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TAKE TIME TO PAY TRIBUTE TO FARMERS

During the past week, growers -- and people who think about them -- have been observing National Agriculture Week, to remind everybody that nearly all food and clothing begins on the farm, not in supermarkets or department stores.

Farmers harness the soils, sun and rain with their labor and machinery to create new wealth. Each carrot, apple or potato, each bale of cotton, each steer, chicken or hog creates wealth that makes jobs for some and food or clothing for all. The riches can be renewed annually if the environment is protected.

Salmonella enteritidis (SE) is a serious health menace sometimes contracted by poultry flocks. Careless handling and cooking can pass it on to consumers. The Pataki budget has eliminated a $312,000 budget item that finances an SE detection program that safeguards both poultry farmers and consumers from the sometimes fatal SE bacteria. New York has had more than its share of these outbreaks, said Kurt Kreher, a member of Newstead's Kreher Poultry Farm family and president of the State Poultry Industry Cooperative Effort (SPICE) that lobbies for the state's $80 million egg, chicken, duck and turkey industry.

SPICE is asking the Legislature to restore the $312,000 item as a public health safety measure. "It's wiser to have a state veterinarian like Dr. Ben Lucio visit poultry farms to check for SE presence rather than wait until until people contract the SE-caused illness and then start to trace the source," Kreher said.

The $312,000 item also funds other poultry and aquatic industry disease problems.

State budget cuts will diminish another service that helps farmers and consumers. Beginning next week, the prices of fruits, vegetables and other farm goods that appear three times a week on the News financial pages will be missing. Gov. Pataki's budget has eliminated four Ag and Markets staffers who gather them in Buffalo, Rochester and New York City.

Every year, Ag and Markets food inspectors visit retail stores to buy packaged apples, onions and potatoes. Each randomly bought package is judged for quality. The 1995 winners from Western New York are:

Onions -- Grand champion: K.S. Datthyn Farms, Sodus. Blue ribbons: P. Vigneri and Sons, Elba; Mikco Produce, Elba; and Upstate Potato and Onion Produce, Elba.

Potatoes -- Grand champion: P. Vigneri and Sons, Elba. Blue ribbons: Augello and Vigneri, Elba; Bippert Farms, Elma; Marky's Wholesale Potatoes, Buffalo; R.D. Scheible, Buffalo; Walz Farms, Springville; and Winter Farms, Orchard Park.

Apple winners were released in January.

Slower Going, the turnip man from Bliss and Eden, is upset that New York -- whose farm industries, to say nothing of food stamp recipients, exceeds those of more than half the other 49 states -- has no one on the House Agriculture Committee. Democrats as well as Republicans have run away from serving on a committee that frames laws about what is frequently called New York's largest industry.

"Who will speak for New York's dairy, nursery, vegetable, fruit, potato and livestock industries?" Slower Going asks. "Someone from Idaho or Mississippi?"

Barnyard Gossip -- The USDA, still with $12.2 million of spending money, has allotted $241,700 to improve the water quality of the Little Conewango Creek that drains 31,046 acres in Cattaraugus County. . . . Robert A. Smith, a former deputy Ag and Market commissioner and Cuomo Administration staffer, has been named public affairs director for the Denver-based CoBank ACB, the recently marked farm credit agency that serves eastern state lenders. . . . Assemblyman Charlie Nesbitt, R-Albion, has introduced a bill that would allow registered farm vehicles to use public roads to and from local repair shops. . . . Workers on farms, nurseries and greenhouses are invited to attend a pesticide-related Workers Protection and Standards training program from 1-4 p.m. Monday in Erie County Cooperative Extension Center, 21 S. Grove St., East Aurora. The $15 cost buys handouts; admission alone is $5. . . . The Cattaraugus County team won the Region 2 senior Horse Bowl contest with Wyoming, Chautauqua and Allegany County teams following. Sue Ives of Cattaraugus County and Lisa Smith of Chautauqua were the top two contestants. . . . U.S. Meat Export Federation has launched a campaign to sell more pork products to Japan.

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