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Leaders of New York's troubled apple industry are wondering if President Clinton's warning last week that he would not tolerate the continued imports of low-priced Asian steel also applies to their industry. The president spoke after meeting top representatives of U.S. steel companies and the United Steelworkers Union.

Apple growers and processors have complained that cheap Chinese apple juice concentrate imports this year have destroyed the apple juice market for farmers and lowered wholesale prices of all apples. Retail prices remain strong.

In December, milk bottlers will pay New York dairy farmers 2 cents a quart more than they are paying this month. The announced $18.54 per hundredweight December price, equivalent to 40 cents a quart at the farm, will be the fifth successive monthly price increase. It has occurred because of a national butterfat shortage that has raised Midwestern cheese prices, which, in turn, affect Northeastern milk prices. Judging from the 5-cent drop in the butterfat differential to 27.3 cents, the butterfat shortage may be easing. The differential is added to a farmer's base price to encourage the production of higher-butterfat (creamier) milk needed for butter, cheese and ice cream. If so, milk prices are forecast to fall somewhat early in 1999. A strengthening price factor is the ongoing demand from milk-short Southern states for supplies from Northeastern and Midwestern producers.

The nation's slowly expanding desire to preserve its food-producing farmlands and environmentally beneficial open spaces took a giant step forward on Election Day. New Jersey voters backed Republican Gov. Chistine Whitman's $1 billion plan to buy the development rights to half of the Garden State's remaining 2 million acres of farmland and open space. The money will come from a 2-cent rise in gasoline taxes.

New York has acted, too, though with far less cash. But Suffolk County, on Long Island, is putting up $62 million to preserve its dwindling farmlands. In Western New York, the towns of Amherst and Pittsford have committed more than $2 million to keep open more than 1,000 acres of farm and park land.

Voters in two rural states also took to the environmental trail. Montanans voted to restrict the use of poisonous arsenic in mining gold from their hills. South Dakota voters told hog factory operators that polluting air and water resources is unacceptable.

John Mulcahy of Cambria, the retired program leader of the Niagara County Cooperative Extension Association, and his wife, Peggy, were honored recently for their distinguished service to both adults and youth. Mulcahy spent 37 years as a resourceful Cornell Cooperative Extension agent, the last 23 as program leader. Mrs. Mulcahy was a 4-H leader for 19 years.

Others honored by the Niagara County association are Chris Czelustan of Lockport and Ronald L. Perry of Newfane.

Fruit and vegetable growers with sales stands or U-pick businesses who are not now listed in the state's "Guide to Farm Fresh Foods" and want to be included in the 1999-2000 edition are asked to call the Agriculture and Markets Department at (800) 554-4501 by Dec. 31. Growers listed in the old edition soon will be receiving a new application form. With consumer interest in buying directly from farmers, the most recent guide contained these listings by county: Erie, 44; Genesee, 14; Niagara, 38, and Orleans, 16, said Paul Lehman, a Niagara County Extension agent.

Barnyard gossip: Some $3 billion in emergency aid will reach eligible farmers before Thanksgiving, says Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. The low-price emergency is blamed on record world production, the Asian market collapse and bad weather. . . . Farming magazine reports that southern Vermont maple operators worry because many of their trees went through the summer and fall with only half their normal leaf cover. . . . In September, New York poultry farms with 3.45 million hens and pullets produced 79 million eggs, 8 percent more than the prior September. The 65.2 cent wholesale price rose 3.2 cents above the September 1997 mark. In October, egg and oat prices slipped, but milk, wheat, corn, apple and hay prices rose above September's. Nationally, lower grain, hog and cattle prices dropped the October farm price index 8 points below the October 1997 mark. . . . U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists are using genetic engineering to alter wheat so as to produce flour that will improve the quality of breads and pastries. Other USDA researchers say they have perfected a trap that will lure wasps and yellow jackets. . . . Strange but encouraging is that New York's largest high school vocational agriculture program is at John Bowne High School in Flushing, part of New York City's Queens County. Some 600 city students learn, hands-on, what it takes to raise fruits, flower and vegetables. The vocational-agriculture program was begun in 1917, when farms still abounded in Queens.

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