Agriculture

Reporting on agriculture issues and news in central and Northern New York.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

When Steven Winkler’s hogs are full grown and ready for slaughter, he loads them into his truck on his farm in Rodman and drives 70 miles to a processing plant in Rome. From there, his pork is shipped to stores in Syracuse. 

“I’m very loyal to the customers and the processes I utilize down there. They do a great job.  But this is my home,” Winkler said.

Winkler wants to sell his meat close to home and he wouldn't mind a shorter trip to place that can make that happen.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

There are two new hall of famers in Northern New York, but they didn’t get into the Baseball Hall of Fame, they got into the Male Hall of Fame. Those who’ve dedicated their lives to making the perfect pancake breakfast possible are recognized with the highest honor in the industry.

The American Maple Museum in Croghan, NY is home of the only Maple Hall of Fame in the country, but the industry is pushing for maple to go beyond the breakfast table.

It's serious business at The Maple Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony begins with a prayer by Jane Yancey.

David Sommerstein / NCPR

For more than a decade, undocumented Hispanic workers have been indispensable on dairy farms across Upstate New York. The immigrants live largely invisible lives and rarely stray off the farm to avoid detection by federal agents. They are also less likely to report abuses.

Worker Center of Central New York

Farm workers and activists are planning a protest this morning at a dairy farm in Lowville. They want to draw attention to the alleged abuse of a worker at the hands of a farm supervisor.  Rally organizers say many undocumented Hispanic workers face physical abuse, substandard housing and wage theft on dairy farms across the state.

Wine producers question Canadian duty fees

Apr 28, 2015
Dan Klimke / Flickr

Wine sales made to Canadian citizens have upstate New York wine producers worried. They said they are losing business because Canada makes it too expensive for their citizens to buy New York state wines while visiting and then bring it home to Canada.

Canadians are subject to duty in excess of 100 percent on wines sold here. This duty is what wine producers said puts them at a costly disadvantage.

One local wine seller suggested imposing similar duties on Canadian wines brought into the U.S. might bring Canadian officials into discussions to work out more fair trade.

Matt Richmond / WSKG

Dairy farmers may be able to spread out their insurance payments under a plan proposed to the federal agriculture agency.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is backing the proposal to let dairy cooperatives front individual farmer’s payments and then allow farmers to slowly pay the co-ops back. Right now, farmers pay for a quarter of their U.S.D.A. insurance in February and the rest in June. The change would help farmers deal with dropping milk prices, Schumer says.

wamc.org

Amid talks to raise the minimum wage in New York, farmers are calling on the lawmakers to keep it where it is.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to increase the minimum wage to $10.50 upstate and $11.50 downstate.

The New York Farm Bureau says the state has some of the highest agricultural labor costs in the country. They say farm workers in New York are paid $12.15 an hour on average.

Dean Norton, a farmer in western New York and president of the state Farm Bureau, says whenever there’s a minimum wage hike, he’s forced to raise his wages, too.

pickled newt / via Flickr

Late one night in 2011, Amber Canavan snuck onto a Foie Gras farm in the southern Catskills. Video camera in hand, she recorded what she saw and provided it to the Animal Protection and Rescue League, which published some of it in a video.

Doug Kerr / Flickr

The quality of roads and bridges in upstate New York is a concern for the state’s largest farming organization.

If a bridge isn’t sturdy enough to support a heavy tractor or dairy tanker, say Farm Bureau policy director Jeff Williams, it creates a major hassle for farm hands, such as added time and detours onto more traveled routes "which isn’t particularly safe on the highway, and it leads to more diesel fuel costs and the like," he said.

A little help for malt barley farmers

Jan 7, 2015
Cambridge Brewing Co.

New York farmers are diversifying their cash crops by adding malt barley to their fields.  Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has a plan to jumpstart the state's malt barley farming industry.

Malt barley is a temperamental little plant. It needs to be brought up in very specific conditions in order to yield a quality beer. Adverse weather can destroy entire harvests -- like this past season in places like Idaho where heavy rain took 85 percent of their crop. That's why Schumer is pushing for insurance for New York malt barley farmers.

Culinary program connects farm and kitchen

Jan 5, 2015
Solvejg Wastvedt
WSKG

Tompkins County has New York state’s lowest unemployment rate, at less than four percent. In Ithaca, restaurant jobs have grown by seven percent over the last five years. Now a culinary education program at Tompkins Cortland Community College is training workers for the “farm to table” side of the restaurant industry.

Todd McClane directs the new organic farm at Tompkins Cortland Community College. So far it’s only about three acres, but it’s just one part of the college’s new culinary arts degree program. And McClane has big plans for the farm.

Young farmers head effort to feed those in need

Dec 22, 2014
Veronica Volk / WXXI

Farmers and agriculture industry leaders are coming in from all over the state for the New York Farm Bureau’s 58th State Annual Meeting.

The Bureau kicked off its meeting by announcing they had broken their record for this year’s “Harvest for All,” a national farm donation program. In partnership with the Regional Food Bank Association and FoodLink, New York farmers have collectively donated 9.6 million pounds of produce.

FoodLink's Co-Executive Director Jeanette Batiste-Harrison says this particular program is especially valuable to the community.

Jenna Flanagan/Innovation Trail

First time farmers gathered at the Stone Barns Center, a teaching farm in rural Westchester County for the Young Farmers Convention. The 3-day conference provides supportive classes and networking opportunities to new businesses in agriculture.

The Stone Barns Center helps young farmers build the foundation they need to for successful, sustainable farms.

fishhawk / Flickr

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. 

Jenna Flanagan/Innovation Trail

Want to know what crops local farmers are producing? There’s an app for that, or at least there will be one soon.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced federal funding for Greene County food distributor Field Goods, to integrate that technology into their business model.

Donna Williams’ company Field Goods connects many Capital Region and Hudson Valley farms with a larger, diverse consumer base, but it can be tricky.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Spent grain will once again be allowed to be used as livestock feed in New York state. Sen. Chuck Schumer says the by product of the brewing process had been used for centuries by farmers to feed livestock, until the federal government got involved.

"All of a sudden the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, came in and said 'you can’t send this spent grain except under certain conditions.' That hurt our craft brewers, say Empire Brewing and F.X.Matt here in central New York," said Schumer. It hurt our farmers getting this grain. Otherwise they’d have to pay to dispose of it.”

Ag-Extravaganza brings children and farmers together

Sep 27, 2014
Julia Botero

Fourth and fifth graders across Jefferson County jammed the Thompson Park Pavilion in Watertown, N.Y., recently to learn about farming and agriculture. The two-day event called Ag-Extravaganza was hosted by the county's cooperative extension office. 

Students patted sheep, watched an apple press in action, and learned about life on a dairy farm from Jeffersons County's Dairy Princess, Krystle  Burger. They played a game she called "Got Moo?" where students pointed out which things from the grocery store were and were not dairy.

Branch by branch, artist grafts a Tree of 40 Fruit

Aug 13, 2014
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.

messycupcakes / Flickr

Chobani Greek yogurt will be on more school lunch trays across the country as part of a new school lunch program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today awarded the central New York yogurt powerhouse a contract to expand a pilot program adding Greek-style yogurt to school lunches.

Chobani will now be able to put its yogurt in cafeterias for a month in seven states when the new school year starts up in August. Those states include New York, California and Illinois.

It comes after a successful three month pilot program this past school year in fewer states.

Matt Richmond / WSKG

The New York state dairy industry is in a good place right now, and state officials say they want to keep it that way.

When New York State Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball was a boy, he used to travel the state for his family’s farm business.

"It seemed like there were 60 dairies between Albany and Buffalo. And then there were a handful," Ball said. "And now at the department, we inspect and keep our eyes on close to 400 processing plants, and there are about 40 in the queue right now to get up and running.”

New York could be key state in GMO labeling debate

Jun 16, 2014
Robert S. Donovan / Flickr

New York state is shaping up to be a key decider in the debate over labeling foods that contain genetically modified ingredients as a labeling law is becoming one of the final debates of the state legislative session.

A bill requiring foods to be marked as scientifically engineered is under debate in the state Legislature, after being approved by an Assembly committee.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) is one of more than 230 members of Congress speaking out against a proposed change to the Clean Water Act by the Environmental Protection Agency. He says it would mean farmers in New York will face additional red tape and more fines.

Eric Behling's orchard in Mexico has been in business since 1947. Throughout the year his farm grows apples, pumpkins and other produce.

Innovation Trail

A Syracuse-area farm worker is touring regional churches and community centers to bring attention to workplace dangers on dairy farms.

José Cañas is originally from El Salvador, but he’s worked in New York agriculture for three years.

Cañas says he’s putting his job on the line to let people know about the risks posed to agricultural laborers from slippery floors, large animals, heavy equipment, and chemicals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 55 fatalities on New York state dairy farms since 2006.

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.

Wegmans takes a stance on genetically modified food

Apr 21, 2014
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.

Brian Caird

Most North Country rivers and streams appear to be cresting or starting to recede after days of rising water. 

A combination of rain and melting snow caused several rivers and creeks to flood in upstate New York, particularly in the North Country and Mohawk Valley. Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a state of emergency for six New York counties this week due to flooding -- including Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties.

The Black River, which flows right through Watertown, was above flood stage beginning Monday and closed roads and bridges because of high water.

fishhawk / Flickr

Sen. Charles Schumer is calling on the United States Department of Agriculture to help dairy farmers in central New York sort through the recently passed Farm Bill. During a stop in Chenango County recently, Schumer said the updated milk portion of the bill is good for farmers, but confusing.

Sidsel Overgaard/WRVO

This weekend is the state’s annual celebration of maple syrup. Maple Weekend is a rite of spring and ushers in the first crop of the year.

New York is the country’s second biggest producer of maple syrup, behind Vermont. Producers will put out more than two million taps this spring.

Acting New York State Agricultural Commissioner Richard Ball says producers are nervous about the late winter.

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.

publicenergy / Flickr

For farmers in upstate New York, going organic isn’t easy. But one farmer who’s made the switch is happy that the new Farm Bill will make it easier to transition from traditional to organic farming in the future.

Ben Simons has been a dairy farmer in Remsen for two decades. Two years ago, he decided to convert his operation over to an organic dairy.

"Because I did not want to expand my dairy anymore," Simons says. "It was very difficult to stay a small family farm and compete with conventional milk.”

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