Sunday, December 21, 2014

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Farmers and ag leaders voice concerns over budget cuts

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Farmers and ag leaders voice concerns over budget cuts
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It's a sign of the times. Organizations, agencies and even entire industries are facing money problems like never before and proposed state cuts could make them worse. But as our Brian Dwyer reports, one group says the slashes it's facing seem a bit lopsided compared to others.

LEWIS COUNTY, N.Y. -- "I think we all agree. We're in tough shape. What we have to do is try and find a balance. It's going to be tough."

North Country State Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush laying it out there for a group of about 30 or so farmers and ag leaders Wednesday in Lewis County. The industry, according to them and the Assemblyman is facing "unfair" cuts in the state's budget.

"We know ag is going to take cuts," Copenhagen farmer Lynn Murray said. "We're willing to take our fair share. But we feel like we've been targeted."

"It's kind of sad to see that we're talking about trying to salvage programs that used to be the hallmark of this state," Great Bend farmer John Peck added. "The state that used to be number one in agriculture in every aspect."

Some of those programs that could see no funding this year are county fairs and others programs like Pro Dairy and New York Farm Net that works with farmers in both business and personal issues.

"Farming is a 24/7 business and family issues and business issues often intersect," NY Farm Net Director Ed Staehr said.

Also on the block, the Future Farmers of America, an educational program for youngsters interested in farming.

"There would be no agriculture," FFA President Adam Nikitich said of the possibility the program disappears. "You've got to have new people coming in because eventually there will no farmers left if nobody new comes in."

The assemblyman says he'll do what he can to try and convince people that cuts need to be more even across the board.

"When you put money into the ag business, they return that seven times. So you know it's important that we invest in the right things and spend our money in the right areas," he said.

His advice to farmers, send letters to the governor or call his office with any ideas or concerns. It could make a big difference.

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