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Cuomo’s budget would cut agriculture programs

WATERTOWN – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed executive budget calls for a big slash in funding for key agriculture programs important for the north country, yet agriculture advocates say they’re hopeful legislators will lead efforts to restore funding.

At first blush, the governor’s 2015-16 budget for programs administered by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets looks bleak compared with this fiscal year. The New York State Farm Viability Institute, which funds critical research to develop commodity crops across the state, would have its funding cut by $1.1 million, from $1.5 million to $400,000. And the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, which received $600,000 this year, would go unfunded altogether. State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said she will lead a charge to ensure the two agriculture r programs are fully funded.

– Watertown Daily Times


114 deer sterilized under new program

EAST HAMPTON – Biologists surgically sterilized 114 deer in East Hampton Village over 12 nights this month in an experimental population-control program used for the first time on Long Island.

A team from White Buffalo Inc., a Connecticut nonprofit that specializes in deer management, is to return next month as it tries to meet its goal of sterilizing a total of 140 to 160 deer, estimated to be 70 to 80 percent of the village’s population.

East End residents have complained that the region’s growing deer population poses a motor-vehicle hazard; destroys farms, gardens and forest undergrowth; and spreads tick-borne diseases such as Lyme.

East Hampton Village, seeking a nonlethal way to reduce the deer population, last year allocated $30,000 for the project, and the Village Preservation Society of East Hampton, a civic group, raised $100,000 in private donations. An anonymous donor provided $10,000.

– Newsday


Man cleared of murder dies in car crash

STONY BROOK – John Grega, the Lake Ronkonkoma man who served 18 years in prison for his wife’s murder before his conviction was tossed out based on new DNA evidence, died Friday in a car crash in his hometown, police said.

Grega, 52, was released from prison in 2012 and had sued the Vermont authorities who investigated his case.

Suffolk police said Grega was driving his van just blocks from his house in Lake Ronkonkoma, when he lost control and hit a tree. Grega was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

Police said drugs or alcohol don’t appear to be factors in the crash, but it was probably speed-related.

Grega was convicted less than a year after his wife, Christine, was found strangled and sexually assaulted on Sept. 12, 1994, in a a West Dover, Vt., condominium. He was released in August 2012 when new DNA evidence – skin cells from an unknown man found inside the victim’s body – led a Vermont judge to overturn the conviction.

– Newsday