LITTLE VALLEY — Cattaraugus County lawmakers look forward to the annual Farm Bureau visit when they get an update on the county’s agriculture and sample a table of foods that are grown in New York state.
Farm Bureau president Nathan Blesy, who milks 300 cows on the family’s Town of Ashford dairy farm, said there are 300 Farm Bureau members in Cattaraugus County and 28,000 statewide.
Blesy thanked the County Legislature for supporting the Farm Bureau request last year to help establish the five-county Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Program.
The program with several ag specialists spans Cattaraugus, Allegany, Chautauqua, Steuben and Erie counties and is run through Cornell Cooperative Extension.
County Legislature Chairman Howard VanRensselaer, R-Randolph, presented Blesy with a proclamation declaring this week Farm Bureau Week.
Presenting the agriculture update, Katelyn Walley-Stoll, who handles business management for the new regional agriculture program, pointed out that $93.4 million in agriculture products were sold in Cattaraugus County last year.
The total economic impact was $214 million.
There are 956 farms in the county, of which 758 cultivate 88,742 acres of cropland, Walley-Stoll told legislators. The 176 dairy farms in the county produce enough milk to meet the dietary needs of a half a million people. Most of the farms — 97% — are family farms and 17% hire additional farm labor.
There are 166,240 acres in farmland, 20% of the county’s total acreage, Walley-Stoll said. For every $1 of income created by the agriculture industry, $2.29 is generated in the community.
Dairy farmers are still operating at a loss, Walley-Stoll said. While farmers were getting $15.93 per 100 pounds of milk last year, their costs were close to $21.25. “They are operating at a loss,” she said.
Nearly 90% of a dairy farm’s income is from milk, she said. The top expenses are: feed (36%), labor (14%), machinery (13%), milk marketing (7%), crops (7%), livestock care, (6%), barn and parlor supplies (5%), interest (5%) and taxes (3%).
Walley-Stoll said a 100- cow dairy has a ripple effect across the community. It has approximately a $1.4 million local impact. For each dollar spent on a dairy farm, about $5.54 is generated in the local economy. It helps support 29 direct and indirect local jobs from employees to vets, nutritionists, feed suppliers and machinery sales and repair companies.
IN OTHER ACTION, legislators approved a resolution opposing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed cost shifting of Medicaid costs to counties to help close a $6 billion state budget gap.
Cattaraugus County pays $19.5 million a year as its share of Medicaid costs, which include medical services for the poor and nursing home care for the elderly.
Cuomo proposed the state assuming future Medicaid cost increases in 2015, which capped counties Medicaid costs at zero percent.
Cuomo’s budget calls for counties to pay for Medicaid growth if they fail to keep under the 2% property tax cap. If counties cannot keep Medicaid increases under 3%, they would be responsible for increases above that.
The County Legislature also voted to oppose Cuomo’s proposal to replace Article 10, which governs siting of large wind and solar projects with a process that would eliminate local government home-rule and force the projects on communities.
“The Cattaraugus County legislature strongly opposes the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act and urges the New York State Legislature to reject the proposal,” the resolution states.
The county also urges the State Legislature “to respect the Home Rule Authority of local governments as provided in the New York State Constitution,” it adds.
Counties and local governments across the state are racing the adopt similar resolutions. The Farmersville Town Board approved a nearly identical resolution Monday night opposing the governor’s power grab.
“It’s an egregious grab for power” by the governor, Legislature Vice Chairman Andrew Burr, R-Gowanda told fellow legislators in urging its adoption.
“I’m a believer in Home Rule,” he added. “This is transformational.”
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)