Yesterday provided me with two seperate opportunities to discuss agriculture within my region. The first meeting I attended yesterday morning was a Tioga SET (Sustainable Economies Together) that is focusing on increasing bioenergy awareness and development within the Southern Tier Region of NY. During the meeting, our major focus for this month was demographic, statistical trends and how trends could change through the development of bioenergy within the region.
One attendee made a comment that within the Ag Statistics, he felt that the farms with an annual sale of less than $10,000 should be dropped off the list because they are considered hobby farmers. I will admit, this did upset me greatly. I haven’t delved into my mind about the reasoning on exactly why it bothers me so much…so I am going to discuss it here.
I am one of those farmers that takes in less than 10K/year. Now, I don’t work any less on each individual animal than a farm that makes 500k/year. If anything I think I am more concerned about animal well-being, how my crops grow, how clean my barns are…the list goes on and on. What other reasons concern me about this? According to the NY State overall Ag Stats, this makes up a fair percentage of our farms. Then the rebuttle I recieved when asking what the real issue was over not including those farms, I recieved the following answer: Because they are not really contributing to the over food supply chain within the state. If those farms weren’t factored for Ag Stats, they wouldn’t recieve tax deductions and would have to pay tax on all the goods they buy.
Now, that develops into a whole different issue for me. As a land owner that pays 26% or more of the land value for taxes every year (grand total is 140/WEEK), I would atleast like to be able make enough “farm sales” to be able to pay for my taxes every year. I don’t consider myself a hobby farmer. I consider our farm part time employment! Two hours every morning and night equals four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year….more hours and devotion than someone flipping burgers at McD’s. Now considerating just those hours contributed, wouldn’t I still be qualified as a worker in agriculture?
Now, taking a step back and accessing this from the bioenergy sector…I personally think that these farms are the ones that could contribute the most. I think they are much more capabile of diversity too. Flexibility in agriculture is growing in importance due to the swinging shifts in Ag Markets. It makes each farm less dependant upon just the price of corn or hay.
Now let’s consider this…in Chemung County says there are 116 farms with less than $1000/year in annual sales. My mind tells me that these are probably farms that produce seasonal products for local farmers markets or they are selling something like eggs directly off the farm.
Extending that out to my afternoon, I attended the Local Food, Fiber and Fuel Event at Cornell University’s Mann Library. There were vendors that produced hydroponic fruits turned into jellies and jams, a weaver that made socks/hats/sweaters/gloves from alpaca fur, local vegetable producers and even local organizations that assist agriculture. Our both was set up to discuss how Ag and biomass can work together for alternative energy. While there, I started circulating through the tables and held conversations with each table about Ag Marketing and NY Agriculture. Not one person could tell me when they last time they saw any type of advertisments supporting NY Ag. This is one of my major concerns and issues. There is no development to educate the public about what products are produced throughout the whole state. Yes, the wine manufacturers have done a fair job of promoting their products…but yet, there are still limited advertisments or write ups across the state.
No one seems to know where advertising money for NY Ag comes from or where it could even be established. My growing concern is that one of the major players that should be promoting NY Ag states, “Even if every available acres was planted, it could still only supply 30% of the food requirements for NY.” I ask you to consider this, NY Ag also supports the major city zone around NYC. I am not saying they aren’t part of the states population but do they really factor in under the Local food supply chain for the Northern District of NY, which is about 8 hours away? Or even my local food market when NYC is a four hour drive? I am going to start breaking the state down by region and the amount of food “stuff” that could be supplied within those regions. More will follow up on this topic over the next couple of days!
Feel free to comment or add your input, it is extremely valuable knowledge as I move forward in developing some type of consideration advertising for AG in any area.
Learning new ways to incorporate agriculture and farming with other things is my next inspiration. Since I have worked for the past two years developing and working on a new business format that will use agriculture products that would typically go to waste on the farm, I have learned that I really enjoy working on this type of project.
There aren’t photos today, but referrals to our business website:
There is also a tab located at the top of this page to learn more about the project and what we have worked so hard to develop!
If anyone has any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment or send an email!
Things have been hectic to say the least. Spring time is always a busy time. This year is worse than most due to fallen barn roof and weather that can’t make up it’s mind.
We have been working on getting things cleaned up inside the barns from a winter of freezing weather. The bedding pack for the cows needs to be picked out and removed for the compost pile. We also need to clean up the areas where the round bales sat this winter…with no feeder mind you. There are also rocks that need to move out of the lawn/mowed areas because of the snow plow. Fence posts that need to be put back in the ground. A barn wall that needs to be releveled. The list goes on and on.
Of course there is also the unending list of things that need to be done for the biomass business. Right now I am working on setting up meetings for local sustainability within our region, very specifically for the heating industry. I work hard to develop models that have fuel stock flexibility. As long as the product is locally sourced, it makes me happy. It isn’t an easy job and requires a ton of research and then even more time spent on development. In the long run, all of my hard work and dedication will be for the best within my neighborhood and community and will be able to be passed along to other areas.
I never thought that I would take agriculture to this next level, but now that I am working in this sector of the industry, I can’t ever imagine myself doing anything else. And so every one knows, it isn’t about the money. It’s about doing what is right, not only for me, but for everyone. I am excited and glad that I have had the skills given to me through life lessons that have made this an important part of my life. I am excited that I can now use all of this knowledge to assist other people with their energy needs, when crisis always looms on the horizon!
I am currently learning all about digesters. It is interesting to learn that no matter what size farm you operate they can function. The best units are one’s that are “cookie-cutter” packages for farms with over a 1,000 cows, but they can be done for smaller farms too.
From the information that I have read so far, they really aren’t that difficult to construct and build. I have not gotten into the cost for the retaining walls, but I did find out that you can build them with a flex-wall! That would save loads of money over the traditional concrete I have seen used.
I think it may even work for a small farm like us. I will be completing some calculations over the next week or so to determine if it is an option for an operation as small as we are. I will update with the news of my discoveries on the topic!
As a whole, I think that right now, farming is the only industry that is starting to see an upswing in payments. Grain prices are steadily raising, which is good. Some of that has to do with high demands and short supplies in reserves but for the most part, grain prices are staying bullish and looking good. Not so good if you are a beef, dairy or poultry producer and you have to buy them, but better in general.
Milk prices have been higher lately than I have seen them in a long time. Class III closed the other day over $19.00, much better than in 2008 when the milk prices bottomed out around $10.
Fuel prices are insane for all of us right now. Gas and diesel prices are hurting all of our pockets, especially farmers. Hopefully those prices will drop soon but, unfortunately, most of the farms in the corn belt are already preparing to plant their acres. These prices cut into their bottom dollar.
I just read a release from the USDA about the speech Mr. Vilsack gave before the senate about budget cuts. It sounds like they are going to be dropping a few programs that are co-covered with other agencies and slimming down on other ones.
“In total, the 2012 budget we are proposing before this subcommittee is $130 billion, a reduction of $3 billion below the 2011 annualized continuing resolution. For discretionary programs, our budget proposes $18.8 billion, a reduction of $1.3 billion below the 2011 level.”
Sounds to me like the USDA is in for some revisions, maybe not we can all be able to deal with the USDA and the paperwork involved for some of these programs a bit easier. I doubt it, but maybe….It’s like those lottery commercials where they say “Hey, you never know.” I think that if the USDA and the government would back off on a couple of regulations, it would be easier for us to make a little money and not have to spend extra time on paperwork or assessments.
I sincerely hope that we can turn this country around, without breaking everyone’s bank!