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NEW YORK'S 800 apple growers, who receive no federal price supports, are considering a plan to assess themselves two cents for every 100 pounds of apples they produce to finance research into their industry.

At two public hearings, industry leaders overwhelmingly favored the idea. The next step is for State Agriculture Commissioner Dick McGuire to set a date for a referendum. A two-thirds approval is needed for the marketing order that would raise an estimated $150,000 a year. Growers already are paying eight cents a bushel to advertise and otherwise promote apple sales.

Ken Pollard of the Western New York Apple Growers says that in the past each dollar that growers raise has resulted in eight more dollars from other sources. Private research money is needed as much now as ever because of state budget cuts. If New Yorkers don't find better ways to grow apples, farmers elsewhere surely will.

Among the needed research projects are quests for new varieties (the wonderful Empires, Jonagolds and Cortlands are examples of varieties developed at the Geneva Experimental Station), new ways to raise trees either on wires, trellises or spindles, applying bio-technology (genetic engineering) and improving spraying, fertilizing, pruning and storage technology.

Pollard estimates New York's 1990 apple crop at 20.5 million bushels, down 2.2 million bushels from last year. Nationally, the crop is put at 209 million bushels with Washington growers raising 110 million bushels.

One reason why some California farmers are rich is because they irrigate with federally subsidized water. A California congressman, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, is trying to put a stop to it.

The original idea was to allow "small" farmers with fewer than 960 acres to irrigate with cheap water that's collected in federal dams. But some farmers with large acreages skirt that law by "dividing" their farms into employee partnerships. Miller cited the J.G. Boswell Co., a 23,000-acre Central Valley farm, that has reorganized into "employee owned" farms.

The Miller bill, an amendment to one that would fund the Buffalo Bill Dam in Wyoming, would require companies like Boswell that formed paper "partnerships" to pay the full price for their water. That would amount to millions of dollars for the very largest farms.

Miller said that 98 percent of California's farmers comply with the law, but said that 2 percent are engaged in a "scheme to farm the U.S. Treasury as opposed to farming the land." He added that the targeted growers are "very powerful people -- big in the political contribution business, big at fund-raisers, very big in party politics."

The Miller measure passed the House, 316-97. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

Dairy farmer Dick Hauth of the Town of Boston drew the only cheers this week at a Department of Transportation hearing about the routing of an improved road in his town. One plan would deprive him of the use of a 14-acre field, his best for raising alfalfa.

Hauth turned to the audience, warning that taking that land would be just one more step in driving farmers from business.

"If this continues, your children and grandchildren will be buying their food as well as their gasoline from the Arabs," he said.

Less may mean more this year for tart cherry growers, since the industry has been overburdened with a surplus in recent years. The 1990 New York tart cherry crop is estimated at 20 million pounds, 35 percent under the 1989 production, some of which was left to rot on the trees or ground. Tart cherry growers recently failed to institute a national production reduction campaign.

Sweet cherry production is pegged at 1,100 tons, down 19 percent. The short sweet cherry crop has led Milton Farley, the Town of Lockport grower who sells brined sweet cherries to processors, to announce that he will buy sweets from other growers.

Steve Kerr, director of the Council of Northeast Farmer Cooperatives, fears congressional attempts to meet 1991 budget constraints may jeopardize the $10.10 per hundredweight dairy price support floor.

Currently, for most dairy products, the market price is far above the support price. If Congressional Budget Office guidelines are met, the floor could drop another $1.50 over the coming five years, Kerr says.

Barnyard gossip -- George Lamont of Albion has been named to succeed Paul Baker of Ransomville as New York's director representative to the International Apple Institute. . . State labor officials say that 2,370 local summer farm laborers are among 2,946 now working on WNY farms. Most of the others come from the South. . . Dairylea is encouraging its members to study the State Energy Office's Energy Investment Loan Program, which provides interest subsidies on loans made for qualified energy conservation improvements such as insulation, milk cooler maintenance, well water pre-coolers, heat exchangers and bio-digesters. . .

The American Veterinary Medical Association says that herd health, the environment and profitability improve dramatically when ranchers become involved in grazing management -- rotational grazing rather than random grazing. . . There were 855 farms accredited to the Western New York Milk Marketing Area last month, down two from April. . . If this year's strawberries on the DeCarlo Farm of Brant are a valid comparison, the 1990 crop is the best in years.

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