John’s Jottings: Threats? Opportunities? Friends? A Look at the Current Climate in Agriculture

by John Clark, NEAFA President

I must admit, that like for many others recently, life has come at me full tilt the past few weeks. Our upcoming Board Meeting, several active committee meetings, and the work that “pays the bills” has taken my focus off of contemplating an appropriate article for this month’s newsletter.

It’s a struggle not focusing on the negatives that we face currently as an industry. The continued business threats that exist for myself, customers, friends, and the associates that I have the distinct privilege of working with. Labor issues, trade wars, low commodity prices, droughts, floods, regulations, and the continued loss of honest hard-working dairy farm families that were excellent stewards of the land for generations. It can all be hard to take in. And yet we must come to peace with these obstacles, look for the positives in life and move forward from there.

There are plenty of positives in life, and support from new and old friends alike helps us move past the negatives that we all must continue to face. For me, our new intern Marie has been a small blessing. Working for us part time while still milking cows at home, she brings youth, enthusiasm, and a different view point on dairy to my world. It’s the proverbial breath of fresh air. Old friends help lift my spirits as well, people that I’ve counted on for years to share my thoughts, concerns, and joys in life with. Rene sharing his work at the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and spending time sharing what DFA means to the producers and the whole community. Sharing that their goal is to provide a market for producer’s milk – it’s just beautiful in its simplicity. And new friends like NEAFA’s new member Michael Howlett, are a help as well. Despite Howlett’s frenetic travel schedule to DC and back, he found time to share his philosophy of, “we don’t make farmers be price takers. We operate this way – when a farmer calls we connect them with an end user.” Again, simplicity brings success. I encourage you to take the time to reach out to the friends and colleagues in your world. You’ll find a wealth of knowledge, and people generous enough with their time to share it.

If you’re struggling with connecting with friends and colleagues that understand the difficulties you’re facing, NEAFA provides a platform in numerous formats to help network with people and meet them. Help your friends and colleagues that can benefit from this by spreading the word about signing up to become a member. Corwin Holtz, the chair of our membership committee, is ready and waiting to help with that. Secondly, attend our Annual Meeting on February 4-5, 2020 in Albany, NY at the Albany Marriott Hotel. I enjoy the Annual Meeting precisely because of the people it brings together that we don’t get a chance to see on a daily basis. It is a great, relaxed place to recharge, to learn about the industry, to gather trends and yes, make new friends and catch up with old ones. If you’ve never been or if you’ve been to every one of the NEAFA’s past 15 meetings, you can benefit. Stay tuned for details.

Dealing with the changes in the markets, the friends above have helped me navigate it. They share their knowledge and expertise. Listening to Rene, I learned what a tremendous reach DFA has, and how its members have great tools to work with. While they see strength in the market, they also see continued consolidation. For the commodity complex that Michael deals with, he sees strength in the market price. More importantly he sees the best farm managers preparing for the long term. He sees that long term producers will work hard to have margins and not eat into their equity.

To our members, thank you for being friends, for your hard work, and your continued involvement with the issues that our industry faces. Hopefully we will see you at the Cornell Nutrition Conference, our Annual Meeting, or sometime in between.

John’s Jottings over and out.

EPA officially repeals Obama-era WOTUS rule

Corps and EPA also codify regulatory patchwork created under differing court decisions.

by Jacqui Fatka

Editor’s note: The following article has been republished courtesy of Feedstuffs. The original article can be found here.

At an event Thursday afternoon in Washington, D.C., the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers formally repealed the 2015 rule that expanded the definition of “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act. The agencies are also recodifying the long-standing and familiar regulatory text that existed prior to the 2015 rule, thus ending a regulatory patchwork that required implementing two competing Clean Water Act regulations and created regulatory uncertainty across the U.S.

The rule is the first step — Step 1 — in a two-step rule-making process to define the scope of “waters of the U.S.” that are regulated under the Clean Water Act. Step 1 provides regulatory certainty as to the definition of such waters following years of litigation surrounding the 2015 WOTUS rule under the Barack Obama Administration. The two federal district courts that have reviewed the merits of the 2015 rule found that it suffered from certain errors and issued orders remanding the 2015 rule back to the agencies. Multiple other federal district courts have preliminarily enjoined the 2015 rule pending a decision on its merits.

R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, said he and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler "signed a final rule that repeals the 2015 rule and restores the previous regulatory regime exactly how it existed prior to finalization of the 2015 rule. Before this final rule, a patchwork of regulations existed across the country as a result of various judicial decisions enjoining the 2015 rule. This final rule re-establishes national consistency across the country by returning all jurisdictions to the long-standing regulatory framework that existed prior to the 2015 rule, which is more familiar to the agencies, states, tribes, local governments, regulated entities and the public while the agencies engage in a second rule-making to revise the definition of ‘waters of the United States.’”

EPA stated that the two agencies identified procedural errors that warranted a repeal of the 2015 rule. For example, they said the rule did not implement the legal limits on the scope of the agencies’ authority under the Clean Water Act intended by Congress and reflected in Supreme Court cases. The agencies added that the 2015 rule failed to adequately recognize, preserve and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of states to manage their own land and water resources.

The WOTUS rule also approached the limits of the agencies’ constitutional and statutory authority absent a clear statement from Congress. Meanwhile, it also suffered from certain procedural errors and a lack of adequate record support as it relates to the 2015 rule’s distance-based limitations, the agencies said in a statement.

With this final repeal, the agencies will implement the pre-2015 regulations, which are currently in place in more than half of the states, informed by applicable agency guidance documents and consistent with Supreme Court decisions and long-standing agency practice. The final rule takes effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

In December 2018, EPA and the Corps proposed a new definition — Step 2 — that would clearly define where federal jurisdiction begins and ends, in accordance with the Clean Water Act and Supreme Court precedent. In the proposal, the agencies provided a clear definition of the difference between federally regulated waterways and those waters that rightfully remain solely under state authority.

Barb Glenn, chief executive officer of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), welcomed the repeal but said the work is not done. “As the EPA and Army Corps continue developing a replacement WOTUS rule, adding a physical indicator standard will help ensure landowners are provided with the necessary certainty. We look forward to working with our federal partners to achieve our shared goals of protecting our nation’s water resources and defining clear federal boundaries,” Glenn said in a statement.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Michael Conaway (R., Texas) commended the Trump Administration for repealing the “land grab” attempted under the Obama Administration through its WOTUS regulation. “WOTUS attempted to stretch the reaches of federal power under the Clean Water Act from navigable and interstate waters, which are rightly protected, to encompass ditches, playas, stock ponds and literally any body of water – regardless of how small or temporary the water may be. The Trump Administration’s efforts to bring the scope of EPA’s regulatory activity back to interstate and navigable waters not only ensures that EPA’s mission comports with Supreme Court rulings but also applies a commonsense understanding of what constitutes waters of the U.S., providing legal certainty to all Americans,” Conaway said in a statement.

Agricultural groups welcomed the action by the current Administration.

The American Farm Bureau Federation conducted a multiyear effort to raise awareness of what it viewed as overreaching provisions on thousands of its members.

“No regulation is perfect, and no rule can accommodate every concern, but the 2015 rule was especially egregious. We are relieved to put it behind us. We are now working to ensure a fair and reasonable substitute that protects our water and our ability to work and care for the land,” Farm Bureau president Zippy Duvall said.

"We're pleased the EPA is moving towards a commonsense WOTUS rule that works with — not against — farmers to protect our nation's waterways," said National Pork Producers Council president David Herring, a pork producer from Lillington, N.C. "The previous WOTUS rule was a dramatic government overreach and an unprecedented expansion of federal authority over private lands. Today's action will remove the threat that the 2015 WOTUS rule posed for our ability to efficiently grow the amount of food needed by people around the globe while providing regulatory certainty to our farmers and businesses. We look forward to working with this administration to finally implement a new WOTUS rule."

Citing the many ambiguities and uncertainties of EPA’s proposal for what became the 2015 rule, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) had at that time urged EPA to rethink it in 2014. In its analysis, NMPF found that the EPA and Corps proposal did not meet the requirements of various Supreme Court rulings that were the catalyst for the 2015 regulation.

“NMPF is pleased to see the 2015 WOTUS rule officially repealed and remains committed to working with the EPA as they draft the new WOTUS definition,” NMPF said in a statement.

Chad Gregory, president and CEO of the United Egg Producers (UEP), welcomed the actions, saying, “UEP had opposed the elements of the 2015 WOTUS rule that claimed jurisdiction that was far too broad and inserted federal agency regulatory controls over largely dry water courses and wet areas that are too remote from anything that is navigable to warrant coverage under federal law. The 2015 rule’s wide claim of jurisdiction added nothing to benefit remote waters, but it did create confusion and unneeded burdens on people in rural areas."

Dean Webster Obituary: Industry Leader Leaves Legacy of Good Works

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Long time feed industry leader Dean K. Webster, died on August 24, 2019 following many decades of service to his family, his community and to the northeast agriculture industry. “Working for and with Dean Webster was definitely my honor and privilege,” said NEAFA member Mike Smith of Feed Ingredient Trading Corporation. “Dean was the face of Blue Seal Feeds, and before that H. K. Webster for many years. He was honorable, honest, and strong, and quite often the voice of reason.  His loss is a loss for all of us.”

Former NEAFA President John Mitchell also had memories of working with Webster. “Dean was a real leader, not only in Northeastern Ag but in the national feed industry,” said Mitchell. “He was a key strength of the New England Grain and Feed Association, the predecessor of NEAFA. Dean was a true Gentleman that had the ability to not only paint visions, but to have them succeed. With his great wisdom and calm personality, he was the guy you wanted next to you in the middle of a storm. He was the kind of guy you wanted to get to know, a mentor to myself and I’m sure to many others.”

Webster’s obituary is reproduced below from Bibber Memorial Chapel. https://bibberfuneral.com/book-of-memories/3955340/Webster-Dean/index.php

Dean K. Webster, formerly of Andover, MA, died on August 24, 2019. Dean was born in 1929, the son of D. Kingman and Mina (Muirhead) Webster. He was graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover in 1947 and William College, Williamstown, MA in 1951. Having spent summers in the U.S. Marine Corps Officers Training Program in Quantico, VA, he served in Korea from 1951-1953 as an officer.

Upon returning to the States, Dean joined the H.K. Webster Co., a family business, located on West Street in Lawrence, MA. With his cousin, R. Kingman Webster, the two ran the family business, renamed Blue Seal Feeds, Inc., and expanded throughout the northeast with their satellite mill program.

Dean became President of Blue Seal Feeds in 1968 as the company celebrated its 100th anniversary. That same year he married Eliza T. Mason of Richmond, VA and they settled in Andover, MA, where they were blessed by the births of their two daughters.

Dean’s years in the Greater Lawrence area were marked by his outstanding service to the community. He served as President of the Greater Lawrence YMCA, Chairman and later President of the Merrimack Valley United Fund, President of the New England Feed and Grain Council, President of the American Feed Manufacturers Association and received their distinguished service award in 1984 for his leadership and service to agriculture and for innovations in the feed manufacturing industry and farming.

Upon his retirement from the company in 1994, Dean received the Ralph B. Wilkinson Award from the Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce for his outstanding community service and honorary membership in the New England Feed & Grain Council.

With Dean’s commitment to the animal feed industry, he also donated his time and resources to the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, which eventually culminated in the building of the Webster Family Library. Dean was also a generous supporter of Phillips Academy, the former St. Mary’s High School in Lawrence, MA, as well as the Central Catholic High School and Presentation of Mary Academy located in Lawrence and Methuen, MA respectively.

Dean was delighted to be blessed with 7 grandsons. After his retirement, Dean and Eliza moved to Maine where Dean enjoyed family visits, playing golf, his bridge group, reading and travel.

Dean is survived by his wife Eliza, his daughter Ann and her husband Tom Mead of Nokesville, VA, his daughter Lee and her husband David Barone of Lexington, MA and grandsons Joshua, Daniel, Andrew and Peter Mead, Andre Amazeen, Dean and Alex Barone, and nieces and nephew.

A private Graveside Service with military honors will be held on the morning of Thursday, August 29th, followed by a public Memorial Service at Bibber Memorial Chapel, 67 Summer Street, in Kennebunk, Maine at 2:00 p.m. on the same date.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in his name are encouraged to: Lawrence YMCA, 40 Lawrence Street, Lawrence, MA 01840.

To share a memory or leave a message of condolence, please visit Dean‘s Book of Memories Page at www.bibberfuneral.com.

Arrangements are in care of Bibber Memorial Chapel, 67 Summer Street, Kennebunk, ME 04043.

NEAFA Member Profile: Danielle Penny-Stroop

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Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance Vice President Danielle Penny-Stroop grew up with dairy on her mind. “Growing up in Orange County, I immersed myself completely in the local 4-H dairy program,” Said Penny-Stroop. “My school didn’t have a FFA program, so 4-H was my catapult into the agricultural business. It’s s an industry that gave me a foundation and a passion and I want that to continue for others. I was at a crossroads as a teenager, and it was the families that leased cows to me and the 4-H leaders that kept me going. That guidance gave me the life that I have now. I enjoy giving back to the industry by working with the Farm Bureau, NEAFA, my local FFA in Grahamsville, NY, and I am currently building a barn to have beef cattle with my husband and our three children.”

Penny-Stroop continued her focus on agriculture after high school with an Associates Degree from SUNY Cobleskill in Animal Science and Agricultural Business. She continued on to receive her BA in Animal Science focused on Dairy from the same institution. From there, Penny-Stroop went on to work for Blue Seal Feeds, Adirondack Dairy, Green Mountain Feeds, Monsanto, Old Mill Troy and Nutriblend before landing at Novus International where she currently works on their C.O.W.S. (Cow Comfort, Oxidative Balance, Well-being and Sustainability) program. “We market methionine and organic trace minerals (otms),” said Penny-Stroop. “I manage accounts and oversee the region, working as the point person to keep everything coordinated and on track.”

At NEAFA, Penny-Stroop is currently in her third term, and serving her first term as Vice President on the Executive Committee. “I’m thrilled to be doing advocacy with NEAFA. I think that the amount of lobbying we do is critical for our members - quite often they have no time to speak to politicians or lobby for the issues that affect them. I think that’s one of the main value propositions for our organization.” Penny-Stroop also believes that collaboration with other organizations is key for the industry’s future. “We have to keep moving forward,” said Penny-Stroop. “Beyond the consolidation factor that has occurred in the industry, we need to take a hard look at the age demographics of those in agriculture. In the next five years there are going to be a lot of individuals exiting the industry, and we’ll have employment and knowledge gaps. The smallest group of people currently working in the industry are those between thirty and fifty. We have plenty under 25 and over 50 but we’ll have that gap. In order for us to continue to show the value of northeast agriculture, we’re going to have to evolve and change and communicate with a wider group of people and other industries.”

Danielle Penny-Stroop at Kenya's International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Danielle Penny-Stroop at Kenya's International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Embracing that mantra, Penny-Stroop was accepted in class 17 of LEAD New York, a two year intensive leadership training program for agricultural professionals through Cornell University. “The experience was amazing,” said Penny-Stroop. “I gained a lot of personal growth and was exposed to all of the different facets of the New York agriculture. It truly was a path of self discovery. It provides different types of training to help grow your strengths and recognizing your weaknesses. There’s a lot of work involved to it though. For work I was traveling during the week, and then taking some weekends for LEAD. Everyone in my personal and business lives made sacrifices so I could do this, and I’m grateful for that. Without my husband and his support, I would not have achieved a quarter of what I have without him, he covers a lot of bases. The twelve day out of country experience to Kenya was stressful to manage, but was well worth it. It was so interesting to see the positives and negatives compared to what we have here. They had better wifi and cell service than Upstate New York and Vermont for example, and a digital monetary system that works extremely well. Yet water conservation and other areas were lacking. Coming back and looking at our own agriculture, it’s interesting to see what works there and what can we implement, to see how we can become better stewards and also consider what can we share with them.”

Looking back at the history of NEAFA and the associations that it has evolved from, Penny-Stroop believes she may be the first female vice president in at least twenty years, if not the entirety of the 100 year history of the organization. “There’s more women in the industry on the agribusiness side, and they’re being recognized more,” said Penny-Stroop. “They’ve been a bit in the shadows, doing books or calf feeding, human resources, really consulting and advising from behind the scenes. Today it’s much more apparent and recognized what they’re doing. And it’s a hard position when you’re raising a family and traveling every week. You need to have a good support system at home. It’s definitely a challenge to be the best wife, best mother, best employee. It’s hard to be all three every day. You have to find time for yourself as well, and having a solid support system and understanding from everyone makes a huge difference. That’s why building teams - whether they be from coworkers, organizations, family, etc., is so important. Having someone that can pick up when you’re falling short. And that’s why NEAFA is such a great asset to have. They do their best to step up when needed, to keep the industry growing, thriving, and moving forward.”

Save the Date: 2020 Annual Meeting, February 4th & 5th in Albany, NY

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Save the date for the 2020 Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance (NEAFA) Annual Meeting, taking place at the Albany Marriott (189 Wolf Rd, Albany, NY 12205) on February 4th & 5th. “The 2020 Annual Meeting will continue the long tradition of excellent programming on timely topics relevant to the agribusiness community,” said NEAFA President John Clark. “We anticipate nationally known speakers to be joining us to address provocative topics impacting the agriculture industry. This year we will be incorporating legislative meetings at the New York State Capitol on Tuesday morning, February 4th. These legislative meetings are essential in maintaining important the working relationships we have with our elected officials.”

“I always look forward to the annual meeting,” said NEAFA Board Vice President Danielle Penny-Stroop. “Last year was one of the best we’ve had in quite a while, and not because we were in Florida. The content and speakers were amazing. We have some wonderful foundations and platforms to build from last year, and to make this year’s programming even better. I’m very excited to have it in Albany. I really want our members to come out for the lobbying effort, and I hope to encourage our state representatives to come to the annual meeting. By attending, representatives can see and discuss the issues that we’re facing as an industry in a comfortable manner and hear directly from the constituents that know the industry intimately.”

The meeting format will include a choice of seminars on issues challenging the agribusiness industry, networking opportunities and motivating keynote speakers. “Our annual meeting is a must attend event for the entire agribusiness community,” stated Executive Director Rick Zimmerman. “This program will offer value to all who attend. Mark your calendar for February 4-5, 2020!”

AFIA KSU Offer Feed Manufacturing Course

The American Feed Industry Association has opened registration for its winter online feed manufacturing course, conducted in partnership with Kansas State University, for Oct. 21 – Dec. 9. The deadline to register is Friday, Oct. 4.

The five-week, "AFIA 500: Fundamentals of Feed Manufacturing," distance education program provides an in-depth understanding of the feed manufacturing process, while allowing participants to work at their own pace and engage in online discussions with other students and university instructors.

The course covers a variety of topics, including: the process flow from particle size reduction, to batching and mixing, conditioning and pelleting, boilers, post-pellet systems, packaging and loadout, and maintenance.

Program fees are $499 for members and $685 for nonmembers. Visit the course website for more information and to register. Course size is limited, so be sure to register early! For questions, contact Veronica Rovelli, AFIA’s senior director of meetings and events.

To Register, click here: http://www.cvent.com/events/afia-ksu-500-fundamentals-of-feed-manufacturing/event-summary-a7cfb44eb8fb4c8588ddcf1dd552f215.aspx

Insights Gained from an Animal Rights Conference

Speakers discuss strategies and tactics to create a “vegan world by 2026”

by Allyson Jones-Brimmer
Director of Industry Relations
Animal Agriculture Alliance

The Animal Agriculture Alliance has released a report detailing the Animal Rights National Conference, which was held July 25 – 28 in Alexandria, Virginia. The event was organized by the Farm Animal Rights Movement and sponsored by Mercy for Animals, The Save Movement, Compassion Over Killing and The Humane League, along with other animal rights extremist groups.

Animal rights extremists are becoming increasingly aggressive in their efforts to end animal agriculture. Speakers at the conference shared examples of their work and plans for upcoming strategies and tactics. Insights gained will help enable everyone in animal agriculture protect their livelihood.

Similar to last year’s conference, speakers made it clear their vision is animal liberation, not promoting animal welfare. “There is no such thing as humane slaughter and anyone who tells you differently is simply lying,” said Michael Budkie of Stop Animal Exploitation Now. “We need to say that all animal agriculture is cruel and wrong,” said Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns. Demetria Atkinson of Redefine Your Mind argued “Animals are people too.”

A key theme of the conference was the desire to create a vegan world by 2026 to save the environment, but many activists had doubts. “Activism is so sad right now; when I look at our movement, I am incredibly disappointed,” said Lauren Ornelas of The Food Empowerment Project. “We vegans carry a heavy burden. No matter how hard we work, we will likely never see the end of it,” said Melanie Joy of Beyond Carnism. “We are not even close to being on the cusp of global veganism,” said Bruce Friedrich of The Good Food Institute.

Attendees at the conference were encouraged to pressure restaurants and retailers and make it seem like a lot of people are asking for vegan meals by blitzing companies on social media, by mail and in-person. “Make sure you tag [brands] in the photo so that all they see is consumer demand for vegan [products],” said Laura Cascada of Compassion Over Killing. Cascada also urged conference attendees to write post cards so they could have “several hundred post cards to dump on the front step of [one restaurant chain] at some point.” In a workshop at the conference, The Humane League asked attendees to write birthday cards to the CEO of a major restaurant chain saying, “This will be the meanest card you’ll ever write.” While talking about corporate campaigns, Kelly Myer of The Humane League said, “We surround buildings so that employees have to see and feel guilt anytime they leave” and “An incremental approach is used to gradually switch companies over to veganism.”

Speakers also focused on the use of “undercover” videos and the media to damage the reputation of animal agriculture and reach their goals. “Investigations are the single most powerful tool to expose the inherent cruelties in large-scale animal agriculture,” said William Rivas-Rivas of Animal Equality. “Make sure you start with something dramatic...That’s much more likely to go viral,” said Jane Velez-Mitchell of Jane UnChained News Network.

The 2019 Animal Rights National Conference Report, which includes personal accounts of speaker presentations and general observations, is available to Alliance members in the Resource Library on the Alliance website. You can find background information on animal rights activist organizations and recommendations for security measures at www.AnimalAgAlliance.org/Protect or reach out to the Alliance at Info@AnimalAgAlliance.org or 703-562-5160.

NEAFA Member Profile: Ryan James, NEAFA Board Member and VP at McDowell & Walker Inc.

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For the past 22 years, Ryan James has worked his way up the ranks at McDowell & Walker Inc. (M&W), a feed company based in Afton, NY. James started working with the company at just 14 years old. “I stacked bags, cleaned, and helped out customers coming in for bags of feed,” said James. “I eventually went into mixing and receiving, and then got into doing farm nutrition and sales.” James is currently a Vice President at the company, in charge of the spray and seeding jobs that M&W does for its customers. “I’m a learn as I go kind of guy, I’ve learned most everything about this business on the fly. When we had a forty year veteran retire this past April, I stepped up and took over the seeding and pesticide operations. I don’t think I had gray hair in March, but these last couple of months have put a few there.”

After being in the feed industry for 64 years, M&W’s main focus is on servicing the dairy industry. However they also provide a full crop service for their customers. “We don’t plant or chop corn, but we do fertilizer recommendations, we apply it, and do grass type seedings - if you can make hay out of it, we plant it. We also offer a full spray service for pesticides. We’ve got tall rakes to straddle corn rows. We also do corn and soybean combining. M&W’s main plant is in Afton, NY, with two outlets in Sidney and Delhi, NY. These two locations also sell small engine equipment from Stihl and Simplicity, and incorporates a small engine repair shop.

James joined the NEAFA board 2 years ago, after talking it over with NEAFA Secretary Lon Stephens. “I like that we’re promoting agriculture. It’s good to be aware of changes in the industry, and make sure that rules and regulations are made to reflect the best practices in the industry. “There’s a lot of good people that you work with, and they all want to make sure that they can continue doing what they love. I especially like that NEAFA bridges the gap between the general public and the agricultural industry.”

James has noticed several changes in the industry during the past 22 years. “The biggest change you see is the farm size and number of farms. In our area, the size of the farm has increased significantly, while the number of farms have decreased significantly. But at the same time, I’ve also noticed that more and more people are buying chickens so they don’t need to buy eggs at the store anymore, things like that. It seems there are more hobby farms, with people raising their own pigs, beef , layer chickens, etc., so we’re doing more bagged feed sales versus bulk. We try to make sure that we can take care of those things as well as the dairy these days. You really want to make sure that you’re diverse enough to handle the entire agricultural community - you can’t narrow things down in this economy. And ff you talk to farmers, it used to be that everyone worked on the farm. Now a lot have at least one person working off the farm to help make ends meet. Another thing that has really come into play lately are the new restrictions on things and the amount of safety regulations that come from the new legislation in the state.

For James, working at M&W is still rewarding after 22 years. “It’s rewarding at the end of the day when you finish a job. The farmers know that better than I do. Farming is a thankless job, but I do enjoy working with my customers. I enjoy doing the nutrition work, talking with them, and helping them be successful. We’re not a huge company but we are diverse, and I would like to see the family farm continue on. We can always change and adapt our company to do what we’d need to keep going, but personally, I want to see family farms thrive. We as a company will always do what we can to make sure that happens. I’m happy I got involved with NEAFA. I think it’s a quality group of people with the farmers’ best interests in mind. Working with NEAFA, it’s not a job, it’s an advocation. The people involved with it aren’t here to make money, we’re here to advocate the industry.”

FSMA Implementation and Training Course Scheduled for Sept. 25

NEAFA, in collaboration with Co-Operative Feed Dealers, Inc. are committed to learning and sharing information with our members to promote regulatory compliance and create a safe and prosperous industry. A two part course on the New FSPCA Preventive Controls for Animal Food Blended is being offered with the first part can be taken on their website, while the second part can be taken in Conklin, NY on September 25th. Sign up by August 30th to save $25. Part one costs $198, the second half is $300. Visit https://fsma.cfd.coop/training/ for more information or to sign up.

The Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-based Preventive Controls for Animal Food regulation (also referred to as FSMA or Preventive Controls for Animal Food regulation) is intended to ensure safe manufacturing/processing, packing and holding of food products for human and animal consumption in the United States. The regulation requires that certain activities must be completed by a “preventive controls qualified individual” (PCQI). This course, developed by FSPCA, is the “standardized curriculum” recognized by FDA; successfully completing this course is one way to meet the requirements for a “preventive controls qualified individual.”

This course is lead by Barbara Simeon, a FSMA Consultant with Co-operative Feed Dealer’s in Conklin, NY. With a BS in Accounting and an MBA from Binghamton University, Simeon has over 30 years’ experience in business process analysis and documentation working in defense, utility, import and non-profit sectors. She joined CFD in November of 2015 to focus on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and assist CFD members in compliance. She quickly gained knowledge of the Animal Feed industry by completing a Feed Manufacturing Course by The National Grain and Feed Association, the AFIA’s “The Feed Industry Institute”, and the Feed Industry HACCP Training with Department of Soil and Crop Sciences & Office of the Texas State Chemist. She has assisted more than 25 CFD member feed mills in “saying what they do and proving it” by working towards compliance with the Current Good Manufacturing Practice.

The Part 2 Class begins promptly at 8:00 am and ends at 5:00 pm, with lunch is provided. Coffee and water are available during the morning and afternoon breaks. All students seeking a certificate must complete Part 1 and Part 2 to be eligible.  Part two can also serve as a refresher course if you already have a PCQI certificate. If you did not originally take the course at CFD, you must provide a copy of your certificate.

The part 2 course size is limited to 12 participants. The instructors reserve the right to defer course registrants to a later course if the class is not full or have a minimum of 6 students 21 days prior to the start of the class.

Rick’s Reflections

By Rick Zimmerman, NEAFA Executive Director

Three events occurred this month that encouraged me to reflect on our industry’s past, present and future. The NYS Pageant of Steam, my summer reading list, and Empire Farm Days all provided an opportunity to consider the course of history and appreciate the significance of human influence. This summer, my reading selection was In the Heart of the Sea, by Nathaniel Philbrick, a story of the demise of the whaling ship Essex. It’s a great read and said to be the basis of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. I highly recommend it. Empire Farm Days and the NYS Pageant of Steam both fell on the same week this month, and while they are only a few minutes drive from each other, they might as well be worlds apart. When pausing to reflect on this mashup of experiences, I find a thread weaving these elements together which provide a commentary for our industry.

Two hundred years ago, the whaling industry was a thriving, profitable part of the US economy. This valuable oil lit our streets at night, lubricated the industrial revolution and made the tiny island of Nantucket the whaling capital of the world. Today, we hardly think about this once monumental element of our history, because whale oil is entirely irrelevant to our modern lives. Research proved that there were better and more plentiful resources to use instead, and that technological trend continues to create new approaches for our energy needs. The motivation for alternatives to whale oil was inversely proportional to the availability of whales, and it was science andtechnology that allowed us to meet our energy needs without completely wiping out the world’s whale population.

One hundred twenty years ago, steam power was the state of the art tech that replaced the use of draft horses on farms. Four wheeled steam powered prairie tractors were giants of their day, and they plowed the furrow for the ever-evolving agricultural behemoth of the industry we are part of. The ingenuity behind the technical advancements required in harnessing steam was based on sound research, and the evolving petroleum fueled engines of today still benefit from continued research and development of this technology.

Today, Empire Farm Days represents one of the best displays of cutting-edge technology and state of the art agricultural research (Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences maintains a significant presence of demonstrations and presentations). It is a graphic example that agricultural science and technology must continue to walk hand in hand to address our industry’s evolving challenges. Further, it is this side by side presence of technology and research that allows our industry, unlike the whaling industry, to adapt and remain relevant and competitive to this day.

However, given the current political and economic issues facing the agricultural industry, particularly in the northeast, I wonder if the time has come when we can no longer expect science and technology to be the salvation for our challenges. Have we crossed a line where the Northeast is no longer able to profitably provide agricultural products to the world? Have issues such as labor availability and costs, tariffs on US farm products, fear-based marketing by food companies, and societal ignorance of science, boxed us out as a region, as an industry?

Historically, with optimism, we conquered difficult challenges in soil and animal fertility, disease, pests, climate, exports, transportation, labor, etc., by employing the latest and greatest creations of science and technology. It is with optimism that I tell you that we can prevail over our current challenges using science and technology, and with the help of aggressive public policy engagement, beat back the current round of issues that our industry is facing. NEAFA is committed to remaining engaged in upcoming public policy discussions. Alongside our collaborative partners and with your active support through memberships, sponsorships, and direct engagement with consumers, we have the means to do so. We have also, through your generous support, actively fueled agricultural research needs with the establishment of two new facility positions in Cornell’s Department of Animal Science. Joe McFadden and Kristan Reed, the NEAFA Partners Sesquicentennial Fellows, are contributing to the advancement of agricultural science, applying their knowledge and skills for the betterment of animal agriculture throughout the Northeast and the rest of the world.

US agriculture has become the most successful agricultural industry in the world primarily because of science and technology. Unlike the whaling industry, we will remain relevant and profitable for decades and centuries to come. provided we continue to engage science, technology and public policy in shaping our future.

NEAFA Board Member Profile: Janet Beken Smith, Embrace Local

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Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance’s (NEAFA) board member Janet Beken Smith grew up with agriculture in her life in Bloomville, NY. “Growing up in rural Delaware County,” said Beken Smith, I always loved animals.” Beken Smith attended Cobelskill for her undergraduate work, before going to Cornell for their Agricultural Sciences program. “I started with the equine tract when I went to college at Cobelskill, but once I took one of Cornell’s Dairy classes, I fell in love with the science behind feeding cows.” Today, Beken Smith is the General Manager at the Stamford Farmers’ Cooperative in Stamford, NY. The former Agway retail store that specializes in fertilizer blends, custom chemical applications, and operates as a feed mill. Beken Smith started as their Dairy Nutritionist 6.5 years ago, before becoming the GM 3.5 years ago.

Beken Smith got involved with NEAFA after attending an annual meeting after she started working with the coop, which was followed by helping out during a lobby day. “It’s so important to give our farmers a voice in Albany and Washington,” said Beken Smith. “So many legislators don’t understand rural America, and NEAFA does a great job representing our industry and educating those that are coming up with legislation and laws that effect our industry.” Beken Smith also enjoys the fundraising and coordination that NEAFA has with Cornell. “I love the collaboration and support that NEAFA gives to Cornell, since it’s my alma mater, and I know the great work they do within the state. When John Clark approached me about an open board seat, I was happy to join.” Beken Smith is in her second year on the board currently.

Working at the cooperative, Beken Smith sees the challenges that are facing the dairy industry on a regular basis. “The crisis that the dairy industry is facing - it’s not just a dairy problem, it’s a rural America problem. We’re a small organization with 15 employees, but those are local jobs that are important for a community to have. Sadly, we’re seeing farms become farther and fewer between, and as we try to continue growing our business, agritourism is huge part of that. People are figuring out that we’re an easy commute from New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut, etc. The Catskills are amazing and beautiful, and Delaware County is in the heart of watershed. More and more people are coming to vacation, buying second homes, getting backyard chickens, and enjoying the agricultural landscape. As a business, we’ve been transitioning towards the homesteader market. We’re seeing folks holding events on their farms, becoming an air b&b, and frankly I see it as a win win. It’s income for the farm, and helps people understand where our food comes from, and how truly safe our dairy and beef supply is in our country.”

In that vein, Beken Smith has made sure that the cooperative has embraced the buy local, eat local movement. “Right by the front door we keep a local, refrigerated case full of cheese, eggs, milk, maple milk, honey, and other local products. We see the animals that produce those products. Our farm fresh local brown eggs come from chickens that eat the egg layer mash and other feed that comes from our store. It’s the same for our dairy products. We feed the cows that make the products. And it brings things full circle and we sell them all year long. We definitely see an uptick on weekends when visitors come into the area to enjoy the agricultural tourism that our area has to offer.”

Agricultural tourism also leads to an education for all visitors to the area. “I think that it’s important to know your local farmers and where your food comes from - these are shopping choices that people can make. When I’m grocery shopping, I’m willing to look for Meyers apple juice because I know it’s made locally - and if I forget to get milk while I’m at work, I look for the 36 source code number on the bottle that tells me that it’s local, NY made milk. We need to take care of what’s in our backyard so that we can take care of our community. A local dairy’s dollar is spent $7 times over in a community. It equals dance classes, baseball cleats, an instrument for band class, etc. I think that the worries that some have over their food is prompted by fear and lack of knowledge. NEAFA does a wonderful job explaining how safe our industry really is in our country on the whole. Getting that word out and helping people understand is such an important endeavor that NEAFA undertakes.”

NEAFA's 13th Annual Golf for Good Works Tournament a Success

First place winners Josh Lincoln, Tim Buck, Blake Lutz and Steve Lutz receive congratulations and prize money from President John Clark.

First place winners Josh Lincoln, Tim Buck, Blake Lutz and Steve Lutz receive congratulations and prize money from President John Clark.

The 13th annual Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance (NEAFA) Golf for Good Works tournament took place June 27th and 28th at Turning Stone Resort's Shenendoah Golf Club, in Verona, NY. This 18 hole course is set up for the rigor and demands of PGA Tours. Ninety golfers took to the green this year, and NEAFA raised more than $15,000 that will be used to support agricultural outreach and education programs. New for the Good Works Program this year, four high school seniors heading off to college to study a field of agriculture received $500 each. The NYAAC Birthing Center at NYS Fair, the Junior Dairy Leader Program, the Spring Carousel, Open Houses on the farm, and LEAD NY were some of the other organizations receiving these funds. “Golf for Goodworks is a demonstration of how the agribusiness community comes together to help support future generations,” said NEAFA President John Clark. “These are the people who will make their own mark on the feed and related industries in the upcoming years, and we’re proud to help them along their journey in a field that we are all passionate for.” 

The Alliance for Science Director Dr. Sarah Evanega, spoke at the packed Golf for Good Works reception on Thursday, June 27. “The reception & tournament has something for everyone,” said Clark.  “The reception is a nice time to visit with others in a classy but casual atmosphere.  Once the golf carts start rolling then the actual competition, mostly friendly, starts. These golfers take it seriously, except for the team that works for the highest score, which is good fun for all involved” Speaking of winners, foursome Tom Buck, Josh Lincoln, Blake Lutz and Steve Lutz took first place in the tournament, closely followed by second place winners Nick Stacy, Justin Baldauf, Steve Dearstyne, and Rich Pugsley. Corwin Holtz, Cory Giroux, Jesse Holmes, and Chris Talcott took third place. Bryan Adams proved to be surgical in his aim, landing a mere 12’9” from Pin #3. And our most honest team, aka the one with the highest score were Bill Colten, John Grandinetti, Don Kimber, and Irwin Koss.

NEAFA would like to thank everyone that attended and enjoyed themselves while raising funds for numerous worthy agricultural causes. NEAFA would also like to thank the generous support of the many sponsors that made this tournament possible. Through your support we are able to contribute to more good works each year!

John’s Jottings: Summer Has Finally Arrived

By John Clark, NEAFA President

John Clark presents a donation to the Alliance for Science to Director Sarah Evanega.

John Clark presents a donation to the Alliance for Science to Director Sarah Evanega.

With each season, and especially as you get another year older, your thoughts easily turn to those seasons in years gone by you’ve experienced. For me, this was magnified recently by our Golf for Good Works Tournament that was held at the Shenendoah Golf Course at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY on June 27th and 28th – a sure sign summer has arrived. Each year generous sponsors and enthusiastic golfers come together to raise funds that will be given primarily to youth and agricultural entities that relate to NEAFA’s core mission and the businesses run by our members. That represents the next generation of young people in agriculture.

What will life be like for them? It makes me reflect on when I started in the feed business, and every major, as well as many minor towns in each county had at least 1 Agway store. And each county had multiple independent feed dealers. At a recent dinner, one regional manufacturer recounted how there were 4 feed businesses sharing the same railroad siding, years ago. Many of those businesses had made the transition from a mobile miller to a permanent spot working with brick & mortar stores. Some would simply truck feed from a national company’s regional mill back to their customers, or bring back feed to be mixed at their dealership. The exceptions to that would manufacture feed from the ground up. Those days are mostly gone, and with it the culture as well. I am not suggesting that today is better or vice versa, just that we have seen a change to the very fabric of rural New York and New England.

Throughout the years those businesses have either changed, grown, or gone out of business due to the rapidly changing business landscape. Farmers required more services, including forage testing, and ration balancing. Feed went from burlap sacks to bulk deliveries and now full tractor trailer loads. Dairy teams made up of veterinarians, extension agents, lenders, nutritionists, independent consultants and others started to appear. In addition to local extensions, regional teams were formed, and out of this grew Pro-Dairy to support the industry. The best in the feed business continually “sharpened their sword.” They sought out cutting edge technology and the knowledge of how to use it. See how I wove the importance of our land grants in there? Those nutritionists strived to keep educated and apprised of what services were needed, how they could offer feed at competitive prices and off the services required.

This all brings me back to the point of the next generation. Summer has arrived and with it a multitude of college and high school graduations. What will their generation face as the industry continues to advance technological, mature, and likely further consolidate? What will their feed business of the future look like as laboratory grown protein is on the horizon?

NEAFA, through your efforts, does its part. NEAFA has given away well over $100,000 in the 15 years of the Golf for Good Works Tournament. Where does it go? Well I won’t attempt to duplicate the entire list here, but if you watch for it, you’ll be able to see the signs of it. For the first time in 2019, 4 high school Seniors heading off to college to study a field of agriculture received $500 each. The NYAAC Birthing Center at NYS Fair, the Junior Dairy Leader Program, the Spring Carousel, Open Houses on the farm, LEAD NY were some of the other organizations receiving these funds. Be on watch for the NEAFA banner and or folks wearing NEAFA attire at the next event you attend! You never know where support may come up.

New this year was a donation to the Alliance for Science. Their director, Dr. Sarah Evanega, spoke at the well-attended Golf for Good Works reception Thursday, June 27. She captivated the audience describing her work that takes place literally around the world, and how it is making a difference in educating third world countries, and really all of us, can benefit from the use of sound, science-based agricultural technology. There were powerful video clips illustrating firsthand experiences from individuals in areas desperate for food and how modern agriculture can benefit them. I encourage you to check out this very positive organization and the work that they’re doing.

In closing, while we know future generations will face technological changes and other challenges, as one of my first ever bosses used to say, “the only thing that really changes is the rate of change.” We wish them well, and we will continue to give them all that we can to make a better tomorrow.

Enjoy your summer, see you again in the fall.

John’s jottings over and out.

Landmark Legislation Threatens NY Agriculture; Outcome Significantly Mitigated

By Rick Zimmerman, Executive Director

Over 300 farmers and farm workers gathered in front of the NYS Capitol to rally on the farmworker bill.

Over 300 farmers and farm workers gathered in front of the NYS Capitol to rally on the farmworker bill.

The Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act passed the NYS Senate and Assembly on June 19th and threatens to alter the face of NY agriculture as we know it today. It is a bill that will be incredibly difficult for agriculture to absorb, but also has significant improvements compared to where we started. On January first, the bill contained a 40-hour/week and 8-hour/day overtime threshold for farmworkers and a collective bargaining provision that would allow for worker strikes. Versions of this bill have been thwarted for the past 35 years. When the NYS Senate majority flipped to the Democrats last fall, the bill had enough sponsors in both houses to pass with these crippling provisions. But agriculture would not let that happen.

Agricultural organizations, including NEAFA, farmers, and farmworkers came together like never before to pool resources, organize outreach, and develop an effective public affairs strategy that ultimately moved the needle. It was the largest legislative undertaking that many can remember for the New York farm community. Weekly, if not daily conversations to strategize and coordinate were held by the group for the past six months.

In the end, revised legislation passed overwhelmingly in both houses. The bill includes a 60-hour overtime threshold, collective bargaining with an anti-strike clause, and farms will no longer have to pay unemployment insurance on H2A employees. A simple “hell no, we won’t go” opposition would not have been effective in achieving these significant improvements. Political realities meant we had to attempt to find middle ground with lawmakers who were philosophically against us, and we were on track to accomplish all our goals. Unfortunately, last minute additions, outside the negotiated agreement, negated much of the gains achieved, thus leading the coalition to oppose the bill.

The last-minute provisions that lead to opposing the bill include:

  • Mandatory overtime on a “day of rest” if a farm worker chooses to work.

  • Narrow farm family definition that will subject extended family members (cousins, nephews, etc.) to the farmworker provisions

  • Requirement of a wage board to study and consider lowering the overtime threshold from 60 hours.

  • Collective bargaining provisions that favor labor unions at the expense of fairness to farm workers.

Organized under the banner of “Grow NY Farms,” the coalition of farm organizations will continue to work to fix the above listed flaws to achieve a more balanced outcome. Governor Cuomo has yet to sign the bill and we will continue to promote amendments now and into the new year.  

You may be unaware of what went on publicly and behind the scenes to work on this legislation. Here is a brief timeline of where things started:

  • Meetings with both newly elected and incumbent Senators and Assembly Members started in home districts in the immediate days following the November 2018 elections, when democrats assumed large majorities in both chambers.

  • New York agriculture leaders gathered in Syracuse last December to assess the situation and strategize a path forward to address the political realities.

  • NEAFA’s February Lobby Day prioritized this issue and unveiled the powerful Farm Credit East Report on the financial impact of overtime.

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  • The agriculture community pushed for hearings on the bill because we felt strongly that legislators must first hear from farmers and farm workers.

  • John Clark and Lon Stephens presented testimony, on behalf of NEAFA and the agribusiness community, at one of three hearings scheduled by the Senate Labor Committee.

  • Countless meetings continued in Albany and district offices during winter and spring months.

  • Two regional press conferences, featuring farmers in central and western NY, to share their stories and coordinated additional regional press coverage in advance of the legislative hearings and roundtables.

  • Senator Mike Ranzenhofer hosted a farmer forum for Senator Ramos (sponsor of the farmworker bill) where more than two dozen progressive farmers and farm workers articulated their concerns to the Senator. Following this forum senator Ramos met with over two hundred farmers and farm workers at Torrey Farms where they talked to her directly about their desire to work as many hours as they can get.

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  • The “Grow NY Farms” coalition (www.GrowNYFarms.com) was formed from leading NY farm organizations with resources devoted to both the lobbying on the bill and to promote farmer image. NEAFA was a charter member of Grow NY Farms

  • Signs were dispersed across the state encouraging farmers to share positive messaging about their role in the economy and need to grow New York agriculture.

  • We coordinated with county legislatures and boards of supervisors to get more than 15 municipal resolutions denouncing the farm labor bill that were then forwarded to the legislature in Albany.

  • A large rally in Albany, featuring more than 300 farmers and farmworkers, was timed to coincide with the final weeks of session to express that agriculture was a part of the solution. It was important for all sides to work together to find common ground on a bill that would do the least harm possible to agriculture. The rally included six busloads of participants, t-shirts, signs and banners were passed out to participants. Farmer Tim Stanton and his family drove three tractors and a hay wagon to circle the Capitol as four Albany TV stations covered the event live on their morning and noon programs.

Farmer Tim Stanton and family drove tractors and hay wagon to the NYS Capitol to deliver a message to lawmakers.

Farmer Tim Stanton and family drove tractors and hay wagon to the NYS Capitol to deliver a message to lawmakers.

  • Negotiations at the highest levels of state government, including with the Senate Majority Leader, Assembly Speaker and officials in the Governor’s office, continued for days in the final weeks of session.

  • As what looked to be a somewhat workable compromise fell apart on the last day of the legislative session, the coalition quickly mobilized to oppose the bill and to attempt to make additional changes to the bill. We were successful in conducting several news interviews during the debate that reengaged the Governor’s office in the conversation.

  • Efforts to modify the bill, will continue.

Thank you to everyone who spoke out, attended a hearing, hosted a tour, spoke to media, attended the rally, came to Albany or made a phone call. This is grassroots advocacy at its best.

Feed Manufacturers: Credit Survey Coming Your Way From Cornell University

By Chad Fiechter, Cornell Graduate Student

The current depressed dairy market has broad rural economic impacts. Input suppliers are among those who have been squeezed by multi-year low milk prices. Cornell University Assistant Professor of Agribusiness and Farm Management Jennifer Ifft, and graduate student, Chad Fiechter, are working to identify some of the impacts on the feed manufacturing industry.

Feed manufacturers in the Northeast have shared many stories of financial and personal stress from extending credit to their dairy customers. Some stories have positive endings—family farms who are able to weather the current farm economy due to partnership with suppliers. Others have negative endings—feed manufacturers saddled with thousands of dollars of unsecured debt after farm bankruptcies. The Cornell team has worked with several Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance (NEAFA) members to develop a simple survey to analyze some of the impacts of extending credit to farms.

The Proposal:  Gather 10 years of basic, limited, historical information from feed manufacturers. This information will include 4 key financial categories and the typical credit terms offered to customers.  Confidentiality is extremely important and multiple provisions have been developed to protect the survey information.

  • All data will be presented as a whole industry average, no individual data will be shared or disseminated privately or publicly 

  • A Data Use Agreement (DUA) developed by the Cornell University Office of Sponsored Programs provides additional legal protection

    • Contains the language of a Non-Disclosure Agreement 

    • Limits researchers with availability to the data 

  • An oversight board formed by the Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance (NEAFA) 

    • A voluntary board whom will review any reports generated from this project

  • The participation clause for data use within the data use agreement

    • Must obtain 75% of the total industry tons

    • Must obtain at least 10 participating feed manufacturers

    • If both items are not met, the data cannot be used for research

The objectives of the project are as follows:

  • Set a benchmark for industry-standard trade credit practices: is your firm above or below the industry average?

  • A better understanding of economic conditions within the Northeastern agricultural economy

  • Valuable information for public policy discussions

  • Industry specific information for discussions with agricultural lenders

This project has been graciously supported by a voluntary NEAFA oversight board. With their help, the survey has been simplified and shortened. Expect a call from Chad Fiechter to ask for your participation.

Chad Fiechter - (219)-208-2016 – cmf268@cornell.edu

Ag Impacted by VT Legislative Session

By Meg Nelson, NEAFA VT Legislative Representative

Vermont’s 2019 Legislative session was busy with agricultural and agribusiness related topics. Ranging from neonicotinoids to water quality, our policy makers were busy taking testimony and mulling each subject carefully. Industry leaders and producers raised numerous concerns over changes to current wetland permitting, treated seed articles, pesticide restrictions, and increases to the minimum wage. The session wrapped up a week later than scheduled to finalize the written bills and get them to the Governor’s desk.

H.205, which restricts homeowner’s use of neonicotinoids, has passed and was signed into law. The bill raised the pesticide applicator fee but exempted treated seeds from the restrictions of neonicotinoid use. The bill was designed to protect bee colonies, although many believed it did not follow the science on this issue. Next year we will face new challenges in order to protect other pesticides that are currently under scrutiny.

H. 525 is the House Agricultural and Forestry Committee’s miscellaneous agriculture bill, and it was signed into law. It contains important language concerning wetland permit changes, ecosystem service payments, and mandatory seed sale reporting for seed retailers. Wetland permitting fees have been capped at $200 per project and requires collaboration between both state agencies of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The prospect of payment for good land and water stewardship, as prescribed by the ecosystem service payments, is positive for Vermont landowners. Seed companies will now have to report to the Agency of Agriculture exactly how much treated and non-treated seed is sold each year. Changes were also made to the sale of unpasteurized (raw) milk within the state, making it legal to sell raw milk off farm directly to consumers.

S. 160 is the Senate Agriculture Committee’s miscellaneous agriculture bill and was signed into law. It overlaps key parts of H. 525, as both contain ecosystem service language. Unfortunately, S.160 will require each new genetically modified seed trait introduced to the state to be reviewed by a “stakeholder panel” before sale is legal in the state. The panel will include agricultural industry leaders and representatives from the Agency of Agriculture. While this requirement is not ideal, agricultural leaders will be part of the conversation when new traits are introduced to the state.

Minimum wage and paid family leave efforts were big topics circulating the Statehouse hallways this year. Nothing was decided, but conversations will likely continue next session. Proposals this year worked to bring the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2024. This potential change remains daunting for many small business owners, specifically those that offer other incentives such as housing, transportation and/or utilities to bring employee pay above minimum wage. Paid family leave had a few different versions of voluntary and mandatory programs suggested, and again, small businesses would be heavily affected.

The 2019 VT legislative session posed several challenges to the agriculture community, and more can be expected next year. The Vermont agricultural community is no stranger to heavy regulation and water quality parameters. In time, the industry hopes ecosystem services can provide some financial relief, provided further regulation does not undermine our efforts to be good stewards of land and water.

NEAFA Highlight: Dr. Kristan Reed, NEAFA Sesquicentennial Fellow at Cornell

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Dr. Kristan Reed, Assistant Professor of Dairy Cattle Nutrition and the NEAFA Sesquicentennial Fellow, is helping change how farmers and researchers assess nutrient cycles, production efficiencies, and resource uses by developing a new Ruminant Farm Systems model.

The NEAFA Sesquicentennial Fellow was created through a successful campaign, due to the generous support of 47 agribusiness companies and individuals, that raised one million dollars to seed two faculty positions within Cornell’s Department of Animal Science. Dr. Reed was appointed in 2018 and Dr. Joe McFadden was appointed in 2017 to the other fellow position. “I think that the NEAFA fellowship is a huge benefit for the agricultural community,” said Reed. “It really helps make sure that my research stays grounded in the realities of dairy production. I work to meet the industry’s needs for information, instead of going down the rabbit hole of something that is interesting but not applicable to problems on the ground. NEAFA has been great about introducing me to industry leaders as well as providing feedback on my thoughts and ideas with the industry in general.”

Growing up in St. Croix in Virgin Islands, Reed came to New York for college and pursued Animal Science for her bachelors degree at Cornell. “While I was shadowing dairy cattle veterinarians, I realized that wasn’t the field I wanted to go into, and I became much more interested in animal agriculture instead of the health side,” said Reed. After Cornell, Reed spent 2.5 years in Lesotho with the Peace Corps, before returning to the US to study animal biology for her Ph.D. in animal biology at UC Davis. During her time at UC Davis, Reed focused on statistical modeling of dairy nutrition.

Reed continued that focus during her post-doctoral work in Madison, WY for the USDA at the Dairy Forage Research Center. “My project there was to look at nitrogen cycling and efficiency at the farm level,” said Reed. “Not just with the cows but how the everything ties back into the rest of the environment. It’s a way to better understand how our management practices and weather patterns effect environmental impacts and production efficiency. The problem Reed ran into however was that the current Ruminant Farm Systems model wasn’t able to keep up with her research, so she’s working on a new and more capable model.

At Cornell, Reed has a research and extension position, with a mandate to conduct extension outreach instead of teaching classes. At this time, her extension and research coincide, where she uses her research and other relevant information to improve management and reduce environmental impact. Reed is looking forward to finishing the new model and making sure it is “accessible and adaptable for numerous users to meet future needs.”

NEAFA is proud to be a sponsor of such important work in the agricultural industry. Dr. Reed was elected to the NEAFA Board of Directors last March and also serves on the NEAFA Agronomy Committee.

NEAFA President John Clark addresses the NYS Senate Labor Committee Hearing

On April 26th, 2019, Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance (NEAFA) President John Clark addressed the NYS Senate Labor and Agriculture Committees on the topic of the farm labor, Senate bill 2837. Clark took the opportunity to inform the gathered senators about NEAFA, its mission and its constituents, which include central New York members Bailey’s Feed in Boonville, Brown’s Feed in Frankfort, Louis J. Gale and Son in Waterville, Gold Star Feed and Grain of Sangerfield, and Lutz Feed Company in Oneonta. “We all have deep roots in the farming community, and we know that without a viable, profitable production sector, none of our agri- businesses would exist,” said Clark. “Therefore, NEAFA is here today to stand with the farming community, in strong opposition to S.2837, and implore you to find a path forward that effectively addresses the economic realities of New York’s farming sector. No state policy that attempts to address the issues identified in Senate bill 2837 will be successful unless the policy effectively respects and addresses the economic impacts to New York farmers. Absent a win-win solution, Senate bill 2837 will alter the face of agriculture as we know it in New York State.”

Dairy farmers represent the largest sector of New York’s agricultural industry. Nevertheless, this industry produces a commodity, raw milk, and therefore dairy farmers are price takers for their commodity. The price for raw milk is formula driven and farmers do not know what they will receive for their milk until several weeks after it has been shipped to the milk processing plant. The economics of commodity milk production are extremely tough due to a worldwide surplus of production. Currently dairy farmers are struggling to remain profitable due to an extended period of low milk prices and dairy economists do not forecast a significant improvement in milk prices to dairy farmers anytime soon.

“The agribusiness community stands with the production sector in strong opposition to collective bargaining and mandatory overtime as prescribed in S.2837,” said Clark. “We know how economically devastating this legislation will be if passed into law.” According to the Northeast Dairy Farm Summary and Cornell PRO-DAIRY, feed purchases represent the largest expense on New York dairy farms. In the agricultural industry, feed manufacturers particularly, extend significant amounts of credit to dairy farmers to help them manage their expenses. The current dairy farm economic stress has imposed significant levels of outstanding debt onto feed mills, creating a stressful relationship between farmers and their feed supplier. This economic reality reflects the seriousness of current conditions that will only be made worse should overtime over 40 hours per week, 8 hours per day be mandated.

Clark also highlighted the Farm Credit East report assessing the economic impact from this proposed legislation. According to their analysis, this legislation will decrease net farm income on NY dairy farms by 40 percent. If the 40 hour per week, 8 hour per day overtime were mandated on dairy farms over the five-year period between 2013 and 2017, the increase in labor costs would have exceeded the average net income for those years. The impact of the increased labor costs could be enough in some cases to move some farms from positive net earnings into a loss situation.

New York’s farmers are competing with other states, such as Pennsylvania and Vermont, that do not mandate overtime payments and collective bargaining. New York is already an economically challenging place to milk cows due to high business costs driven by property taxes, environmental regulations, high minimum wages among other factors. “Time and a half will be the factor that renders New York to the category of ‘no longer economically viable’ for milk producers,” said Clark. “And the ripple impact will be felt throughout the communities of upstate New York. Rather than establishing policy to better farm worker opportunities, this bill could strike at the heart of New York’s agricultural industry and eliminate jobs or reduce income for each job that is offered.”

The impact of a mandating overtime pay in New York may shift agriculture in several ways. Labor intensive agriculture operations could shift to agricultural enterprises that are less labor intensive, such as dairy production shifting to grain or hay production. Farms may transition to multiple shifts of workers to avoid the overtime mandate, thus forcing farm workers to reduce their weekly income. Technology could substitute for workers and an overtime mandate will incentivize farmers to invest in robots over humans. In all these examples, farm workers lose job opportunities.

The ripple effect onto the rest of the agriculture economy is obvious. Businesses like feed mills, seed and fertilizer suppliers will experience a reduction of business, thus imposing job reductions and less economic activity in local communities. The threat of an overall decline of the upstate economy, due to mandatory overtime, is real and obvious to those in the industry.

“Senate bill 2837 will clearly make a significant difference on the future of New York’s agriculture industry,” said Clark. “As it currently stands, it will dramatically alter the course and future of our industry. I strongly encourage you to heed the warnings of the agriculture community. They are not hollow threats.”


The Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance is a 300 member organization committed to supporting a thriving northeastern agricultural community through advocacy, education, and collaboration. Members of the Alliance include feed, seed, fertilizer companies, financial service providers, transportation companies, veterinarians, nutritional services providers, and professional advisors.

NEAFA Signs onto USMCA Message to Congress

The Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance (NEAFA), along with dozens of other agribusiness associations and companies, signed a letter of support for the US- Mexico - Canada Agreement (USMCA) and urges swift ratification by Congress. This action follows the announcement by the Trump Administration to drop steel and aluminum tariffs imposed on these two countries. “We appreciate the President’s decision to remove the tariffs on steel and aluminum products, as this action will pave the way for the resolution of this critical trade agreement,” stated John Clark, NEAFA President. “The Agribusiness and Feed Alliance stands with the rest of the agriculture industry in strong support of free and fair-trade agreements. The USMCA, if passed by Congress, will once again set us on a path of growth for our agricultural exports, which is an essential element to a prosperous and viable US agricultural economy.”

Over the last 25 years, U.S. food and agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have more than quadrupled under NAFTA – growing from $9 billion in 1993 to nearly $40 billion in 2018. NAFTA significantly helped create a reliable, high-quality supply of food products for U.S. consumers, while supporting more than 900,000 American jobs in food, agriculture, and related sectors of the economy. USMCA builds on the success of the NAFTA agreement, and will ultimately lead to freer markets and fairer trade. This modernized trade agreement makes improvements to further enhance U.S. food and agricultural exports to our neighbors and would deliver an additional $2.2 billion in U.S. economic activity.

Mitloehner: Cows Getting Bad Rap for Climate Change

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Frank Mitloehner, PhD, UC Davis, was a keynote speaker at 2019 NEAFA/PRO-DAIRY Herd Health and Nutrition Conference April 8th-9th in East Syracuse, NY. Attended by over 150 dairy farmers, agribusiness and feed industry professionals, dairy nutritionists, animal scientists, cooperative extension specialists, the conference was an excellent opportunity for agriservice personnel, feed industry representatives, veterinarians, and dairy producers to increase their knowledge of current herd health and nutrition management techniques while interacting with other professionals.

Mitloehner, a professor and air quality specialist in the Dept. of Animal Science at UC Davis, is world renowned for research on understanding and mitigating air emissions from livestock operations. He presented on the impact livestock management practices has on climate change. Reproduced below with permission from Mitloehner is an article on the subject that originally ran in The Conversation.


Cattle grazing on public lands near Steens Mountain, Oregon.  BLM/Greg Shine ,  CC BY

Cattle grazing on public lands near Steens Mountain, Oregon. BLM/Greg Shine, CC BY

Yes, eating meat affects the environment, but cows are not killing the climate

As the scale and impacts of climate change become increasingly alarming, meat is a popular target for action. Advocates urge the public to eat less meat to save the environment. Some activists have called for taxing meat to reduce consumption of it.

A key claim underlying these arguments holds that globally, meat production generates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. However, this claim is demonstrably wrong, as I will show. And its persistence has led to false assumptions about the linkage between meat and climate change.

My research focuses on ways in which animal agriculture affects air quality and climate change. In my view, there are many reasons for either choosing animal protein or opting for a vegetarian selection. However, foregoing meat and meat products is not the environmental panacea many would have us believe. And if taken to an extreme, it also could have harmful nutritional consequences.

Global livestock production by region (milk and eggs expressed in protein terms). FAOCC BY-ND

Setting the record straight on meat and greenhouse gases

A healthy portion of meat’s bad rap centers on the assertion that livestock is the largest source of greenhouse gases worldwide. For example, a 2009 analysis published by the Washington, D.C.-based Worldwatch Institute asserted that 51 percent of global GHG emissions come from rearing and processing livestock.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the largest sources of U.S. GHG emissions in 2016 were electricity production (28 percent of total emissions), transportation (28 percent) and industry (22 percent). All of agriculture accounted for a total of 9 percent. All of animal agriculture contributes less than half of this amount, representing 3.9 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. That’s very different from claiming livestock represents as much or more than transportation.

Why the misconception? In 2006 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization published a study titled “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which received widespread international attention. It stated that livestock produced a staggering 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The agency drew a startling conclusion: Livestock was doing more to harm the climate than all modes of transportation combined.

This latter claim was wrong, and has since been corrected by Henning Steinfeld, the report’s senior author. The problem was that FAO analysts used a comprehensive life-cycle assessment to study the climate impact of livestock, but a different method when they analyzed transportation.

For livestock, they considered every factor associated with producing meat. This included emissions from fertilizer production, converting land from forests to pastures, growing feed, and direct emissions from animals (belching and manure) from birth to death.

However, when they looked at transportation’s carbon footprint, they ignored impacts on the climate from manufacturing vehicle materials and parts, assembling vehicles and maintaining roads, bridges and airports. Instead, they only considered the exhaust emitted by finished cars, trucks, trains and planes. As a result, the FAO’s comparison of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock to those from transportation was greatly distorted.

Researchers have identified multiple options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector. Red bars represent the potential range for each practice. Herrero et al, 2016, via Penn State UniversityCC BY-NC-SA

I pointed out this flaw during a speech to fellow scientists in San Francisco on March 22, 2010, which led to a flood of media coverage. To its credit, the FAO immediately owned up to its error. Unfortunately, the agency’s initial claim that livestock was responsible for the lion’s share of world greenhouse gas emissions had already received wide coverage. To this day, we struggle to “unring” the bell.

In its most recent assessment report, the FAO estimated that livestock produces 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. There is no comparable full life-cycle assessment for transportation. However, as Steinfeld has pointed out, direct emissions from transportation versus livestock can be compared and amount to 14 versus 5 percent, respectively.

Giving up meat won’t save the climate

Many people continue to think avoiding meat as infrequently as once a week will make a significant difference to the climate. But according to one recent study, even if Americans eliminated all animal protein from their diets, they would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by only 2.6 percent. According to our research at the University of California, Davis, if the practice of Meatless Monday were to be adopted by all Americans, we’d see a reduction of only 0.5 percent.

Moreover, technological, genetic and management changes that have taken place in U.S. agriculture over the past 70 years have made livestock production more efficient and less greenhouse gas-intensive. According to the FAO’s statistical database, total direct greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. livestock have declined 11.3 percent since 1961, while production of livestock meat has more than doubled.

Demand for meat is rising in developing and emerging economies, with the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia leading the way. But per capita meat consumption in these regions still lags that of developed countries. In 2015, average annual per capita meat consumption in developed countries was 92 kilograms, compared to 24 kilograms in the Middle East and North Africa and 18 kilograms in Southeast Asia.

Still, given projected population growth in the developing world, there will certainly be an opportunity for countries such as the United States to bring their sustainable livestock rearing practices to the table.

In developing countries, raising livestock such as these goats in Kenya is an important source of food and income for many small-scale farmers and herders. Loisa KitakayaCC BY-SA

The value of animal agriculture

Removing animals from U.S. agriculture would lower national greenhouse gas emissions to a small degree, but it would also make it harder to meet nutritional requirements. Many critics of animal agriculture are quick to point out that if farmers raised only plants, they could produce more pounds of food and more calories per person. But humans also need many essential micro- and macronutrients for good health.

It’s hard to make a compelling argument that the United States has a calorie deficit, given its high national rates of adult and child obesity. Moreover, not all plant parts are edible or desirable. Raising livestock is a way to add nutritional and economic value to plant agriculture.

As one example, the energy in plants that livestock consume is most often contained in cellulose, which is indigestible for humans and many other mammals. But cows, sheep and other ruminant animals can break cellulose down and release the solar energy contained in this vast resource. According to the FAO, as much as 70 percent of all agricultural land globally is range land that can only be utilized as grazing land for ruminant livestock.

The world population is currently projected to reach 9.8 billion people by 2050. Feeding this many people will raise immense challenges. Meat is more nutrient-dense per serving than vegetarian options, and ruminant animals largely thrive on feed that is not suitable for humans. Raising livestock also offers much-needed income for small-scale farmers in developing nations. Worldwide, livestock provides a livelihood for 1 billion people.

Climate change demands urgent attention, and the livestock industry has a large overall environmental footprint that affects air, water and land. These, combined with a rapidly rising world population, give us plenty of compelling reasons to continue to work for greater efficiencies in animal agriculture. I believe the place to start is with science-based facts.

By Frank M. Mitloehner, Professor of Animal Science and Air Quality Extension Specialist, University of California, Davis. This article was first published in The Conversation.