Editorial: Support the Ag. Organizations that Represent You:
No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. That rule can be applied to a lot of things in life. One area it needs to be applied right now in standing up for agriculture. Let me explain.
Agriculture is under a lot of pressure from people that know little about our businesses, but think they know a lot about agricultural labor, crop protectants and other parts of your operation. If they have their way, they will put laws and regulations in place that will make it impossible for you to continue your farm. What are you going to do about it? By yourself, there is not much you can do to be effective to turn the tide. If we all work together, we stand a chance.
My sisters and I learned so much from our father. His hard work and endless long hours on the farm were only one of the many teachings he taught us. Dad taught us that the first 40 hours of the week, were to break even, the next 40 hours were to get a head, and the final 20 hours were necessary to plan ahead for the next weeks and seasons to come. Have fun with what hours you could stay awake beyond that. Even with working all the farm hours, dad always went out of his way to make a lesson for us each day. Sometimes we didn’t care for the lesson, but it was always meant to make us better adults.
I remember my grandfather saying that when I was a kid. He would tell us that it didn’t matter what it was, just get interested in something. For my brothers and I that was farming. My earliest memories are of riding with my dad, grandpa or uncle every chance I got learning the “tricks of the trade”. I drove my first tractor when I was 6, it was a Farmall 230. Soon after I graduated to a 766, then I learned how to mow the lawn with a cub cadet. Granted this was slightly backwards, but none the less I was hooked on farming. From then on if I wasn’t in school, I was at work. A farm can be a fun place for a kid, you’re learning valuable skills and a good work ethic, and it doesn’t feel like work. Now I work with my dad and brother, and my kids ages 6 and 3 come running out to ride with me. In the blink of an eye I went from riding around getting taught how to do things, to teaching the next generation how it’s done. There is a huge amount of pride when you can teach your kids to do what you do and love it just as much, and nothing would make me happier than for them to take over when I’m too old to do it. When I was in high school, I wrote my sophomore research paper on how fast family farms were disappearing in America. Since I wrote that paper 15 years ago, I haven’t seen that situation change for the better. If we as farmers don’t get our children interested at a young age, I feel that we may see the small family operations disappear altogether and that would be a tragic loss to the foundation of our country.
I am glad I am not driving a 1970 Ford Pickup Truck
It was the summer of 1970. I was just home from Cornell for the summer. My uncle had just driven into our driveway with a new Ford pickup. He said it was very best he ever had. It cost him just a little over $2000. He was in his 70s at the time. He wanted to know where I would be plowing that afternoon. I told him and really put it out of my mind. Later that afternoon I saw him standing in the dead furrow at the end of my field. He motioned me to stop. He climbed up on the fender. Motioned me to make a round. Upon doing this he told me to stop. He jumped down. I will never forget what he said next. He said when he was my age, he also did a lot of the plowing. In his day he walked behind a team of horses.
When it comes to farm labor, it’s all action all the time! New York growers are skilled, flexible, innovative, bold, and creative problem-solvers and business people. If any of these qualities are lacking, then a grower won’t last long in an industry where weather, insects, disease, technology, and markets are constantly presenting new challenges and new opportunities. In the past, labor may have been taken for granted as a production input that growers could readily access. Today, labor has become a complex and rapidly changing set of puzzles that rival the production and market puzzles that growers still must solve. New York’s Agricultural Workforce Development Council had the foresight to address labor issues as a united industry. One outcome of that group’s work is the Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development program. With a strong extension education and applied research mission, Cornell Ag Workforce works closely with industry to identify, understand, and solve real-world challenges that confront growers.
Usually that answer would be simple, grow a safe high-quality product for your vendors, while fulfilling all of your contracts at a fair price. This has become far from simple with the advent of Covid-19. Life as we have known it has changed over the last few months. As a cold March gave way to spring, I speculated how Covid-19 would affect the crop of 280,000 Bushels of apples we had set out to grow. This led to the question, how will the virus affect the industry as a whole?
Brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys, Stal) (BMSB) is an invasive species which causes economically significant damage to tree fruit, vegetable, ornamental and field crops. This pest was first discovered in the US in eastern Pennsylvania in the late 1990s but has subsequently spread to over 40 states including many where fruit production is widespread (citation for BMSB first detection (Hoebeke and Carter 2003)“StopBMSB.org” 2020). Initially, stink bugs were primarily a nuisance pest for homeowners who ombatted populations invading their homes each fall (Nielsen and Hamilton 2009). However, damage from BMSB feeding was soon observed in commercial orchards and by the late 2000s, this pest was a growing concern for fruit growers in the Mid-Atlantic states. Currently, BMSB is considered a serious pest of tree fruit within the US, causing major damage to apples, pears and especially peaches (Holtz and Kamminga 2010).
Confirming the breakdown of apple scab resistance in Malus floribunda 821, the most important source for scab resistance breeding, in North America | Hummingbirds Can Reduce Spotted Wing
Drosophila (SWD) Fruit Infestation | Strategies for Sunburn Prevention on ‘Honeycrisp’ and Management of the Apple Insect Complex Employing Complete Exclusion Protective Netting in the Hudson Valley of NY State | Prohexadione-calcium at Pink: A strategy for managing fire blight in apple orchards | Improvements to the Cornell Apple Carbohydrate Thinning Model – MaluSim | Drape Net Field Netting Investigation & Results
If you really stop to think of it every one of us is on a different life path. Yes, we may have many similarities with family and friends but none of us are exactly alike. The reason is because when presented with a “life altering” decision we each have different keys to making that decision.
There is no one perfect formula to how to manage your business. Every farm has select pressure points. In 2020 you will be asked to begin to make choices as to how to coexist with the new Farm Labor Act here in New York State. One choice you will not have is to decide to ignore it. It is the law so we must accept it for what it is and learn to function within its rules.
Most every person I have confronted is nervous as to how to deal with the pending possibility of having a labor union on their farm. At the Becker Forum this last January Brad Goehring, a wine grower from California, addressed the group. California has had many seasons of dealing with labor unions. His message was really quite simple. Your help really has no desire to join a labor union so long as you choose to be a good employer. Less than 10% of the farm labor in California is currently under union direction. Farm workers do not want to be told what they can and cannot do by a union. They most certainly do not wish to have to pay dues.
I feel very confident in stating that as an employer you value your work force. You have bu
ilt your team many times over decades. It is the single most important production piece in your portfolio. As needs and wages changed you found ways to meet these demands. In short you made choices that were in the best interest of your farm and everyone associated with it. This is what being a good employer does. You do not fear a union organizer coming to promise new things which they in truth have no control over. They can claim to say they will get workers higher wages but in truth they do not have that power. You on the other hand can act on your promises.
In 2020 we will need to illustrate to our legislators that we are choosing to comply with this new legislation. To try to undermine the basic tenants of the Act will only encourage new legislation that is not necessary. The Democratic controlled Senate has very little in common with production agriculture. From Niagara County to Albany there is only one Democratic Senator. Senator Rachel May in the 53rd district in the Syracuse area is the lone Senator. Senator Tim Kennedy from Erie County in the 63rd district in South Buffalo is the closest. To further illustrate the divide the Republican Senators in New York have in excess of $5 billion of farm assets in their collective districts. The majority of Democratic Senators have a grand total of $365 million in farm assets. We have an enormous educational challenge ahead of us if we are to garner the needed votes to approve the funding for all the various agricultural programs that flow through Albany.
So, we end by accepting that individually and collectively we have many choices to make in 2020. Individually I trust you will make the best choices for your farm and family. Collectively we need to invest in educating our legislators as to the mutual need for a strong and progressive agriculture in New York State. Unfortunately, we all cannot live on a farm in New York State. We all are consumers of the tremendous products and clean water that are a product of our choices.
– Picking the Right Rootstock for Fresh and Processing Apple Orchards – Investigating the Behavior and Biology of Locally Overwintered Spotted-wing Drosophila Disease in Michigan – Establishment, Persistence and Impact of Native NY Entomopathogenic Nematodes on Plum Curculio In Apples Management in Apple Orchards – MSU Apple Replant Field Trial at the Clarksville Research Center