Friday, August 22, 2014

New York Farm Bureau President Tours State Fair

To see a video about the farm providing cows for the first couple of days at the Dairy Cow Birthing Center, go to

Watching the birth of a calf may seem old hand to someone like New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton.

But Thursday, while touring the New York State Fair, Norton, whose family owns a dairy farm in Genesee County, stopped in to see the Dairy Cow Birthing Center and witnessed a new life come into the world.

“People were amazed,” Norton said of the hundreds on hand for the birth – the beginning of the cycle of producing dairy products like milk, ice cream and cheese.

“There were a lot of ooohs and aaaahs,” he said.

This is the second year for the birthing center, which was a hit during its debut at the 2013 fair. It has expanded this year with more space and more seating. Three live births are scheduled for each of the 12 days of the fair.

Norton spent his hours at the fair talking to farmers about what concerns they have in the agriculture industry and talking with state residents about what farmers do and the importance of agriculture in New York state.

He also discussed two pieces of legislation that will be important to farmers this year.

One is the farmworker bill. This proposed law has been written and comes up for action in the state Legislature each year. But to date, it has not passed.

Norton said the bill – being pushed by legislators from New York City – would require overtime, mandatory days of rest and collective bargaining for farm workers and more inspections of worker domiciles.

Farm Bureau is opposed to the bill because of the additional cost and regulation it would put upon farmers. Norton said the bill is unneeded because farmers already treat their workers well.

“Legislators from the city seem to think we’re harming our workers,” Norton said. 

Norton said he and Farm Bureau also hope to work with the state Legislature “to help rural counties start FFA programs.”

“We would like to put together a fund to expand FFA and agriculture education throughout New York state,” Norton said. He said tight budgets and other educational mandates preclude school districts in the state to create FFA program, so county farm bureaus, educators and other officials could work together to see gifts, grants and state money to start these FFA chapters.

“Ag education is very important,” Norton said.

In addition to talking to fairgoers and farmers and discussing legislation, Norton also made time for a fair tradition.

“I got my Gianelli sausage sandwich,” he said.  

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