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Officials host drought forum for farmers

PRATTSBURGH (9/14/2016)--State Sen.Tom O'Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) sponsored an "Agriculture Roundtable: The Impact of the 2016 Drought on Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Farmers" Tuesday, Sept. 13.
O'Mara was joined by New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball, State Sen. Patty Ritchie (R,C,IP-Watertown), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee; State Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) and Alison M. Hunt, district director for Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning).
O'Mara, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, "I commend New York State and the federal government for declaring 26 counties in New York State as natural disaster areas due to drought conditions. The declaration includes all of the counties within the 58th Senate District I represent. As I drive across this district, it's clear how this year's drought has negatively impacted many farms. Although we've welcomed some rain recently, the majority of the growing season has passed and a number of farmers are left with low-performing crops. This disaster declaration is the first step in getting farmers the help they need and deserve. This informational forum [provided] an opportunity to discuss the potential short- and long-term impacts of the season's drought on local farmers, as well as the local, state and federal assistance that will be available to farmers impacted by the drought. I also appreciate Commissioner Ball and Senator Ritchie for joining us to personally tour several farms in Steuben and Yates Counties to see and hear firsthand what farmers are facing."
The forum's other panelists were Jamie Earl, executive director of the Steuben County Farm Service Agency; Ashur Terwilliger, president of the Chemung County Farm Bureau and District 4 State Director of the New York Farm Bureau; Tom Eskilden, district technician, Yates County Soil and Water Conservation District; James C. Johnson, executive director of the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency; David Van Lieshout, manager, Farm Credit East; Stephanie Mehlenbacher, horticulture home ground and gardens specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Steuben County; Jeffrey Parker, district manager, Steuben County Soil and Water Conservation District; Larkin Podsiedlik, executive director, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Steuben County; and Christopher C. Wager, farm loan manager, Steuben County Farm Service Agency.
On Aug. 31, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the federal government's 24-county drought disaster declaration, which has since been revised to 26 counties. Counties included in the designation include all of the counties O'Mara represents: Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tompkins and Yates. Farmers in these areas could be eligible for assistance, including emergency loans, from the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency. Ball has been joining state lawmakers and other farm leaders to conduct on-site assessments throughout the state and is working with Cornell University experts to study the outlook for recovery.
Reed encouraged regional farmers to find out more about their eligibility for federal assistance. O'Mara added anyone who was unable to attend should contact his offices for assistance and information.
After the roundtable, farm tours were held at John R. Wallace Farms, a potato farm at 61279 Route 415 in Avoca; Damin Farms, LLC, a large family dairy and corn farm at 10926 Fairgrounds Road in Prattsburgh; and Clearview Farms, one of the largest vineyards in the Finger Lakes region, located at 4019 Stever Hill Road in Branchport.

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