NY Farm Bureau annual county meetings are bringing farm issues to the board and resolutions to the table.
During Montgomery County’s CNY District 8 meetings, Farm Bureau members informed board members about problems with bears destroying crops, enough so that losses are being reported.
Judy Littrell, Northeast Dairy Producers Association Member Services Coordinator, presented a resolution that recommends extending Nuisance and DMAP permits to include bears in an effort to reduce extensive corn crop damage, which is being observed in the upstate region because of the increasing bear population in many rural areas.
“In our area it has gotten bad,” Littrell attested. “Some parts of the western part of the state are seeing it as well.”
District 8 Field Advisor, Todd Heyn said the problem with bears has been reported at other meetings.
“This issue came up last night at the Sullivan County meeting,” reported Heyn. “We discussed it and there is no policy regarding nuisance bear activity.”
One attendee remarked he has seen an increase in bear activity over the past 3 or 4 years, especially around Fulton County. “It’s unreal what they will lay down,” he said. “I’ve seen it coming south.”
The resolution concerning controlling nuisance bear activity was adopted at the Montgomery County meeting.
Another resolution brought from the floor concerns the drifting of pollen containing affects neighboring crops, specifically for organic farmers.
The resolution states: “We support that any producer that does not want crops affected by biotechnology has a right to be protected from intrusion and loss. Studies need to be made to identify sources of pollen drift so compensation can be appropriately enforced.”
Board member Russ Kelly commented, “This study could be done within New York State, but this could very well be a National issue.”
Montgomery County Farm Bureau member, John Kellett, of Mohawk Oaks, a certified organic dairy and crop farm, was the catalyst for this resolution proposal.
In a private interview, Kellett said, “I support this resolution because I don’t think that anyone should bear a loss caused by someone else’s method of farming. This is not about the debate of whether GMO genetics is safe. As an organic farmer, I cannot have GMO genetics in my crops because they are not allowed in organic farming. If my neighbor decides to use GMO genetics, then that is his choice. If pollen gets on my crop due to wind or bee pollination and I suffer loss in value in my crop due to GMO contamination, then I should be compensated for that loss since I did not introduce that GMO contamination.”
Kellett explained, “An analogy would be that if a farmer’s prize beef bull keeps getting out into the neighbor’s dairy heifer pasture and breeds the heifers; the dairyman suffers a loss, because the genetics of his dairy replacements has been compromised. It is really not a valid excuse if the beef farmer says that it is impossible to keep the bull at home and so it is not his problem. That is not saying that the beef bull is not good genetically but the genetics don’t fit in the dairy herd. GMO plant genetics do not fit into organic farming.”
This resolution was adopted.
It is well known that NYFB supports education of Ag in the classroom, and a resolution stating that NYFB supports an increase in funding, specifically for the Agricultural Teachers project, benefitting STEM related agricultural education courses in existing and new agricultural education programs, was also adopted.
A large showing of FFA students and advisers from Montgomery County attended the meeting in Canajoharie, where New York State Commissioner of Agriculture, Richard Ball commented on the turnout. “It’s very encouraging to see a lot of blue jackets here tonight,” remarked Commissioner Ball. “You remind me of my own story. My grandparents were dairy farmers and I knew I was going to be a dairy farmer when I grew up, until they sold the farm when I was about 10 and they retired.”
Ball requested a round of applause for the FFA members and advisors, commending them on their efforts in promoting agriculture. Individual members introduced themselves and their positions in their respective chapter.
Kristie Schafer, Principal of the recently installed PTECH in St. Johnsville’s former elementary school building, presented information about the programs offered there and updated attendees on new developments. The program incorporates schools from Fulton, Herkimer and Montgomery counties in a 4-6 year program with an affiliation to SUNY Cobleskill. The curriculum covers all phases of agriculture, which is applied over all curriculums, including math.
“You represent the future for us,” Commissioner Ball stated. “Future leaders of Farm Bureau, future leaders of agriculture, future leaders of our communities.”
Ball commented on the 51 counties that have been declared disasters because of the weather crisis this past growing season. “It’s a pretty tough situation. It’s a very sad story with difficult times facing some of you.”
Commissioner Ball realizes this is a “double whammy” for the dairy industry, which is already having major problems because of the low milk prices. “We’ve got an oversupply of milk situation going on.” In spite of the current problems, Ball said there is still a lot of optimism about dairy in New York State, with a new plant opening in the western part of the state and new ownership of a plant in the Southern Tier.
Ball reported he was heading to Canada to an event called the Tri-National Accord, which is a meeting between Mexico, Canada and the United States.
“Our big concern on dairy right now, is that the Canadians are beginning to make a process to shut down access to their markets for our ultra-filtered milk. This is a big deal. We have two large plants in New York that sell about 50-60 million dollars’ worth of milk to Canada.”
The commissioner said the New York Governor, Congressional delegation, all of the commissioners of the northeast, and all of the commissioners in the U.S., are communicating with the Prime Minister. This issue is even on the agenda of the President of the U.S.
“We’re going to push this issue very hard, because this is a very serious issue for the dairy industry. We do not need one less place to go with our milk. We need more options, not less options.”
Good news reported is that in New York City, Thursdays will be celebrated as NY Thursday, where every cafeteria in the schools will have New York food on their plates. “We’re getting more New York products in the school system.”
Ball also reported on a new voluntary program for marketing New York State agricultural products, NY Grown and Certified, which will tell consumers three things: that the product is grown in New York, on a New York farm that has a food agricultural practices program for food safety in place and an environmental plan in place. This will be on labels, on store shelves. “This shows that the food is grown at a higher standard, in New York State,” said Commissioner Ball. “We have a lot of farmers that qualify for this.”
At each meeting, NY Farm Bureau’s Legal Defense Fund’s action against unions on farms was discussed.
NYS Dist. 8 Rep, Dean Casey, commented on the action that NYFB is taking against this issue.
“Basically, New York Farm Bureau has entered into a lawsuit against the New York Civil Liberties Union. We asked to join the lawsuit. There was nobody protecting agriculture.”
Casey explained NYFB is defending the “decades-old state law” that does not permit collective bargaining for farm workers. “The Governor and the State of New York refused to step up for agriculture.”
Casey said the courts have just accepted NYFB’s request to become fully engaged in the lawsuit. “We spent $25,000 just to join the lawsuit. We are going to need monetary resources to fight this.” Anyone wishing to donate to this cause can find more information at http://nyfb.org/.
“We’re only as strong as the number of members that we have and the activity level of those members,” said District 8 Field Advisor, Todd Heyn.