Mar 05, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Jim Noceck, owner of Anyela’s, was pleased and “honored” that his winery was a stop on Buerkle’s recent agricultural tour.
“It was nice to see she has an interest to look at the different dimensions of agricultural businesses,” Noceck said.
Another honor for the winery was the fact that Buerkle bought multiple cases of Anyela’s wine this past Christmas to distribute as gifts to her Congressional colleagues, Noceck said.
“Their wine is just delicious,” Buerkle told the Skaneateles Press. “I gave bottles to many of my fellow members, especially those from California, and told them they have some serious competition in winemaking from New York state.”
Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle recently came through Skaneateles and visited Anyela’s winery as part of a day-long tour of local agricultural businesses in her district.
In addition to the winery, Buerkle also visited an apple farm, a vegetable farm and a diary, met with numerous local farmers and conservation officials and held the inaugural meeting of her Agriculture Advisory Task Force in Syracuse.
“Whenever you talk to the whole agriculture community, you are immediately impressed with the dedicated, hardworking people they are,” Buerkle told the Skaneateles Press. “What impressed me, too, were the obstacles put in their way by state and federal governments — the government should get out of their way.”
Buerkle’s tour was sponsored by both the Onondaga County and the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, which have been working closely with the congresswoman’s office on agricultural issues since she took office last year.
The tour bus — filled with about 40 people, including Buerkle, her staff, local conservation officials, local farmers and members of the media — visited Beak & Skiff apple farm in LaFayette, Anyela’s Winery in Skaneateles, Hourigan Dairy Farm in Elbridge and Wyllie Fox vegetable farm in Cato. At each stop, the farm owner would give a short presentation of their business and the challenges they face, followed by a short tour. Neighboring farmers also were invited to each stop, and Buerkle listened and took questions from them as well.
The two issues the congresswoman repeatedly heard from farmers at all four stops was the need for reliable, trained workers and the frustration with the “ridiculous” government regulations creating obstacles to their farming businesses, Buerkle said.
At Anyela’s, owner Jim Noceck gave a brief PowerPoint presentation in which he discussed conservation and business practices that have worked or have hindered his business, including the need for more reliable workers.
“My main emphasis was on the labor issue, on the challenges in general but particularly the potential to get immigrant labor,” Noceck said. “We need to get the system fixed, to get dependable labor.”
Mark Burger, director of the Skaneateles Lake Watershed Agriculture Program, who helped organize the Feb. 24 tour, said the difficulty in hiring seasonal, migrant laborers, and the fact that many Americans are unwilling to do agricultural work, was a recurring topic during the tour, as was the government bureaucracy that keeps farmers in the office doing paperwork rather than out in their fields harvesting their crops.
“It is truly amazing the amount of labor that is needed for agriculture, and when it takes three to four months of paperwork just to get workers lined up often there is no time to complete the harvest and crops are left rotting in the fields,” Burger said.
Ron Podolak, executive director of the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District, who helped coordinate the tour along with Burger, agreed that the issue of “government red tape” was on everybody’s list.
“There are too many restrictions on farmers. They just want to be left alone to do what they do,” Podolak said. “The message from everyone was, ‘Don’t hamper us’ … and I think the congresswoman got a lot of ammunition to take back to Washington from her constituents.”
Both Burger and Podolak said the tour was a great learning and outreach experience for everyone involved, and they were both impressed by Buerkle’s interest in and support for local agri-business issues.
“There’s nothing like personal testimony, and she deserves a lot of credit for coming out to see and hear the problems our producers are dealing with,” Podolak said. “She was very attentive, very concerned and listened to everybody.”
The Agriculture Advisory Task Force, which held its inaugural meeting at the state fairgrounds in Syracuse the day before the tour, covered many of the same issues as the tour itself, said Burger, who moderated the meeting.
Buerkle created the task force in late 2011 in order to discuss concerns and issues about agriculture in her 25th Congressional district.
The task force meeting started with a meet and greet but quickly jumped into discussing the major problems plaguing agri-business producers. The farmers present came up with three pages of issues, the top three being the need for labor, government over-regulation and the content of the upcoming federal Farm Bill, Burger said.
Buerkle said she has high hopes for the success of the taskforce, and she hopes to have hearings in Washington in the near future on agricultural business issues.
“In New York, agriculture is our leading business, and we better take a look at this,” Buerkle said. “The reason for the taskforce is to get feedback from the local farmers, to hear issues and concerns and to keep the lines of communication open. I want to make sure they know they have a voice in Washington.”
In addition to Buerkle, a representative from State Sen. John DeFrancisco’s office also was on the agriculture tour.
“Agriculture is not just a federal issue, but a state issue as well,” Burger said. “The senator has been very involved in agriculture ever since he’s been in office.”
The next Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District agricultural program will be a meeting to discuss the total maximum daily load for Onondaga Lake, followed by a manure application training class from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, March 19, at the LaFayette Fire House on Route 11.
The meeting will be done in partnership with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Cornell Cooperative extension.
For more information on the Onondaga County Soil and Water Conservation District, visit their website at ocswcd.org or call 677-3851 ext. 5.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.