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The Erie County Farm Bureau

which last year managed to secure Attorney General Dennis Vacco, who was raised on a Brant farm, as guest speaker at its annual meeting -- again has scored big.

The guest speaker at Farm Bureau's Oct. 30 annual meeting will be another farm boy, Gov. Pataki. What he and Ag Commissioner Don Davidsen have to say about milk prices will draw great attention. The meeting will be in Michael's Banquet Facility, 5485 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg. Farm Bureau members will pay $15 for the dinner, others $25.

The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education program has $150,000 in grants to distribute to growers in 12 states who want to test alternative farm practices. The practices are being tested under varying soil, climate and labor supply conditions. The goal is to increase profit and decrease pesticide use while protecting the environment. For a grant application, write SARE, 10 Hills Building, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vt. 05405-0082.

Ag Secretary Dan Glickman, speaking for the Clinton administration, is pushing Congress to approve "fast track" authority -- the authority to negotiate quick agreements with other nations on farm trade. Without fast track, the United States stands to lose big farm-product customers, Glickman says. The American Farm Bureau favors fast track authority provided that negotiators work toward ending all tariffs, including those that bar American dairy and poultry, and toward establishing dispute settlement procedures, including those dealing with the always controversial sugar import trade.

The great early October weather, which has helped sweeten the Western New York grape crop, may have come too late for some corn growers whose fields had been frost-nipped. But Cooperative Extension agent Dave Weaver says it did help growers gather more hay, a crop in short supply this year.

Cattaraugus County Farm Bureau's 1997 annual meeting, planned for Friday at the Castle in Olean, will hear New York Farm Bureau President John Lincoln. The Ontario County dairy farmer will discuss tax relief for farmers. At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Cattaraugus unit will hold a Meet the Candidates night at the Cooperative Extension Center at Ellicottville.

The 125th annual session of the New York State Grange, a four-day assembly, opens Friday at the Holiday Inn Arena, Binghamton. Grange Master Bruce Croucher is urging Grangers to become involved. One issue facing session delegates is whether New York should attempt to become part of the Northeast Dairy Compact, the New England effort to raise prices paid to farmers for Class I (drinking) milk.

The USDA, acting on reports submitted by Gov. Pataki, has listed 32 New York counties as either primary or contiguous counties eligible for low-cost loans because of weather disasters last spring and summer. Farmers in Erie, Niagara, Genesee and Orleans counties are eligible because of freezes on May 5 and 26 and hail on July 18. County Farm Service Agency offices have loan applications.

The agreement signed last week among New York egg producers and the state Departments of Health and Ag & Markets, formalizing procedures that will shield consumers from food-borne bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli, is regarded as a nationwide first. Kurt Kreher, president of SPICE, the state's egg producers association, says John Huntly, director of the state Division of Animal Industry, wrote most of the program, earning him the industry's "Good Egg" award.

Barnyard gossip -- Master gardener and landscape architect Rochelle Smith is Monday's speaker at the Erie County Co-op Extension Center, 21 S. Grove St., East Aurora. The Oct. 27 program is a photographic tour of Florida. Both programs begin at 7 p.m. and cost $6, or $5 for the over-62 crowd. . . . In recent days, some supermarkets and individual retailers have been selling half-gallons of 2 percent milk for 99 cents. . . . County Farm Service Agency offices will accept Conservation Reserve Program applications through Nov. 18. Erodible farmland and cropland adjacent to streams have the best chance of being accepted and becoming eligible for annual rental payments. . . . Reservations for the biennial New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Conference & Trade Show, planned for Dec. 16 to 18 in Sturbridge, Mass., are being accepted. Call (860) 486-3438.

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