GRANBY, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Senator Darrell Aubertine wants to maintain agriculture’s position as New YorkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s number one industry and ensure it plays a significant part in rebuilding the state’s beleaguered economy
For more than two hours Thursday, Aubertine listened to the questions and opinions of nearly two dozen farmers from across the Central New York region.
The meeting was held at the Granby Community Center and hosted by Ed Williamson, town supervisor.
Aubertine is chair of the Agriculture Committee and the only active farmer in the New York State Legislature.
Similar roundtables have been held in St. Lawrence County and on Long Island, as well as others spread out across the state.
Two more will be held, one in Cobleskill and another in Waddington.
The senator will also conduct a public hearing related to the issues on Nov. 19 at Jefferson Community College in Watertown.
Several themes have emerged from the discussions, according to the senator.
“It’s clear that with dairy, the milk pricing system is broken. We’ve got to get it fixed. For the most part it’s a federal situation, we all understand that. But we can advocate to fix it; and there are things we can do at the state level,” Sen. Aubertine told Oswego County Today.
“So long as the government is involved in the pricing mechanism of milk, we never get ahead,” one of the farmers said. “The farmers need to stick together and control the price.”
All the imports that flood this country is another problem, he added.
“That is a major problem that we have in this country,” he said. “We are the dumping ground for everything.”
“Dairy, in a lot of ways is the framework that supports a lot of the infrastructure that other sectors of agriculture take advantage of,” Aubertine continued.
Typically, the average cow produces about $14,000 worth of economic activity in their communities.
If for instance, a 1,000-cow dairy farm went out of business, it would be the same as that community losing 1,000 minimum wage jobs, the senator pointed out.
“There isn’t an economic developer in the state who wouldn’t do hand-springs down Main Street to get 1,000 jobs in their community,” he said. “Yet, we’re losing farms all over the state, big and small.”
There were some at the table who felt the small farmer was being forced out “by design.”
Among the other concerns, according to the farmers attending the roundtable discussion, were energy, taxes reform of mandates and regulations imposed on farmers.
Nancy Weber of the Oswego County Farm Bureau said more needs to be done to educate people about what being a farmer today really means.
She suggested urging the state Education Department to return agriculture to the schools’ curriculum.
“If we educate the kids, they will educate their parents,” she explained.
She also expressed concern about a lack of quality country of origin labeling for produce. Other participants also lamented the difficulty in finding local onions or potatoes that weren’t grown in Idaho on CNY grocery store shelves.
The senator said it is paramount that “we give farmers, agribusiness and stakeholders throughout the agriculture industry a seat at the table in New York State government.Ã¢â‚¬Â
“We are competing on a world stage,” he continued. “Whether you like it or whether you don’t, the rest of the world isn’t competing on the same platform.”
The US has much higher standards and regulations than many other nations, he pointed out.