Cuomo mulls giving farmers break from minimum wage proposal

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office is working on a plan that would give farmers a break from his proposed $15-an-hour minimum wage proposal. [Read more…]

Ritchie unveils agricultural plan for 2016-17 State Senate budget

New York State Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan, center, and State Senator Patty Ritchie, left, learn about milking from farm owner Michael B. Kiechle, right, while at the Garden of Eden Farm. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

New York State Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan, center, and State Senator Patty Ritchie, left, learn about milking from farm owner Michael B. Kiechle, right, while at the Garden of Eden Farm. Photo by Amanda Morrison, Watertown Daily Times.

ALBANY — State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, highlighted Tuesday a renewed agricultural focus in the 2016-17 Senate budget aimed at continuing financial, research and employment support for New York state’s agriculture industry. [Read more…]

Dairy farms install robotic milking systems to offset $15 wage

Dairyman Jeffrey C. Murrock said a robotic milking system was recently installed at his farm as a way offset the potential impact of the governor’s $15-an-hour minimum wage proposal, seen here in use Friday. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

Dairyman Jeffrey C. Murrock said a robotic milking system was recently installed at his farm as a way offset the potential impact of the governor’s $15-an-hour minimum wage proposal, seen here in use Friday. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

Dairyman Jeffrey C. Murrock said a robotic milking system was recently installed at his farm, a move made to offset the potential impact of the governor’s $15-an-hour minimum wage proposal. [Read more…]

December 2015: Agri-Business

How will $15 wage impact farms?

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

According to Dean Norton, president of New York Farm Bureau, “New York farmers are simply unable to afford a $15 minimum wage in this day of national and global competition that already leads to razor-thin margins.The governor’s proposal will increase costs on farms across New York by $500 million, when our business environment is already suffering. This is not the way to invest in the upstate and rural economy.” [Read more…]

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