Wednesday, May 28, 2014

3 New Yorkers Leading Major National Ag Organizations

From NYS Ag and Markets:

Three New Yorkers have been named presidents of three national food safety and dairy organizations.

Casey McCue, director of the Division of Milk Control, is serving out the remainder of his term as president of the National Association of Dairy Regulatory Officials. Stephen Stich, director of the Division of Food Safety and Inspection is beginning his term as president of the Association of Food and Drug Officials and Dan Rice, director of the state Food Laboratory, is the incoming president of the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

Dan Rice:

Dan Rice is the director of the New York State Food Laboratory, which supports the regulatory programs of the Divisions of Food Safety and Inspection, Milk Control, and Plant Industry by providing analytical testing of samples that are collected as part of scheduled regulatory or surveillance programs and in response to disease outbreak investigations, consumer complaints, and a variety of other food related investigations. Specialized analytical services are also provided at the lab on a contract basis to universities and various state and federal agencies
Rice earned a bachelor's degree in zoology and a master's in veterinary epidemiology from Washington State University and is a doctor of public health candidate in the School of Public Health at SUNY Albany. He expects to complete his doctorate this year.

Prior to his current position, Rice was affiliated with the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine where he supervised a research program on the ecology and epidemiology of zoonotic pathogens in food animal production facilities. Rice’s primary public health interests are in food safety and he serves on several national workgroups and committees.

Rice joined the Department of Agriculture and Markets in 2004 as Director of the State Food Laboratory, which provides laboratory support for a wide array of food safety and agricultural programs.  Dan also helped oversee the completion of the state’s new Food Laboratory, which opened in 2013 in Albany.  Rice is the incoming President of APHL, which is the professional association representing state and local laboratories engaged in testing and programs that support public health. 

Steve Stich:

Steve Stich is the director of the Division of Food Safety and Inspection, which is the agency’s largest Division and has jurisdiction over 28,000 food handling establishments across New York state.  These include grocery stores, supermarkets, manufacturing/processing plants, beverage plants, food warehouses, and wholesale bakeries.  

The Division also helped initiate a nationwide recall of chicken jerky products for pets in early 2013.Food inspectors who work for Stich routinely collect food samples and send them to the State Food Laboratory for analysis.

Stich grew up in Oneida County, received a degree in environmental science from Morrisville State College, and started his career with the Department of Agriculture and Markets in 1987 as a food inspector in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties. In 1992, he was promoted to a supervisory position in Albany where he progressed through the ranks and was named director in 2010.  He also participates in several multi-state and federal food safety workgroups.

Stich is the incoming president of the Association of Food and Drug Officials, which helps to advance uniform laws, regulations, and guidelines that result in more efficient regulation and less confusion among industry in the marketplace.

Casey McCue:  

Casey McCue is the director of the Division of Milk Control and has worked for the state  Department of Agriculture and Markets since 2000. The division regulates New York’s largest agricultural industry through various sanitation and inspection programs and issues licenses to every dairy processing facility in the state, and inspects each fluid, manufacturing and wholesale frozen dessert plant every 90 days. 

Division employees conduct more than 6,500 inspections and obtain more than 13,000 samples at New York’s 360 dairy processing facilities every year. The division also provides oversight of New York’s Certified Milk Inspector Program where industry inspectors maintain the sanitation requirements on the state’s Grade A dairy farms.

McCue has served in many positions since starting as a dairy products specialist 1 in Jefferson and Lewis counties. McCue grew up deeply involved in his grandparents’ dairy farm near Lowville and after graduating from SUNY Canton with a degree in milk and food quality control, he began his career in industry on both the producer and processor sides. 

He is the current president of NADRO, which works to address issues within the dairy industry and make recommendations to relevant federal agencies and national organizations. His involvement in national dairy regulatory issues also landed him a seat on the executive board of the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments, serving in many roles within the councils and committees of the conference.  He was the 2012 recipient of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture’s Administration Award for his work on behalf of New York’s rapidly growing dairy industry.

All three of these employees are Capital Region residents.  

For more information on the Association of Public Health Laboratories, please visit:

For more information about the Association of Food and Drug Officials, please visit:

For more information on the National Association of Dairy Regulatory Officials, please visit:

NY Again Named Nation's King of Yogurt

For the second year in a row, New York is the yogurt capital of the nation. 

Preliminary data indicates that in 2013, New York produced 741 million pounds of yogurt, up from 695 million pounds in 2012. As confirmed by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, New York was the top ranked yogurt producer in 2013, a position it ascended to in 2012. 

New York once again exceeded California, which produced 591 million pounds of yogurt in 2013. For the entire country, USDA-NASS reported total yogurt production of 4,718 million pounds for 2013, up from 4,416 million pounds in 2012. New York accounted for 15.7% of total US yogurt production in 2013.

“For the second year in a row, New York state has earned the distinction of being the yogurt capital of the nation. This is another example of how when government and the private sector work together, as we have done with New York’s dairy industry to eliminate barriers to growth, the result is positive economic activity that translates into jobs and new opportunities for New Yorkers,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “New York’s dairy farmers and yogurt producers are the cream of the crop in their industry, and I congratulate them on once again securing this well-deserved honor.”

This announcement comes on the heels of news from earlier this year that New York passed Idaho as the third highest producer of milk in the nation for 2013. Also announced two weeks ago, Agrana Fruit, the top producer of fruit preparations for the dairy industry, completed construction of their new manufacturing and distribution operation in Onondaga County. Already creating 60 new jobs to date, when fully operational, the company will employ about 120 people at the $50 million facility, which will process all types of fruit for yogurt, including the possibility of New York-grown fruit.

As the company sought to expand its market presence and meet customer demand in North America, it considered more than 50 Northeast locations, and ultimately chose New York. The flourishing yogurt industry was a key factor in Agrana’s decision, offering the company a central location for production and distribution to leading yogurt companies in New York as well as the Northeast and Canada.

The industry is also helping to spur growth in other sectors of the state, as evidenced by the recent expansion of Feldmeier Equipment in Herkimer County. As a manufacturer of stainless steel storage and processing equipment, Feldmeier’s expansion supplies even more equipment for yogurt companies including Chobani and FAGE.

In 2013, New York’s dairy manufacturers employed an estimated 9,470 people with total wages of $513 million, up from 7,759 jobs and $400 million in wages in 2010. According to USDA-NASS, cash receipts from marketing of milk in New York increased from $2.21 billion in 2010 to $2.85 billion in 2013.

New York is a diverse state in the area of dairy and is also the leading producer of cream cheese and cottage cheese in the country. In addition to a 6.5 percent increase in yogurt production, two large dairy plants will be coming online this year: Cayuga Milk Ingredients (Cayuga County), which will manufacture dairy ingredients, and WNY Enterprises (Livingston County), which will use a cold-separation process to make skim and cream components.

State Seeks Nominations for Environmental Award

From the state Department of Ag and Markets:

Nominations are being accepted for the statewide Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Award.  

Each year, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, Empire State Potato Growers, and American Agriculturist magazine host this distinguished award, which highlights the outstanding environmental stewardship accomplished by farmers in partnership with respective County Soil and Water Conservation Districts.  

The winner will be announced during the Agricultural Leadership Luncheon at Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls this August.

“As a farm owner for 20 years, my land is my livelihood, and I’ve worked with the Soil and Water Conservation District in Schoharie County a number of times to get the most out of it in an environmentally sound way,” said Ag and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball.

“This year, our goal is to honor the farm that takes environmental stewardship through the AEM program to that next level.  We’re looking for creative ideas and examples of good partnerships with local districts. We look forward to a worthy competition in 2014,” he said.

AEM is a voluntary, incentive-based program that helps New York state farmers make common-sense, cost-effective and science-based decisions to help meet business objectives while protecting and conserving the State’s natural resources.  

The winning farm family and nominating district will each receive a financial incentive to help them continue their environmental programs. In addition, all nominees will receive recognition for their valuable efforts.

            The nomination form must be received at the Department of Agriculture and Markets via email no later than close of business on Wednesday, June 11 to

            The form can be downloaded at the following link:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Watch the Bees Do Their Thing

Want to see what the honeybees are up to?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched BeeWatch. Now anyone, anywhere who wantss to learn about honey bee activity can simply go to the blog:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Have Scientists Finally Cracked the Colony Collapse Issue?

Chck out this story --

Cornell Study Shows GMO Labeling Would Increase Food Prices

From the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food:

As food prices continue to rise for families across the country, a new study from Cornell University last week revealed that New York’s proposed mandatory GMO labeling bill would cost families an average of $500 per year at the checkout aisle. 

The study comes on the heels of similar studies in Washington state and California that showed mandatory GMO labels would result in similar increases in the cost of food.

“American families deserve safe, abundant and affordable food,” said Claire Parker, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food. 

“GMOs have been used in our food supply for more than 20 years and no study has ever shown them to be unsafe or different from foods without GMOs. Repeated studies, however, have shown that the high cost of mandatory labeling would dramatically increase the price of groceries at the checkout aisle for consumers. A mandatory GMO label will just make it more difficult and expensive for hard-working American families to put food on the table,” she said.
The study, released last week, found that families forced to buy organic food instead of conventional foods containing GMOs could see their food prices increase as much as $1,556 per family per year. Similarly, such a mandatory labeling law would likely cost the state of New York millions of dollars in revenue to implement the new requirements and to account for a loss in farm income.

Earlier, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that April was the third consecutive month that American families saw an increase in food prices, rising a total of 3.9 percent since January.

The study was conducted by Professor Bill Lesser from the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University to evaluate the added costs that will be passed on to consumers if mandatory labeling becomes law in New York.

For more information, visit

Can Anyone Say Karma?

Interesting story from on the continuing saga of Chipotle and farmers.

Go to to check it out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What Body Part Hurts the Most When Stung by a Bee?

Now here's a different take on the honeybee story.

Read it at this link.

Farm to Table -- Is It Working?

Interesting read from the New York Times on Farm to Table.

Go to to check it out.

Sheep and Goats Workshop June 24

There will be a sheep and goats workshop from 6 to 8 p.m. June 24 at the Onondaga Free Library on West Seneca Turnpike.

It is being presented by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County.

To register, go to For more information, call Erin Hull at 424-9485, ext. 224.

Animal Shows This Weekend at the Fairgrounds

Two animal shows are on tap this weekend at the New York State Fairgrounds in Geddes, west of Syracuse.

The New York State Horse Breeders Association holds the second weekend of its show starting Thursday in the Toyota Coliseum.

The Empire State Boer Goat Show takes placed beginning Saturday in the Goat, Llama and Swine barn.

Admission to both events is free.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Gear Up for Beef Month

From NY Ag and Markets and the Beef Industry Council:

Dozens of representatives from the retail food and restaurant industries, as well as culinary instructors and dieticians, have signed up for four tours this week as part of May Beef Month activities for the New York Beef Industry Council.  

The tours will take place in the Hudson Valley, Central New York, the Capital Region and the Western NY/Finger Lakes Region. Local media are encouraged to attend these events to learn more about the beef industry here in New York state. 

“I had a great meeting recently with our friends at the New York Beef Industry Council and see tremendous opportunities for our Department to work with this important agricultural industry in the future,” said Ag and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball.  

“Beef is a staple at our world class steakhouses, restaurants and retail establishments here in New York.  It’s available year-round and part of a healthy diet," he said. These tours are just one more way that New York agriculture is connecting the dots between producers and consumers.  I plan to personally be at the event in Westerlo on Thursday.”     

All four Beef Month events will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the following locations:

  • May 20 – Millbrook, NY/Walbridge Farms (Hudson Valley)
  • May 21 – Truxton, NY/New Penn Farm (Central NY)
  • May 22 – Westerlo, NY/Golden Acres (Capital Region)
  • May 23 - Medina, NY/SK Hereford (Western/Finger Lakes Region)

In New York state, there are over 13,559 cattle farms with 1.45 million cattle that supply nutritious, wholesome beef to consumers.  These farms contribute to New York State’s economy by generating more than $294 million from the sale of cows and calves.

Jean O’Toole, director of public relations for the New York Beef Industry Council, said, “This is a great opportunity for influencers in retail, nutrition and food service to be able to convey to their customers where their food is coming from.  We look forward to a great week of beef tours across the various regions of New York State.”

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Survey: Fewer Bee Colonies Died This Past Winter

From the USDA:

A yearly survey of beekeepers, released today, shows fewer colony losses occurred in the United States over the winter of 2013-2014 than in recent years, but beekeepers say losses remain higher than the level that they consider to be sustainable. 

According to survey results, total losses of managed honey bee colonies from all causes were 23.2 percent nationwide. That number is above the 18.9 percent level of loss that beekeepers say is acceptable for their economic sustainability, but is a marked improvement over the 30.5 percent loss reported for the winter of 2012-2013, and over the eight-year average loss of 29.6 percent.

More than three-fourths of the world's flowering plants rely on pollinators, such as bees, to reproduce, meaning pollinators help produce one out of every three bites of food Americans eat.

"Pollinators, such as bees, birds and other insects are essential partners for farmers and ranchers and help produce much of our food supply. Healthy pollinator populations are critical to the continued economic well-being of agricultural producers," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "While we're glad to see improvement this year, losses are still too high and there is still much more work to be done to stabilize bee populations."

There is no way to tell why the bees did better this year, according to both Pettis and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a University of Maryland assistant professor who is the leader of the survey and director of the Bee Informed Partnership. Although the survey, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland Bee Informed Partnership shows improvement, losses remain above the level that beekeepers consider to be economically sustainable. 

This year, almost two-thirds of the beekeepers responding reported losses greater than the 18.9 percent threshold.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

New USDA Testing Improves Safeguards Against Salmonella in Beef

From the USDA:

As grilling season heats up, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is enhancing our food safety testing program for ground beef. 

While FSIS has a range of safeguards to reduce E. coli in ground beef, this summer we will begin new testing to improve the safeguards against Salmonella as well. Salmonella is commonly found in ground beef and, in fact, caused an illness outbreak in January 2013 in six states.

Salmonella is an especially difficult bacteria for food safety experts to address because it is so prevalent in almost all food sources.
Recognizing that we need more information about the prevalence of Salmonella in ground beef to better prevent food-borne illness, FSIS is “super-sizing” our pathogen testing program to include Salmonella every time our laboratories test for E. coli in samples of ground beef and ground beef sources. Because the samples taken for E. coli testing are much larger than those we have taken in the past for Salmonella, there is higher likelihood that we will be able to detect the bacteria if it is present.

Once FSIS has collected enough data about the prevalence of Salmonella in ground beef, we will create a new standard to encourage ground beef processors to strengthen their Salmonella controls, resulting in safer products and fewer foodborne illnesses. The data collection process will take some time, but it is critical that the new standard is supported by meaningful data. 

Of course, we will continue to analyze any positive samples for multi-drug resistance and specific serotypes to determine whether they are contributing to human illnesses.

Salmonella is the most urgent issue facing FSIS when it comes to protecting consumers and it is why we developed our Salmonella Action Plan. This plan details our strategy for reducing the number of Salmonella-related illnesses, and this enhancement to our sampling and testing programs is part of that comprehensive effort. 

Another part of our war on Salmonella is encouraging consumers to take steps to protect themselves from illnesses, including cooking all ground beef to 160 °F (poultry should be cooked to 165 °F). For more information on ways to keep your family Salmonella-free this summer, we invite you to check out or before your next cook out.

Connecticut Assembly Bans Chocolate Milk in Public Schools

Check this out --

More news today shows the governor is against this and won't sign the bill. Big relief for dairy industry.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Skaneateles, Pulaski to Compete in State Envirothon

Left to right, Kathy Carroll, Covanta, the Envirothon sponsor; Casey VanSlyke; Elyse DuBois; Bethany Regan; Jamie Roney; and Colby Buell
A score of 523.75 points wins Skaneateles High School’s “Moo Tang Clan” 1st the Bill Legg award trophy, in remembrance of Bill’s dedication and service to the Envirothon.

Baker High School’s “Home on the Grange” came in second place, with 447.75 points, and CBA’s “Bullschisters” came in third with 434.25 points. “Moo Tang Clan” will represent Onondaga County in the New York State competition at Morrisville State College May 21.

Thirty teams from Cayuga, Chenango, Madison and Onondaga county high schools competed in five categories – aquatics, forestry, wildlife, soils, and a current environmental topic ‘Sustainable Local Agriculture’, which serves as test and oral presentation.

Beyond motivating students to learn more about the environment, the Envirothon emphasizes the development of practical skills such as research, teamwork and public speaking. The spirit of competition stimulates students' interests in environmental concerns and motivates them to further develop their skills and grow into environmentally-aware, action-oriented adults.

The winner of the Oswego County Envirothon was Pulaski High School. That team also will compete in the State Envirothon in Morrisville.

Ag Secretary's Weekly Column

By Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack:

Farmers, ranchers and foresters have long understood the need to care for our land and water — not only because preserving those resources for our children and their children is the right thing to do, but because they know that our farms and forests are more productive and efficient when they’re properly cared for.

Science and technology has expanded our capability and improved our understanding over the years, but this core mission remains the same. Today’s farmers and ranchers have risen to the twin responsibilities of producing safe, affordable food while employing cutting edge conservation practices on their operations to conserve water, minimize runoff, prevent soil erosion, and preserve wildlife habitat. They know that this will only become more critical as we take on the challenges of feeding a growing global population and dealing with the impacts of a changing climate.

This past week, the White House released the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA) report, which provides an unprecedented look at what many of us in agriculture already know: climate change is not just a problem for the future.

We’ve seen firsthand the impact of increasingly severe drought, floods, extreme temperatures, and other dramatic weather patterns. Drought alone was estimated to cost the U.S. $50 billion from 2011 to 2013.

Farmers and ranchers know that severe and extreme weather means crop damage, delayed spring planting, delayed harvest, and reduced yields, and they know that those things have happened with increasing frequency over the past decade.

The NCA authors — 240 of the nation’s leading scientists and experts, including researchers from USDA — confirm our on-the-ground understanding. The authors found that climate disruptions to agriculture have increased in the past 40 years, and project that those disruptions will increase over the next 25.

Thus far, agriculture has been able to adapt, and USDA has been there to buffer and protect producers from weather-related risks through programs like disaster assistance. However, as the impacts of climate change become more prevalent, farmers and ranchers will need new tools and techniques to protect their bottom line and ensure the future food security of our nation.

USDA has undertaken a multipronged, multiyear approach to protect producers from the negative impacts of climate change. Our regional Climate Hubs collect data, conduct research, and develop practical, science-based conservation tools and techniques tailored specifically to the differing needs of each region of the country. 

We support cutting edge research by our land-grant university partners, including $6 million to ten schools to study the effects of climate on agriculture and an additional $6 million to develop tools to improve water resource quantity and quality. This research will help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners deal with the complex consequences of climate change in the short term.

Our efforts provide invaluable information and will help to safeguard the future food security of our nation, but there is more to do. We must continue to support policies and practices that mitigate the negative impacts of climate change, reduce consumption of fossil fuels, and make our land, air and water cleaner. You can learn more about the Climate Hubs and USDA’s climate change research at

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What's New at Cross Island Farm

Here is news from Cross Island Farm on Wellesley Island, NY submitted by farmer Dani Baker
THE ROADSIDE STAND IS OPEN, stocked with recently dug wintered-over "rainbow" carrots and sweet parsnips, lettuce, chard, spinach, asparagus, rhubarb, our coveted certified organic free range pastel colored (by the chickens) eggs, as well as our delicious duck eggs.  As we add new items, we will try to post them on our facebook page which you are welcome to "like" and comment on.  When you stop at the stand, remember that our USDA inspected cuts of beef and pork including  a new item, lean and tasty hot or sweet pork rope sausage perfect for the grill, are available at the house.
ORGANIC EDUCATONAL FARM TOURS, available daily by appointment, include picking and eating a vegetable or fruit right from the plant, a walk through the edible forest, a visit outside or inside the paddock with the goats and cows, petting or holding a baby goat, tickling the tummies of a pig, and petting or holding a newly hatched chick or duckling.  Fun for the whole extended family!
THE EDIBLE FOREST IS BLOOMING, now in its second year,  with a few plum, honeyberry, juneberry, current, strawberry, pineberry, and two tiny pale pink almond blossoms beckoning for bees.  If the bees find them, we might have our first fruit and nuts this year!!  Stay tuned.
INTERNS IN ABUNDANCE will grace our farm this season.  Within the week we are welcoming three student interns: an  Environmental Conservation and an Environmental Biology major from SUNY ESF and an Environmental Science major from Clarkson U., who are residing with us for the season.  We are grateful to all our volunteers who help us complete many projects.  Top priorities this season are improvements in the Edible Forest Garden.
CLAYTON GOES ORGANIC!  In addition to some of our veggies and meats being available at the Clayton Food Co-op for you to prepare at home, our salad vegetables are now featured on the menus of both Bella's Bistro and the Clipper Inn in Clayton.  So when you patronize these establishments for a meal out, please let them know you appreciate their providing local organic produce from Cross Island Farms.
SPRING FEVER IS RAMPANT  in our animal herds as the weather is warming. 
The first knock on the door:  "Did you know your cows are in the road?"  Apparently the paddock assigned by Farmer Dave was insufficiently suitable, so the herd headed to Nut n' Fancy for a bite.  When they found it closed, they "high tailed" it back, past the farm, and were on their way to the State Park when Dave and our neighbor, Dick Huntley, were able to induce them to return. 
A few days later, another knock:" did you know your goats are in the road?"  Seems the grass WAS greener on the other side of the fence, a fact not unnoticed by the hungry moms and babes.  So over the portable fence they went.  So much for Farmer Dave's planned priorities for the day.  Two hours later they were secured in a new paddock with fresh grass, but for how long?
Then, as I was heading out on an errand, I saw two of our little kids (goat kids, that is) prancing atop their new goat house which has a roof fashioned of  discarded  pallet wrapping from Wellesley Island Building Supply..  Although the "patter of little hooves" is a joy to hear and observe, it can be quite destructive to a fabric roof..  I quick pulled out my cell phone and called Dave to tell him.  "I'm glad we didn't buy a tarp this time," was his response.

Cornell Researchers Figure Out Beer Foam Secrets

Who knew?

This is from Cornell University:

It’s an unlikely beer-drinking toast: “Here’s to L-T-P-One!” 
Yet, the secret to optimal foam in the head of a freshly poured brew, according to Cornell food science research, is just the right amount and kind of barley lipid transfer protein No. 1, aka LTP1.
Bitter compounds found in hops, like iso-alpha acids, are important to brewers, says Cornell’s Karl J. Siebert, principal investigator and author of “Recent Discoveries in Beer Foam,” set for publication in next issue of the Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists.
“Dissolved gases in the beer – carbon dioxide and, in some instances, nitrogen – play a role. So do acidity, some ions, ethanol levels, viscosity and numerous other factors that have been tried by brewers and scientifically tested,” says Siebert, professor of food science and technology at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y. “But LTP1 is the key to perfect beer foam.”
Fascinating as foam is to chemists, it’s of vital importance for the sensory experience of beer appreciation, insists Siebert, formerly a longtime research chemist in the industry, including at the former Stroh Brewery Co. in Detroit.
“To some beer aficionados, the sign of a good head – the proper consistency, color, height, duration – is to draw a face with your finger in the foam, before taking the first sip,” the food scientist notes. “If the face is still there, when the glass is drained and the liquid is gone – that’s seriously good foam.”

State Providing Money for Farmland Protection

From New York state:

State officials announced Wednesday he availability of $20.5 million to aid farmland protection efforts and help prevent viable agricultural land from being converted to non-agricultural use. 

Eligible entities, including municipalities, counties, soil and water conservation districts (SWCD) and nonprofit conservation organizations/land trusts, can apply for individual grants under the Round 13 Farmland Protection Implementation Grants Request for Proposals (RFP).

Funding is available through the state Environmental Protection Fund and administered by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets. When offered in the past, the grant has been highly competitive, with requests for state assistance often exceeding available funds by a factor of three.

The Department of Agriculture and Markets anticipates that an even greater number of proposals will be submitted this year because the grant has not been offered by New York state for several years. 

Additionally, revisions to state law have increased the state contribution to a maximum of 87.5 percent (up from 75 percent) and also expanded the number of entities now eligible to apply directly for these funds – adding land trusts and Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

In response to feedback from numerous stakeholders, such as local governments, the number of documents required to complete a project has been reduced and the overall process has been streamlined. In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Markets has instituted a number of contractual milestones to ensure that most projects will be on target for completion under a more practical timeframe.

Application materials and important webinar information for the Round 13 Farmland Protection Implementation Grants RFP are available for download on the Department of Agriculture and Markets website at Application materials are also available by calling the Department directly at (800) 554-4501.

Why are the Bees Dying?

Another story about Colony Collapse Syndrome.

Check it out here.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!!

Happy Mother's Day to these hardworking ladies who provide us with some of the best stuff in the world.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Review of Farmland, the Movie

Funny, I was going to ask farm buddy Jessica Chittenden Ziehm to write something for me when I saw on Facebook that she was going to see "Farmland."

Well, she must have been reading my mind. She wrote a review for her own website for the New York Animal Agriculture Coalition.

Go to  to read her review of the movie.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Farm Beauty

Here is a great photo posted May 3 on Facebook by farm friend Meg Schader of Wake Robin Farm in Jordan. 

Farms are beautiful, but this is absolutely breathtaking!! What's not to love -- a rainbow and Jersey cows.

Raw Milk from Downstate Farm Contaminated with Listeria

From the state Department of Agriculture and Markets:

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today warned consumers in Orange County and the surrounding area not to consume “unpasteurized” raw farm milk from the Robert & Stacey Stap Farm due to possible Listeria contamination.  

The Stap Farm is located at 426 Drexel Dr., Pine Bush.

A sample of the milk, collected by an inspector from the Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services on April 28, 2014, was subsequently tested by the Department’s Food Laboratory and discovered to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.  On May 1, 2014, the producer was notified of a preliminary positive test result. Further laboratory testing, completed on May 5, 2014, confirmed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in the raw milk sample. 

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail, or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems. Although otherwise healthy persons may suffer only short-term, flu-like symptoms such as high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

It is important to note that raw milk does not provide the protection of pasteurization, which eliminates all pathogenic bacteria, including Listeria.

To date, no illnesses are known by the department to be associated with this product.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Full State Senate Confirms Ball As Ag Commissioner

From the governor's office:

The New York State Senate unanimously confirmed Richard A. Ball as Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets.

“I thank Governor Cuomo for the opportunity to lead the Department of Agriculture and Markets and thank the state Senate for confirming my nomination as commissioner," Ball said.  

"As a lifelong farmer, my main goal as commissioner is to work with industry to help New York agriculture get to that next level. I’ve had a busy first few months working with the talented staff at the Department of Agriculture and Markets and have a new appreciation of the agency’s role in helping New York agriculture," Ball said.  

This industry is on the cusp of great things and I look forward to working with our partners to help facilitate this growth in the months ahead.”

A native New Yorker, Ball has made a living in agriculture his entire life. His inspiration to become a farmer came from his grandparents, who were lifelong dairy farmers. 

At 18 years old, Ball began his career in agriculture as a farm worker at a vegetable farm in Rhode Island. He later became operations manager of that same farm. After 20 years in Rhode Island, Ball moved back to New York with an opportunity to become a farm owner. 

For the past 20 years, he has been the owner and operator of Schoharie Valley Farms in Schoharie, NY, which consists of 200 acres and produces a wide range of vegetable crops, small fruits and greenhouse crops. The farm serves both retail and wholesale consumers through an onsite farm market known as “The Carrot Barn” and ships to brokers and restaurants in the local area as well as New York City.

Ball has held a number of positions within agriculture and community organizations at the local, state and national level. He and his wife Shirley, as well as his three children are actively engaged in farming with a growing number of future farmers among the grandchildren.

“Since meeting Richard Ball several years ago, I’ve been impressed with his passion for agriculture — farming is in his blood, he’s not afraid to dig in and get the job done, nor does he hesitate to lend a hand and help his fellow farmer," said state Sen. Patricia Ritchie, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee

"Throughout his career in agriculture, including his running of the successful Schoharie Valley Farms and 'The Carrot Barn,' Richard has proven to be someone who knows the ins and outs of agriculture. I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for this excellent appointment and am looking forward to working with our new commissioner to help New York’s biggest industry continue to grow,” Ritchie said.

"I applaud Governor Cuomo for nominating Richard Ball to be New York State's Agriculture Commissioner. Commissioner Ball, besides being a farmer himself for many years, has held a number of positions involving agriculture at the local, state and national level, making him the best candidate for the job," said William Magee, D-Nelson, chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee. "As chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, I am looking forward to working with Commissioner Ball and I am confident that he understands what needs to be done and will be very active statewide."

"I am extremely pleased to see Richard Ball confirmed by the full Senate to become the new Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets. He is a farmer through and through and understands the needs of the state's thriving agricultural community," said Dean Norton, president of New York Farm Bureau.

"New York Farm Bureau looks forward to continuing to partner with the commissioner for the benefit of every farmer in the state, and I personally would like to offer my sincere congratulations,” Norton said.

For more information about the Department of Agriculture and Markets, please visit

Ag Committee Confirms Ball as Ag Commissioner

Acting Commissioner Richard Ball was confirmed by the state Senate Agriculture Committee today as Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The full Senate is expected to take up the measure later today.

Monday, May 5, 2014

No Pigs, Piglets at the 2014 State Fair

Sow and piglets from the 2013 State Fair
From the state Department of Agriculture and Markets:

Due to a relatively new virus known as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED), which has an extremely high mortality rate for piglets, the state Department of Agriculture and Markets has decided to suspend the Sows and Piglets exhibit and competition and at the 2014 Great New York State Fair, said Acting State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball and State Veterinarian Dr. David Smith.

"The health and safety of all livestock at the 2014 Fair is of paramount importance," said Ball. "We understand that some fairgoers may be disappointed, but we want the Fair to continue to show off the best in New York agriculture and we need to do so in the best possible way to protect the well-being of the animals in our care."

"Fairs in general are a challenging environment in terms of animal disease control, and a lack of vaccine that's been proven effective against PED makes the risk for piglets too high this year," said Dr. Smith.  "Animals come to the Fair from all over the state and with a disease like PED circulating, it's in the best interests of the animals that we take this action."

PED is relatively new to the US.  It first appeared in the Midwest in May 2013 and has since spread to about half the US.  Cases have now been identified in NY and 24 other states.  The disease has taken a heavy toll on the nation's hog farmers, having caused the death of an estimated 5 million piglets in just under one year.  

When sows and litters become infected, PED kills nearly 100 percent of piglets less than 10 days old, while pigs older than 10 days tend to recover.

As Dr. Smith noted, there is no vaccine yet to protect pigs against PED.   PED is caused by a Corona virus and is highly infectious to swine. The virus is shed in large quantities and the infectious dose is very small so cleanliness is critical. The American Association of Swine Veterinarians, in conjunction with the National Pork Board, has made a wealth of information available at: