Tri-County Real Estate Sales Rebound

Lance Evans

After being slightly down in 2018, overall property sales (including residential, land, multi-family and commercial properties) in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties were generally higher in 2019. The median price followed this pattern also and days on the market continued to drop. When narrowing the focus to residential units (single-family, townhouse, and condominium), the trends were similar. 

    Residential sales account for about 80 percent of property sales in the tri-county region. Most of these are single-family homes. However, our area records about a dozen townhouses or condominium sales each year which are included in the residential numbers. 

Jefferson County 

    Sales of all property in Jefferson County increased about three percent over 2018 and one percent over 2017 with 1,384 properties changing hands. The median price rose to $139,900 from $125,000 in 2018 and $120,000 in 2017 while days on the market rose slightly from 2018 to 116 days. This was down over three weeks from 2017. 

    Sales of residential properties also increased in 2019, but at a slower rate. Overall, 1,149 residential properties (up from 1,141 in 2018 and 1,135 in 2017) were sold. The median price jumped from $135,000 in 2017 and 2018 to $152,400 in 2019. Meanwhile, days on the market fell four days from 2018 to 95 days and over four weeks from 2017’s 124 day figure.  

St. Lawrence County 

    Results were similar in St. Lawrence County with sales of all properties down slightly from 2018 and up from 2017. Residential property sales rose four percent compared to both 2017 and 2018. 

    In 2019, 883 properties of all kinds changed hands. This was down 11 from 2018, but up six from 2017. The median price rose $3,000 from 2018 to $88,000 and up $9,000 compared to 2017. Days on the market fell 10 days to 181 in 2019 and over three weeks from 2017. 

    Residential sales rose four percent over 2017 and 2018 with 781 homes sold. The median price of $95,000 was about $5,000 higher than 2018 and was up over $10,000 from 2017. Days on the market fell four weeks from 2017 to 2019 and one week from 2018 with residential properties spending 170 days on the market. 

Lewis County 

    Similar to Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, Lewis County had a good year in terms of real estate sales. Unlike the other two counties, unit sales were down from 2017, but up from 2018. 

    The number of properties of all types rebounded from 2018 to 294 units. This was up six units from 2018 but down 12 properties from 2017. Similarly, median price was up over $7,000 from 2018 to $99,000. The 2017 median price was about $2,500 higher than 2019. Like the other two counties, marketing time decreased to 153 days, down from 162 days in the previous two years. 

    Residential sales followed the same pattern with 222 units sold in 2019, up 15 from 2018 but down 16 from 2017. In the reverse of other counties, median price was down from 2018 ($114,450 compared to $119,000) and up from 2017’s $94,000. Residential units spent 122 days on the market in 2019, up one day from 2018, but down a week from 2017. 

New York State 

    Only residential sales figures were available for sales in the state, which fell by a little over one percent from 2018. However the median price for a home increased by five and a half percent. Information on days on the market was not available. 

Notes on the above 

    All of the local figures come from the multiple listing systems of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors and St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors. The New York State Association of Realtors provided the state numbers. Average days on the market is the amount of time between listing the property and the purchase offer being signed. Median price is the middle number of all the prices and is considered more statistically accurate than the average price. 

People First: Greeting to boost business

Brooke Rouse

Over and over again we hear that our people are our greatest asset, the communities are so strong and the people make it a very warm place, even in the depths of winter. However, locals, visitors and new residents will often comment on the contradictory nature of North Country people when it comes to business. We hear that it is common to walk into a shop or café and not receive a greeting, which automatically translates into a feeling of not being welcome. As we try to build ourselves as more diverse communities, open for business and welcoming to visitors, this lack of engagement can be perceived as prejudice, judgment or a pure lack of interest. None of these messages are good for business. 

    As a business owner or manager, it’s easy to get caught up and fully consumed in whatever you are doing, whether you are at the front desk or in a back office; cleaning the machine, entering inventory, trouble shooting an accounting hiccup. The important thing to remember is that your customer is first, no matter what. A quick pause, a greeting and a smile go a very long way. It is also critical that your entire team understands the importance.  

Here are a few suggestions to improve your customer engagement:  

Hello, is this your first time in the shop? 

    If it is their first time, you can welcome them with a quick pitch on your products and offerings, while pointing out different areas of your business (a personal tour). This is an opportunity for a free commercial that they may not know from just wandering around the store. If they have been before, you can note any new products or offerings and thank them for coming back. This does not have to be a strong sales pitch, but rather a simple tour and introduction. You can include some positive, personal remarks about how long you have been open, highlights of your physical space or business history. This is all part of the experience, which cannot be achieved by shopping online. You can follow up with – Is there anything specific you are looking for today? – Make sure that you are not doing all of the talking. By understanding their needs (why they came in!) you can help them to quickly find a solution or get an idea of what additional products or services you may want to make available.  

Do you live in the area? 

    Knowing if they are local, drive distance or visitors will allow you to make more of a personal connection to begin a business relationship. You can follow up with – What brings you to the area? – If they have moved for a job, as a student or for family, you can help orient them to the area, referring other businesses and highlights of the community that will help make their move or stay more enjoyable. If a customer sees you as a community ambassador, they immediately form a positive memory and feelings about your business, which is certain to translate into positive word of mouth. 

    If they are not from the immediate area, you can ask – How did you find out about us? – Now, this is your opportunity for some valuable feedback on your marketing tactics. If they saw you on social media, radio, tv or in the newspaper, you can start to better understand your return on marketing dollars. You will also get a sense of how far your reach is – how far people are willing to travel. 

    Share these few ideas with your team, print them out and put them by the register! You may be surprised by how a little effort will go a long way.

Trust In Your New York State Guide

Randy Young

If you are interested in fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, whitewater canoeing, rafting, or rock and ice climbing, but unfamiliar with how to get started, there is a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) licensed guide willing to make sure your experience is less stressful and more enjoyable. 

    Guides are helpful in ensuring safe travel, accomplishing the requirements to become an ADK 46er, navigating unfamiliar waters in a canoe, kayaking to set up a primitive campsite, and much more. 

    Craig L. Tryon, a New York state licensed guide, said, “Hiring a competent guide takes all the guesswork out of planning the trip. If you are a competent wilderness traveler, a guide can help you plan your trip into an area you are unfamiliar with. They can provide area tips and information that would take you weeks to get on your own. 

    In his 34 years of being a licensed guide, Craig knows that the better the experience visitors have, the more likely visitors will return for more outdoor adventures. With more than six million acres to explore in the Adirondacks, 2,000 miles of snowmobile trails, and 5,000 miles of public trails, there are plenty of activities that keep people coming to Northern New York. 

    Outdoor recreation contributes greatly to the local economy and fuels tourism — the state’s third largest industry. Tourism accounts for one in 10 jobs, $14 billion in wages and salaries, and $41.8 billion in consumer spending. 

    There are lots of choices when it comes to picking a tourism destination in New York state and DEC-licensed guides depend on helping customers navigate those choices. There are more than 2,000 licensed guides statewide, of which 209 are available for service in Region 6. 

    Most individuals engaging in the business of guiding on state lands and waters need a license issued by DEC. Environmental Program Specialist Colleen Kayser administers the state’s Licensed Guide Program as part her work in DEC’s Division of Forest Protection. “An exam is held at 10 DEC locations statewide, as well as at the New York State Outdoor Guide Association’s annual winter meeting,” said Kayser. “Once all the requirements are met, I update the applicant’s information and issue the license, which consists of a laminated license, a guides pin, and a certificate. Licenses expire every five years.” 

    Besides assisting the general public, licensed guides are often members of local search-and-rescue teams and partner with DEC to search for lost individuals. 

    Tryon said guiding has enjoyed a long and colorful history. Early surveyors and sportsmen used knowledge of local woodsmen in the area to find their way in New York’s vast uncharted wilderness. 

    Guiding became an important profession and part of the economy of Northern New York in the 1800s, due in part to the popularity of William H. H. Murray’s book “Adventures in the Wilderness, or Camp Life in the Adirondacks.” Murray made his guide, John Plumley, a central character of his adventure stories. 

    “In the 1970s, a renewed interest in environmental issues began to come to the forefront. Today licensed guides are more qualified and trained to provide an educational and enjoyable experience for travelers,” said Tryon. “There has never been a dull moment on any guide trip I have had the pleasure to lead. Clients that I have taken on trips include many typical people just looking for a getaway, police officers, a Secret Service officer, a U.S. Pentagon officer that was an imbedded reporter with troops in Iraq, doctors, an FBI agent, a U.S. Customs and Border patrol officer, a postmaster from Indiana, and even one of the actors on ‘The Young and the Restless.’ With the wide variety of clients and interests on trips, conversations around the nightly campfire are very interesting, to say the least.” 

    For more information on upcoming test dates to be a New York state licensed guide, go here: https://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/30969.html. For the latest updates on #DEC50 and DEC’s celebration of the agency’s 50th anniversary, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/about/9677.html. 

It’s Meeting Season

Alyssa Kealy

Winter has arrived and the holidays have come and gone for another year, which means its “meeting season”. This term is fondly used by farmers and agribusiness professionals in reference to a time of year, January-April, in which there’s plentiful opportunities for travel, networking, learning and strategizing at meetings and conferences. Agriculture is such a dynamic industry in which weather, procedures, and even regulations, can change overnight. This calls for continuous education each year to keep abreast of new and exciting research, best management practices, consumer preferences, and new legislation. 

Here is a highlight of one conference coming this spring: 

Presented by Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY and Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA), the Northeast Dairy Management Conference is a dynamic conference for all progressive dairy farmers in the Northeast. This biennial event, previously known as the NEDPA Conference, will continue to be a high-quality program with a slightly different name, yet the same mission – providing the latest information related to current trends and topics in the dairy industry through dynamic and informative sessions to re-energize businesses and improve performance. 

    The theme for this year’s conference is “Focus on the Future” and sessions will feature diverse topics such as on farm technology, protecting your brand, and environmental issues updates, as well as several presentations on navigating the changes, brought about by the new agricultural labor legislation. In addition to gaining invaluable information for dairy operations, you can also interact with other farmers and industry professionals from throughout the Northeast and beyond. 

    Some of the presenters at the 2020 conference include Jay Waldvogel – Dairy Farmers of America, Steve Bodart – Compeer Financial, Phil Plourd- Blimling and Associates, Cheryl Jones – University of Kentucky, Julio Giordano – Cornell University, Chuck Palmer – Michael Best and Friedrich LLP, Emily Stepp – National Milk Producers Federation, Karl Czymmek – Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY, Chris Wolf – Cornell University, Tom Wall – Dairy Coach LLC, and Rich Stup – Cornell University. 

    Additional conference highlights include sponsored pre-conference presentations, NEDPA Annual Meeting, Exhibitor trade show, Popp Award Presentations, Labor panel, and networking dinner. To learn more: https://prodairy.cals.cornell.edu/conferences/ne-dairy/ 

    Is your farm or agribusiness interested in receiving industry updates all year round? Consider joining the Northeast Dairy Producers Association today. With your membership, you will receive timely industry updates via e-newsletters, social media, website and a quarterly newsletter. In a recent survey of our current membership, the e-communications were one of the most valued benefit of membership. NEDPA has dedicated staff that are available to support member farms and as part of the NY Dairy Issues Team, provide assistance with crisis management. Along with its industry partners, NEDPA serves as a voice, a resource, and a network for the dairy industry in the Northeast. To learn more, visit: https://www.nedpa.org or email me at alyssa@nedpa.org 

Weather Woes

Sarah O’Connell

Al Roker, the weatherman on the Today Show for the past 40 years, was once quoted as saying, “I don’t make plans, because life is short and unpredictable – much like the weather.” While that might work for Al, it’s not a good general principle for enterprises that depend on the weather to venture plan-less. 

    I suppose we’re lucky that in the north country our weather mainly involves water – either too much of it, or not enough of it. Too much water: record snowfalls, high river and lake levels, road and field flooding, event cancellations, etc. Too little water: low river and lake levels, drought conditions for our crops, event cancellations, and so on. As we smugly say when we’re shoveling snow, sloshing through rain or mowing our dusty, dried-out lawns – at least we don’t get hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes or landslides. 

    When weather presents a major economic or physical impact, that’s when the state and federal governments (e.g. U.S. Small Business Administration) may step in with disaster relief loan programs. But for smaller vacillations, business owners, particularly weather-dependent ones, need to develop a backup plan, whether a snow day, an indoor-related activity or off-season events that will bring in other revenue. 

    For example, a couple of years ago a major bass fishing tournaments on the St. Lawrence was impacted by higher water levels, but this ended up being popular with the pro fishermen who enjoyed the access into new areas. These events bring millions of dollars into the area as participants and their families and fans patronize motels, restaurants, gas stations, etc. 

    With snow conditions also unpredictable, businesses that depend on skiing and snowmobiling have had to come up with alternate ways to stay afloat, as it were. Snow Ridge in Turin has established a year-round schedule of events from music festivals to trivia nights to dirt bike races. 

    We Northern New Yorkers are resilient. We’re going to find a way to cope with whatever nature throws at us. A case in point is the business confidence survey released by the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council looking at 2019 where even higher water levels were reported than 2017. It asked local businesses along the lake and river how they felt about the season and their future outlook. In the survey, “73 percent…claimed to be either satisfied, pleased or very pleased with the business they received.” This was more than in the 2017 survey where 63 percent replied similarly. Why, when the water was even higher than two years ago, did business owners feel better? Because many businesses were able to adapt by raising docks or adding docks and pushing better marketing which offset concerns of potential visitors. The “normal” weather of 2018 didn’t hurt either, as tourists left very enthusiastic about their experience and eager to return in 2019 in spite of the high water. 

    As I write, the annual Snowtown USA event is kicking off in Watertown. Newscaster Walter Cronkite was the first to bestow that title on Watertown after the Blizzard of ’77 left the north country reeling under 220 inches of snow in 5 days. The festival, begun in the early ‘80’s featured ice skating, ice sculptures and other outdoor activities. Ironically, the festival melted away in the late 90’s because of poor weather. It was resurrected in 2013 by incorporating indoor activities like the Snowtown Film Festival, bowling tournaments, snow-related crafts at the library, pub crawls, etc. When the weather does cooperate, there are many outdoor events planned as well. 

    And by the way, in November 2014, Al Roker beat the unofficial world record for an uninterrupted live weather report of 33 hours held by a Norwegian weather broadcaster by setting an official Guinness World Record, reporting for 34 hours. 

    The New York Small Business Development Center at JCC offers free, individual, confidential counseling to new or existing business owners in Jefferson and Lewis counties. For more information, contact 315-782-9262, sbdc@sunyjefferson.edu. St. Lawrence County residents can contact their SBDC at SUNY Canton, 315-386-7312, sbdc@canton.edu. 

Legacies Come In All Shapes And Sizes

Second Lieutenant Marjorie J. Rock, U.S. Army Nurse Corps, 1942. Ms. Rock retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 1970 and made St. Lawrence County her home.

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Do You Need An Environmental Lawyer?

Kevin Murphy

If you are buying or selling real estate you may need to hire an environmental lawyer.  

    If the answer is yes then you may need environmental counsel when any of the following arise:  

  • You want to obtain “bona fide prospective purchaser protection” for your property acquisition but are not sure what is required. You need assistance in drafting environmental provisions in a contract of sale in order to protect yourself from risk and future liabilities.
  • The parties to a commercial real estate deal cannot figure out a fair method for allocating the costs to clean up environmental contamination and need creative, workable solutions.
  • “Everyone knows” the property is contaminated because of a leaking tank or an asbestos problem, but no one knows what to do. The lender tells you a Phase I environmental site assessment needs to be prepared, but you know you shouldn’t rely on a Google search to find a qualified environmental consultant.
  • The Phase I Environmental Site Assessment report tells you there are “recognized environmental conditions,” and you do not know how to proceed or if you should proceed.
  • A Phase II Environmental Site Assessment confirms the presence of contamination and you do not know how to proceed or if you are required to report the findings to anyone.
  • You do not know whether environmental insurance is available to resolve some of the difficult problems in the deal.

You need an environmental attorney when you or your client wants to know:  

  • Whether and how the development of the property could meet the requirements of the New York State Brownfields Cleanup Program.
  • How to get the best estimates of the costs of, and how to evaluate the adequacy of, proposals to clean up the property.
  • Whether there is a potential claim against the prior owner for failure to disclose an environmental liability that he knew or should have known about and should have disclosed to the client/purchaser.
  • If there is a viable claim against prior owners in the chain of title.
  • Whether there is a potential claim against an adjacent property owner for contamination on the property that the client now owns. What the scope of your liability is for property damage and personal injury to nearby properties from contamination migrating from your property before and after purchase.
  • If completion of a Phase I ESA is all that needs to be done to obtain “bona fide prospective purchaser” protection.
  • How to get a “no further action” letter from a government agency to meet a lender’s requirements.
  • What the impact of contamination is on the value to your property.
  • Whether, even after cleanup, there is an actionable “stigma” attached to the property.

Associations Hold Installations, Award Honors, Raises Money

Lance Evans

In December, the Jefferson-Lewis and St. Lawrence County Boards of Realtors hold their annual meetings. Included in these are thanking the present Boards of Directors and committee chairs for their service, recognizing milestone years of membership, electing and installing the officers for the next year, announcing award winners, and raising money for various charities. 

    The Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors held their Holiday Gift of Giving dinner on Dec. 5. Outgoing President Alfred Netto was honored for his service leading the association in 2019. In 2020, he will begin a three-year term as director. Leaving the Board is 2014-2015 President Elizabeth Miller after serving in various capacities on the Board of Directors for the past decade. 

    The 2020 president will be Britt Abbey. He was installed by 2019 NYS Association of Realtors (NYSAR) President Moses Seuram. 

    The rest of the officers and directors were sworn in by 2019 NYSAR Secretary-Treasurer David Legaz. They include Desiree Roberts (president-elect), Katherine Dickson (vice president), Mary Adair (treasurer), Nancy Rome (recording secretary), and Daniel Bossuot (corresponding secretary). In addition to Mr. Netto, the other four directors are three-year directors Cindy Moyer and Vickie Staie and one-year directors Michael Hall and Terry O’Brien. Walt Christensen will serve as Jefferson-Lewis’ representative on NYSAR’s Board of Directors along with Mr. Abbey. 

    Two special awards were given out. Al Romano, Community Bank, was recognized as Affiliate of the Year. In the nomination, he was lauded for his professionalism, willingness to assist Realtors and buyers, and community involvement. 

    The Association’s highest honor, Realtor of the Year, was given to Desiree Roberts of Lake Ontario Realty. In addition to her work on the Board of Directors, she was cited for her positive attitude, enthusiasm, and having a passion for real estate. Ms. Roberts, a Top Producer for the past four years, coaches youth sports and chairs several charity events in addition to her real estate work. 

    The evening ended with a silent and live auction conducted by Realtor Tyler McDonald. Overall, the Community Service Fund raised over $4,000 this year for area charities. 

    The next day, the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors held its annual Holiday Lunch and Installation. Sponsored by Seacomm Federal Credit Union, the lunch was attended by Realtors and affiliate members. 

    Richard Wood, the 2019 president, was thanked for his two years as president. He will continue to serve on the Board of Directors as the immediate past president. 

    In 2020, the association will be led by Brittany Matott. She was installed by Jennifer Stevenson, the current NYSAR president-elect. In 2020, Ms. Stevenson will be the president of the state association, the first member of the St. Lawrence County Board to be serve in that capacity. 

    The remainder of the officers and directors on the Board of Directors were sworn in by 2019 NYSAR President Seuram. The officers installed include Wendy Jane Smith (vice president), Doug Hawkins (secretary), and Elizabeth Trego (treasurer). In addition to Mr. Wood, the remainder of the governing board will be, as directors, Gail Abplanalp, Tracy Bernard, and Lucille Kassian, with Debbie Gilson serving as St. Lawrence County’s representative on NYSAR’s Board of Directors with Ms. Matott. 

    For the second year, the association bestowed Affiliate of the Year and Realtor of the Year honors. The 2019 Affiliate of the Year is Randy Deshaies of Elite Home Inspections. He was cited for his knowledge, wit, thoroughness, and positive attitude. Mr. Deshaies supports numerous Realtor related events such as the annual Agent Day and the WCR Top Producer event. 

    The Association’s Realtor of the Year honoree is Joel Howie, owner of JC Howie Appraisals. Mr. Howie’s nominators noted his quiet, efficient, and cheerful manner. While he has served on the association’s Board of Directors for three years, it was also noted that he has been on the Canton Day Care Board as well as other community organizations. He is an owner of Canton Apples, a farm specializing in heirloom and uncommon apple and pear varieties. 

    Over $3,700 was raised for St. Lawrence County food pantries during an auction led by Scott Boyer. 

    The Women’s Council of Realtors Tri-County Network elected its 2020 officers recently. Linda Fields will serve as president. Rounding out the leadership team will be Amanda Mattimore (president-elect), Mary Adair (treasurer), Jennifer Flynn (membership director) and Lisa L’Huillier (rogram director). 

Reflecting Back on 50-Years of Environmental Conservation

Randy Young

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will celebrate its 50th anniversary later this year with a series of regional and statewide events to mark the occasion. DEC was established on the first Earth Day celebration on April 22, 1970. Since that time, DEC has played a major role in nearly every environmental milestone in New York’s history, including the remarkable recovery of the bald eagle, recovery of trout waters from the effects of acid rain, and the largest addition to the Adirondack Park in more than a century, completed in 2016. 

    “For 50 years, New York State has set the national standard for environmental excellence by advancing responsible and proactive policies to protect the planet,” said Basil Seggos, DEC Commissioner. “This year, DEC is reflecting on 50 years of national leadership on the environment and renewing our commitment to tackling the tough challenges the future will bring, particularly climate change, the most pressing threat to our air, land, and water.”  

    Prior to DEC, New York’s Conservation Department was the primary agency responsible for enforcing environmental regulations and protecting the state’s vast natural resources for more than a century. Funding for the Conservation Department came from the Conservation Fund, which raised money primarily through the sale of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. In 1970, according to a survey of Americans at that time, 70% agreed that air and water pollution were serious problems where they lived (https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations Policy & Politics, Richard Nixon and the rise of American Environmentalism, written by Meir Rinde, June 2, 2017). In response to growing national support for strengthening environmental protections, Governor Nelson Rockefeller consolidated all environmental programs under the newly created DEC and unveiled it to the public on the first ever Earth Day. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed later that year in December by President Nixon. 

    “While there is much to celebrate, our work is not done. DEC’s mission to protect public health and New York’s environment is, and will always be, an ongoing endeavor. In the next 50 years, environmental challenges will continue to emerge, and DEC’s steadfast commitment to meet those challenges head on will be stronger than ever before,” said Seggos. “From policies and programs that are effectively reducing waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and the threat of emerging contaminants to investments to revitalize our communities and increase their resiliency, to the Thin Green Line of Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Forest Rangers patrolling and protecting our precious natural resources and public lands, DEC’s more than 3,000 experts are working across the state and around the clock to ensure the health and prosperity of current and future generations of New Yorkers.” 

    As part of DEC’s year-long anniversary celebration, the agency is releasing a commemorative logo that will be used on the DEC website, in printed materials, and other promotions throughout 2020. DEC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife will incorporate the logo in the yearly Habitat Access Pin to commemorate the anniversary. The new Habitat Access Pin will be available at license issuing agents statewide beginning in August. Beginning in January, the agency’s history of significant environmental accomplishments will be memorialized on DEC’s website, via email, social media channels using the #DEC50 hashtag, and in the Conservationist Magazine and Conservationist for Kids. DEC will also host a series of regional and statewide events throughout the year, including launching a new Geocaching Challenge – DEC will designate 50 properties across the state where geocaching canisters will be hidden with information inside on how to receive a prize. 

    For the latest updates on #DEC50 and DEC’s yearling celebration of the agency’s 50th anniversary, visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/about/9677.html. 

What Challenges Will The Dairy Industry Face in 2020?

Jay Matteson

We begin 2020 with nearly 30 dairy farms facing an uncertain outlook. It is hard to write an economic outlook for 2020 when this many of our family-owned businesses are not sure they will have a market for their product. The leadership of Jefferson Bulk Milk Cooperative is working diligently to find new milk markets. They face a daunting task. Jefferson County Economic Development office has offered our full assistance and support. Our elected officials have also offered to assist. 

    The entire dairy industry, especially in New York state, is undergoing a massive change. New York state passed new labor laws in 2019 that are now in full effect as of January 1. Over the last several months, since the laws were passed, farms and their representative organizations were trying to figure out how to comply with the laws. They encountered changes in the regulations after regulatory agencies changed interpretations of the laws. It has been a difficult challenge and farms will continue to do everything they can to comply with the regulations. 

    We are finally seeing recovery in the recognition that dairy products taste great and are healthy components of your diet. People are slowly recognizing, after years of being told otherwise, that whole milk, butter, and cheese are good for you. 94% of American households buy milk. 

    Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? I carefully answer yes. A very qualified yes dependent on many factors. Milk prices are very slowly creeping up. It appears that the dairy industry will see some level of profit from milk sales. It is critical that the United States Congress finally act on President Trump’s U.S., Mexico, Canada (USMCA) trade agreement. This will improve markets for United States milk. The USMCA will benefit other agricultural sectors, too. We are seeing progress in negotiations of other trade agreements that will continue to improve markets for U.S. agricultural products. I am worried, that any new trade agreements needing Congressional approval may be delayed with the presidential election coming in November. 

    Our office continues to search for new dairy processing companies looking for a New York state location. Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties produce over two billion pounds of milk per year. We have enough milk to support another dairy processing company the size of Great Lakes Cheese or HP Hood. We are very proud of Great Lakes Cheese in Adams NY and HP Hood in LaFargeville. These two plants, and the local people who make up their employee teams, are producing some of the best cheddar cheese, cheese curd, sour cream, cottage cheese and yogurt of any place in the world. We are doing everything we can to attract a new dairy manufacturer that values high-quality milk and great employees. 

    We are very excited about what is happening in local agricultural education and workforce development initiatives! We are home to some of the best middle school and high school agricultural education programs in New York state. Alexandria, Belleville- Henderson, Carthage, Indian River and South Jefferson school districts have a long history of offering fantastic agricultural programming and FFA Chapters. A couple years ago, Watertown City School District started an agricultural program and FFA Chapter. Jefferson Community College recently started an agribusiness program offering associate degrees for students pursuing agricultural careers. 

    And just over a month ago, Jefferson – Lewis BOCES announced they will begin an Environment and Agriculture Academy! Juniors and seniors across Jefferson and Lewis counties, starting in fall of 2020, will have a choice to pursue environmental and agricultural programming in their high school careers. BOCES is planning to start an FFA Chapter as part of this new academy. This is great news for school districts without agricultural programs as they will now have this option through BOCES. After many years of hard work, this fall we will offer a complete pathway for all students in Jefferson and Lewis counties to pursue an agricultural career. Students will have the opportunity to pursue agricultural careers either in their local high school or at Jefferson – Lewis BOCES, advance on to Jefferson Community College, and then attend a four-year program at a SUNY school. 

    Yes, 2020 will offer difficult challenges as our dairy industry deals with the changes happening. We are excited to see growth in local food production, and exciting developments in agricultural workforce development. Agriculture has always been a strong foundation to our local economy and will continue to be that bedrock we build upon.