median in front of Watertown's Walmart store.

Kate O'Connell/Innovation Trail

It’s soft, stinky and delicious, and it’s an opportunity for economic development.

Upstate New York looks ready to usher in a new era of cheese production. A partnership between supermarket chain Wegmans Food Markets and Cornell University hopes to make the region a leader in the artisanal cheese industry.

Dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Kathy Boor, says growing demand for local quality cheese presents an opportunity to diversify the region’s dairy industry.

Matt Richmond / WSKG

The five year Farm Bill, likely to pass a vote in the U.S. Senate next Monday, includes an amendment from New York Sen. Charles Schumer that attempts to address rising demand for milk.

Schumer says the amendment could help New York’s dairy farmers supply a fast-growing yogurt industry.

It would create a $5 million pilot program aimed at helping small dairy farms access technical help for  things like animal nutrition and business planning.

Joanna Richards

Agriculture advocates are welcoming progress on state legislation that would slow rising property taxes for farmers. The Senate passed a bill last week that tightens the cap on farmland assessment increases. Yesterday, that measure also passed out of the Assembly's Agriculture Committee. 

novemberdelta / via Flickr

An increased demand for long-lasting dairy products has prompted Byrne Dairy to expand one of its three dairy processing facilities in the Syracuse area.

Byrne Dairy-owned Ultra Dairy wants to add about 100,000 square feet to its plant along Interstate 481 in DeWitt. The company says the expansion will allow them to add about 50 more jobs at the plant.

Ultra Dairy uses a more sterilized pasteurization process that allows products to have a shelf life of up to 140 days. The plant hasn't been able to keep up with orders lately, it told county economic development officials.

Ashley Hassett/Innovation Trail

The quiet western New York farming community of Alabama sits among acres of farm and wetland. It’s also the site chosen for a new Science Technology and Manufacturing Park, known as STAMP. The high-tech park has also been the subject of some public scrutiny, as Genesee county rates highly amongst top agricultural producers in the state. The project is also an example of when the values of agricultural communities are starting to rub up against an upstate development agenda focused around high-tech manufacturing.

As more and more people become interested in trying to eat locally produced foods, New York state's farmers markets are also becoming more popular. But how can you make sure what you buy at the farmers market is really healthier than what you might get at the supermarket? Linda Lowen and Lorraine Rapp, hosts of WRVO's health and wellness show "Take Care" asked Ben Vitale, who oversees the Central New York Regional Market Authority, a year-round farmers market in Syracuse. Vitale is also a farmer himself.

Sarah Harris/Innovation Trail

Dairy farms in northern New York and Vermont have faced a major labor shortage, which means that migrant laborers from Mexico and Guatemala are now milking many of the region's cows. But farm country here is not an easy place to be a migrant worker: It's rural, hard to get around, and there's not a big Latino population. But a new law means that migrant workers in Vermont will soon be able to drive legally.

Joanna Richards

A Tylerville dairy farm, in Jefferson County, is growing, in part thanks to help from National Grid. The company awarded the farm a grant of $50,000 to increase its access to electricity.  

The chemical responsible for the death of 14 people and injury of over 200 in West, Texas, is in wide use. Leaving many upstate New Yorkers wondering how ammonium nitrate is regulated in New York state.

WBFO News

Empire State Development approved funding for two upstate food and agriculture related measures in their meeting Friday.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Dave Pasick moved back to his family’s farm just north of Utica a few years ago, naming it Szaro Farms, after an old family name.

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Small businesses from around the state took their concerns to legislators in Albany Wednesday. The message from leaders in the agricultural industry particularly highlighted the need for reforms to support small farms, and boost local economies upstate.

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