An Agricultural Outlook for 2018


Intense anticipation for the next farm bill stems from the pressure that farmers are under due to the “kick me while I’m down” status the industry has experienced the last few years.  Low commodity prices, unpredictable weather, diminishing markets, raise in minimum wage, and just plain getting older to name a few.  While some have adapted to survive the times, others have had no choice but to sell out.  Martin Luther King, Jr., who we honor on the 15th day of this month, said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” 

                With the drought of summer 2016 leaving farms with minimal options other than to pay to drill more wells, pay for water to be trucked in, and pay for their feed commodities to be sourced in because they were unable to grow a sufficient crop on their own land, wallets were also sucked dry. Coming into the fourth year of low milk and commodity prices, farms could have used a bumper crop year in 2017 to help compensate, but instead fields were flooded by rain.  Planting and harvest was less than desirable and sometimes impossible. To learn more about making the best out of your core acres and feeding the right crop versus the best crop during tough years (among other great dairy related topics), see Joe Lawrence/Ron Kuck speak at Dairy Day Jan. 23 at Ramada Inn in Watertown. To register, call CCE Jefferson at 315-788-8450 or email me at

                In challenging times it is common to feel like you are alone in your struggles; this is not the case.  Financial and emotional counseling is available to help you make the best decisions for the farm and your family.  Such services are available through local organizations like Cornell Cooperative Extension, NY FarmNet, SCORE, Farm Credit, and USDA Farm Service Agency.  

How the Government could help: Farm Bill and Tax Reform

      The first farm bill was in 1933 as a response to major hardships resulting from events such as The Great Depression and Dust Bowl and they continued sporadically in the decades to come.  It was not until the 1970’s that the farm bill was taken up by Congress on a set, four–year schedule.  The latest is available for download on the USDA’s website if you’d like 357 pages worth of light reading.  The farm bill has been described with analogies like a two–engine freight train or a Swiss army knife with many tools available for use in a pocket–sized gadget.  Though these objects are drastically different, they both indicate that the farm bill is multifaceted.  It contains 12 titles and while content remains fairly constant, titles can vary from farm bill to farm bill: Title I: Commodities, Title II: Conservation, Title III: Trade, Title IV: Nutrition, Title V: Credit, Title VI: Rural Development, Title VII: Research and Extension, Title VIII: Forestry, Title IX: Energy, Title X: Horticulture, Title XI: Crop Insurance, and Title XII: Miscellaneous. Unbeknownst to most, 80 percent of the funds go to nutrition programs.

                Budget reconciliation, which allows for reconsideration of certain tax, spending and debt limitations, is important to mention in the context of the 2018 bill due to the fact that House and Senate Republican leaders have announced their intention to use this tactic at least twice throughout 2017.  Dairy, crop insurance, and commodities are among the areas stated to be in need of substantial reform.  For example, the Margin Protection Program that was created for dairy in the 2014 Farm Bill has left many dairy producers severely dissatisfied.  Many farms grow their own crops to feed their animals so improvements to these programs could have a positive impact on multiple aspects of their farm business. Several states would like disaster assistance to farmers facing droughts and other extreme weather events. Although Northern New York doesn’t have to deal with enormous wildfires or relentless hurricanes like other areas of the country, there is no doubt that drought and excessive precipitation has taken a significant toll on our local agricultural industry over the recent years. 

                In addition to the potential changes brought about by Farm Bill 2018, the new tax reform recently passed in late December could provide some relief for farmers.  A few ways the new tax bill could benefit farmers include repeal of estate tax, full expensing of certain capital investments, and lowering of tax rates on pass-through businesses, which comprises 94 percent of farms (  In last year’s economic outlook from Jay Matteson, an underlying message was one of hope. It seems that this sense of hope for the future has only intensified looking towards 2018.

Alyssa Couse is an agricultural outreach educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County. Born and raised in the north country, she feels at home working with Jefferson County residents, both two-legged and four -legged.  Contact her at

Finding Your Food: Regional food hubs connect consumer with food

Peter Martins displays a handful of strawberries at Martin farm on Needam Road in Potsdam.

[Read more…]

Serving the North Country: CCE of Jefferson County isn’t just about agriculture; programs serve thousands of residents.

Kevin Jordan, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County

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Twenty young professionals are encouraged to use potential to better the north country

AMANDA MORRISON / WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES Shane Simser poses with his parents at the conclusion of the 20 under 40 luncheon, at which he was one of the honorees.

Shane Simser poses with his parents at the conclusion of the 20 under 40 luncheon, at which he was one of the honorees.


Keynote speaker Ruth A. Doyle encouraged emerging young leaders to embrace their potential and use it to improve the north country at the 20 under 40 luncheon Wednesday at the Hilton Garden Inn.

The St. Lawrence County administrator stressed the importance of remaining humble and sharing knowledge with the aspiring leaders at a time when the idea of the traditional workplace is “being challenged.” She said the young leaders should “maintain perspective” and accept the opportunities that were meant for them whether they involve their current organizations or other careers.

“It is no surprise that you have chosen fields that impact the world around you,” she said.

Family, coworkers, employers and industry leaders applauded as 20 emerging leaders under the age of 40 were honored with awards at the sixth annual 20 under 40 luncheon, hosted by NNY Business, a magazine owned by the Johnson Newspaper Corp.

The 20 were selected from 62 nominees with nearly 100 nominations and reviewed by a committee of Watertown Daily Times and NNY Business personnel, Michelle L. Capone, director of regional development for the Development Authority of the North Country, and Timothy P. Sweeney, general manager for Tunes 92.5/104.5 FM WBLH Radio and a member of NNY Business magazine’s 20 under 40 Class of 2012.

Mrs. Doyle said the 2016 class and its “depth of professionalism” showcased how small businesses, health care providers and municipal governments throughout the north country help young workers develop their abilities. She complimented organizations like BOCES and DANC, the banking industry and school districts in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties for fostering leadership and talent among young professionals.

“I must say, you are a mightily impressive group,” she said. “Indeed, a class to be proud of.”

Several members of the 20 under 40 class of 2016 said they were able to achieve success within the region by seeking out opportunities and communicating with local industry leaders.

Emily Hermon, 24, manager of the Scrub Hub and the youngest member of this year’s class, said the professors she had while attending Jefferson Community College helped her thrive in the local economy. Jake Moser, 38, who owns Moser’s Maple, Croghan, said that the north country’s ideals and virtues and the importance of tradition and family ties provide a support system for emerging leaders to develop their talents.

“Young people should look to get actively involved and give back to their community,” said Nathan P. Hunter, 36, senior vice president and chief financial officer of Northern Credit Union.

Also honored were David Adsit, 38, Kinney Drugs; Jennifer A. Barlow, 35, Children’s Home of Jefferson County; Todd J Burker, 36, Carthage Central School District; AmberLee Clement, 32, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County; Shawna Cutuli, 39, Watertown Family YMCA; Daniel D. Daugherty, 33, City of Watertown Fire Department; Rebekah L. Grim, 26, St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES; Kyle R. Hayes, 29, Gram’s Diner; Erica A. Leonard, 36, University Suites.

Also, Dr. Matthew Maynard D.O., 31, of North Country Emergency Medicine Consultants; Ashley E. Meade, 32, Community Bank N.A.; Sarah Parker-Ada, 29, Indian River High School; Korin Scheible, 39, Mental Health Association of Jefferson County; Melissa C. Schmitt, 28, Samaritan Medical Center Wound Care Center; Hartley Bonisteel Schweitzer, 29, DANC; Shane Simser, 33, the Morgia Group at HighTower Advisors, and Katy E. Troester-Trate, 36, of Jefferson Community College.

In six years, NNY Business Magazine has honored 123 emerging leaders who made an impact as rising stars in their professions and communities. The Times also honored 40 leaders younger than 40 in its 2009 Progress Edition.

In addition to the Morgia Group at HighTower Advisors, the presenting sponsor, event sponsors were the Northern New York Community Foundation, Watertown Savings Bank, New York Air Brake, RBC Wealth Management, Jefferson County Economic Development, Slack Chemical Co., Thousand Islands Young Leaders Organizations, the YMCA, Association of the United States Army NNY-Fort Drum Chapter, Timeless Frames, Decor and Expressions, Hilton Garden Inn, Watertown/Thousand Islands, Tunes 92.5/104.5 FM WBLH Radio, WBLH Radio and the Watertown Daily Times.

[Read more…]

November 2015: Agribusiness

Agency cooperation critical to future

Matteson_JayWThe Jefferson County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board is wrapping up work on a new County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan. The county’s original Farmland Protection Plan was completed in 2002 and proved to be a strong guide in how to support our agricultural industry. There were many successes from the 2002 plan, including improved communication and cooperation among the agencies who serve agriculture. In 2002, the agencies involved in supporting agriculture in Jefferson County began quarterly meetings. We called these meetings the Ag Agency Roundtable. But more interesting in the success of this effort is the response we’ve received from the consulting firm who is assisting in the development of our new plan. [Read more…]

August 2015: Business Briefcase


Major gift kicks off River Hospital campaign

A $1 million donation from a longtime north country philanthropist will kick-start a capital campaign aimed at helping River Hospital expand its River Community Wellness Program, hospital Chief Executive Officer Ben Moore III announced last month. [Read more…]

New composting program at Fort Drum dining facilities reduces costs, landfill waste (VIDEO)

FORT DRUM — A new composting program at the post’s four dining facilities and at the commissary could save the installation thousands of dollars and reduce its environmental impact.

Working with the Development Authority of the North Country, the Cornell Waste Management Institute and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, post staff found approximately half a pound of waste is generated per served meal, and of that total, 96 percent is either compostible or recyclable.

“You’re looking at only four percent of what we’re currently throwing in the garbage should be going in the garbage,” said Rodger H. Voss, a forester on post. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that’s huge.”

The composting has been in action since November, and was developed following an Army order at the beginning of 2014 to find ways to reduce waste output.

Currently, about six to seven tons of food waste from the five sites is collected weekly, which can lead to a large price tag when considering the multiple trips needed to dispose of the products.

“You’ve got tipping fees, transport fees, so we’re saving those costs right off the top,” Mr. Voss said.

The food scraps, heavy in nitrogen, are mixed with wood waste products, heavy in carbon, setting up a natural decomposition process that creates a nutrient-heavy final product that can be used in a variety of settings. Among the uses the post projects for the composted waste is in its timber management program, filling in areas of the post’s forest where harvesting operations can strip nutrients from the ground. It also can be used for a variety of public works projects.

On Thursday morning, soldiers and civilian staff at the dining facility of the 1st Brigade Combat Team were hard at work whipping up dishes such as enchiladas and burgers for lunch. As they completed their prep work, scrap amounts of lettuce, peppers, onions, bread and other items could be seen filling up a bin designated for movement to the post’s compost piles.

Once the items are picked up from the various collection points, they are moved to the post’s transfer area near the main gate. In addition to the food scraps, post staff mixes in wood waste, in this case products such as waste ammunition cases and shipping palettes. In a proper mix, Mr. Voss said, the final pile, weighing about 30 tons, should consist of about two-thirds wood chips and about one-third food waste.

The decomposition process could be seen in the piles that had already been sitting.

As the compostible items sit, microorganisms within the pile get to work, releasing a large amount of heat.

Taking a shovel to one of the sitting piles, Mr. Voss pointed out that a small amount of steam could be seen rising where he worked.

Mr. Voss said that the piles sitting were about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and sometimes hotter, despite the chilly winter weather.

Into the future, Mr. Voss said, he is looking to expand the composting collections to include the fast food operations running on the post. Another plan for down the road is offering compost to soldiers and their families for their own home gardening projects.

Video featuring the new composting work on post can be seen at



By Gordon Block, Times Staff Writer

NNY farmers reap benefit of state sales record in 2013

Reaping the benefit of record-high milk costs and beef prices, north country dairy and livestock farmers said they weren’t surprised by the governor’s announcement on Tuesday that farms posted a statewide sales record in 2013.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that New York farmers posted $5.68 billion last year in cash receipts, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That figure is more than $1 billion more than what farmers took in during 2010, when cash receipts were $4.64 billion. Cash receipts are defined as gross income from the sale of crops, livestock and other products.

USDA statistics show that from 2010 through 2013 in New York, overall cash receipts for livestock and dairy products increased by about $830 million, or 32 percent, from about $2.6 to $3.4 billion. Over the same period, cash receipts for crops jumped by about $200 million, or 10 percent, from about $2.1 to $2.3 billion.

Many north country farmers have taken advantage of skyrocketing milk prices by expanding operations and upgrading equipment, said Michael R. Burger, owner of Deer Run Dairy in Adams. High milk prices in 2013 rose even higher this year, he said, making it an ideal time for dairy farms to expand.

“Over the past two years, we added 100 milking stalls, built a calf barn to do a better job with calves and have done some environmental improvements with manure runoff,” said Mr. Burger, adding that his operation now has about 800 milking cows. “It has been a banner year for dairy profits in 2014. Farmers have been able to do all the things they couldn’t do when milk prices were lower, but the ride is coming to an end.”

Mr. Burger said milk prices are expected to drop by about $7 per hundredweight over the next two months, from about $22 to $15. And he said cattle feed prices, which rose this year, are expected to be even higher next year.

“Hopefully the down cycles will be short and the good cycles long,” Mr. Burger said. “The state continues to increase the production of yogurt and dairy products, and that’s been another positive spot because it has created jobs.”

Along with high milk prices, beef prices have also posted record-high prices during the past two years, according to livestock producer Stephen G. Winkler, owner of Lucki 7 Livestock Co., Rodman.

“The milk industry drives the bus in this state. But if you look at all farm sales, beef hit record highs last summer and fall, while pork and turkey hit near records,” said Mr. Winkler, whose livestock farm raises hogs, beef cattle and poultry.

Mr. Winkler said about 90 percent of its products are sold in New York City, where the company began partnering with a distributor in the fall of 2013. He said rising consumer demand for New York-made beef products has driven the company’s sales.

State “farm products in general are being valued more,” he said. “People are buying more organic fruits and vegetables, pork and beef — it all goes hand in hand. Major retailers and distributors are sourcing local food.”

Jay M. Matteson, Jefferson County agricultural coordinator, said that while New York farm sales were strong in 2013, they will be much higher in 2014 because of record-high milk prices.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see the cash receipts for New York state to come close to $6 billion in 2014 — it’s going to be even better,” Mr. Matteson said. “Our dairy farms have never had dairy prices as high as they saw, and the beef dynamic is similar. Beef farmers are enjoying very high prices.”

By contrast, the prices of commodity crops — such as corn, soybeans and wheat — are down in comparison to where they were a few years ago, according to Michael E. Hunter, crop educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.

“Back in 2010 crops were pretty lucrative, but we’ve slowed down a little bit on commodity prices,” Mr. Hunter said. “In 2014, prices really dropped from what we saw in 2013.”

Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau, said in a prepared statement that the 2013 sale numbers released by the USDA are proof that the state’s agriculture industry is in good standing.

“Hard work, farmer innovation, world markets, and a commitment from New York State have boosted overall farm sales yet again,” Mr. Norton said. “This is money that goes right back into the rural communities supporting local jobs.”



By Ted Booker, Times Staff Writer

2014 Class of 20 Under 40



This year’s class of 20 Under 40 (click the recipient’s name to watch a video and read his or her profile):



An architect, a director of business development, communication professionals, a national sales and marketing manager, an educator, a financial planner, health care professionals, an information technology specialist, a transportation center director, a director of human resources, a loan officer, a pair of camp leaders, a director of operations and a few small business owners.

Our fourth annual 20 Under 40 class was the most competitive field yet, and these individuals represent a snapshot of Northern New York’s most accomplished, dedicated and involved young professionals, across a wide spectrum of industries, and across three counties.

All of these young men and women are involved in some shape or form in their community, whether by serving on an organization’s board, being a foster parent, serving in a youth leadership organization, or something as simple as helping to organize community 5K runs or making time to donate to food banks.

All of these leaders, who are between the ages of 22 and 39, were chosen not only by the editors and staff of NNY Business magazine, but by virtue of glowing recommendations from their peers and employers. And not only do these emerging leaders, who embody the prized north country values of compassion, hard work and selflessness, make time in hectic schedules to volunteer in the community, they give their very best in challenging career fields each and day, all out of an effort to make the place they have chosen to stay in and call home the very best place it can be.

Amanda Root, 35: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County


Amanda Root knew she wanted to work closely with children and their families. She thought she would achieve her goal as a teacher, but after accepting what she thought would be a temporary job at Cornell Cooperative Extension in 2003, she found her new calling. [Read more…]