Monday, April 21, 2014

Money Available To Help Schools Offer Healthy Lunches

From the USDA:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding $25 million in grants to help schools purchase needed kitchen equipment as they continue to provide school lunches and breakfasts that give children the nutrition they need to learn and grow.

More than 90 percent of schools report that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards, serving meals with more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, and less sodium and fat. These new grants provide additional support to schools to help them prepare meals that meet those standards.

In December, USDA awarded $11 million in grants to the District of Columbia, Guam and 14 states. For the latest round of funding, USDA will ensure all state agencies receive a proportional share of the funding.

States will competitively award the funds to school districts to purchase needed equipment, giving priority to high-need schools where 50 percent or more of the enrolled students are eligible for free or reduced price meals.

New York state received about $2 million from the program in fiscal year 2014.

The Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project – a collaboration with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – recently released a report on school kitchen equipment needs that shows most school districts in the U.S. (88 percent) need at least one additional piece of kitchen equipment, and more than half (55 percent) need infrastructure upgrades to serve healthier meals that meet science-based nutrition standards.

The report concluded: Investing in kitchens and cafeterias will help schools better serve the nutritious foods and beverages that students need.

Since 2009, USDA has provided $160 million in kitchen equipment funding to states and schools. The President's fiscal year 2015 budget requests an additional $35 million for kitchen equipment grants. These grants are one of several ways that USDA is supporting schools as the implement the updated nutrition standards.

"Farmland" Coming to Theaters Next Month

The new documentary "Farmland" is supposed to start hitting theaters May 1.

A check of the website shows the film coming to Auburn (the only site on the website so far in Central New York) but a date and time has yet to be announced. The website also shows the film coming to Albany and New York City.

The film is by Academy Award-winning filmmaker James Moll and includes interviews with farmers in Minnesota, Colorado, California, Georgia, Nebraska and Pennsylvania.

To see the trailer and learn more about the film, go to

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sign Up Begins for USDA Disaster Assistance Programs

Eligible farmers and ranchers can sign up for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster assistance programs restored by passage of the 2014 Farm Bill beginning April 15.

"We implemented these programs in record time and kept our commitment to begin sign-up today," said Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack. "To ensure enrollment goes as smoothly as possible, dedicated staff in over 2,000 Farm Service Agency offices across the country are doing everything necessary to help producers that have suffered through two and a half difficult years with no assistance because these programs were awaiting Congressional action."

Depending on the size and type of farm or ranch operation, eligible producers can enroll in one of four programs administered by the Farm Service Agency.

The Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), and the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) will provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011, and including calendar years 2012, 2013, and 2014.

The Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish that have suffered losses because of disease, severe weather, blizzards and wildfires.

Enrollment also began April 15 for the Tree Assistance Program (TAP), which provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.

Producers signing up for these programs are encouraged to contact their local FSA office for information on the types of records needed and to schedule an appointment. Taking these steps in advance will help producers ensure their application moves through the process as quickly as possible.

Supporting documents may include livestock birth records, purchase and transportation receipts, photos and ownership records showing the number and type of livestock lost, documents listing the gallons of water transported to livestock during drought, and more. Crop records may include purchase receipts for eligible trees, bushes, or vines, seed and fertilizer purchases, planting and production records, and documentation of labor and equipment used to plant or remove eligible trees, bushes, or vines.

Producers have three to nine months to apply depending on the program and year of the loss. Details are available from any local FSA office.

Search for State Fair Director, Management to Continue

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets announced Wednesday the search for a new director of the New York State Fair will be extended and a new timeline developed as part of a comprehensive review of the fairgrounds and its year-round operations.

Former Syracuse mayor Matthew J. Driscoll, president and CEO of the New York State Environmental Facilities Corp., who led the initial search at the behest of Governor Cuomo, said there were many potential candidates for the job, but more work needs to be done to find the right manager for the fair and fairgrounds.

"It became apparent to the search committee and the Department that the future of the Fair, as well as the development and management of the year-round fairgrounds, may require a broader set of skills and management approaches," Driscoll said. "Concurrent with an expanded search, the Department will have the opportunity to explore business opportunities with a variety of vendors related to the Fair, its year-round operations, and its grounds. Job candidates identified by the search committee will remain under consideration.”

In conjunction with this revised approach, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced today the appointment of Troy Waffner as Acting Director, who will lead the Fair’s management team through 2014.

Troy Waffner has served as Assistant Director of the Fair since 2010.  Prior to that, he served for 17 years in a variety of state government positions focused on agricultural-related issues, including stints in both the State Assembly and Senate.

“Troy Waffner has done a phenomenal job over the past few months in keeping the Fair on track for 2014," said acting Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets Richard Ball.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dairy Carousel Continues Today and Tomorrow at State Fairgrounds

            Today and tomorrow are the last days to get out to the Spring Carousel at the state Fairgrounds.

Members of the dairy industry from all over the Northeast will be at the event, operated by the New York Holstein Association. It is said to be the largest spring show in North America.  In past years, exhibitors from as many as 15 states and Canada were on hand.  As many as 1,000 animals in all seven dairy breeds are expected.

           The event features judging and sales of various breeds of dairy cows, as well as activities for juniors.  Admission to the event is free.  It takes place Friday through Monday in the Toyota Coliseum and in the Exhibit Center.  More information is available at