SONNY DAY AT THE DAIRY

U.S. Ag Sec­re­tary vis­its Saratoga County farm

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Paul Post ppost@digitalfirstmedia.com @paul­v­post on Twit­ter

NORTHUM­BER­LAND, N.Y. » Kings Ransom Farm has wel­comed elected of­fi­cials at al­most ev­ery level at one time or an­other.

But Edgar King, the fam­ily-run op­er­a­tion’s pa­tri­arch, couldn’t be­lieve it when New York Farm Bureau called the other day, ask­ing if he’d host a visit by Sonny Per­due, the U.S. sec­re­tary of agri­cul­ture.

“Pretty amaz­ing, isn’t it?” King said Mon­day, as more than 100 peo­ple in­clud­ing three mem­bers of Congress, crowded his farm’s ma­chine shop for a ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion with the coun­try’s num­ber one farm of­fi­cial.

Pres­i­dent Trump named Per­due, a for­mer Georgia gov­er­nor, to the cab­i­net post early this year.

He touched on a va­ri­ety of is­sues such as la­bor and im­mi­gra­tion, school lunch pro­grams, farm­land preser­va­tion, fed­eral fund­ing for ag re­search and ed­u­ca­tion, and in­ter­na­tional trade. Per­due said he’s hope­ful Trump’s East Asia tour, which ended Tues­day, will help open new mar­kets for U.S. farm ex­ports.

“In the Indo-Pa­cific rim there are a lot of hun­gry mouths,” he said.

On the do­mes­tic side, Per­due said farm­ers na­tion­wide must do a bet­ter job of ag­gres­sively pro­mot­ing their goods and prod­ucts to U.S. con­sumers.

“You can no longer just sit be­hind the farm gates,” he said. “Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is a real key. It takes all of us in ag to talk about the ben­e­fits of a whole­some, healthy food sup­ply.”

Lack of ac­cess to land and cap­i­tal are ma­jor ob­sta­cles to many new and be­gin­ning farm­ers.

How­ever, Per­due said he’s en­cour­aged by the fast grow­ing num­ber of small farm-totable busi­nesses, pro­vid­ing lo­cally-sourced food, which have started up in re­cent years.

“The North­east is re­ally kind of lead­ing the way,” he said. “The pas­sion and heart are there. We’ll make sure we clear the way for op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Per­due was joined by three up­state mem­bers of Congress — U.S. Rep. Elise Ste­fanik, R-Wills­boro, U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-Kin­der­hook, and U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-New Hart­ford, along with state As­sem­bly­woman Car­rie Wo­erner, D-Round Lake, and state Sen. Kathleen Marchione, R-Half­moon.

David Rogers, pres­i­dent of SUNY Mor­risville, which has a strong ag-re­lated aca­demic pro­gram, out­lined the new op­por­tu­ni­ties his school gives stu­dents from both ru­ral and ur­ban back­grounds, as the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try ex­pands in new di­rec­tions.

New York Farm Bureau Pres­i­dent David Fisher told Per­due about the strength and di­ver­sity of farm­ing in New York, the na­tion’s third-lead­ing dairy state, which is also sec­ond in the pro­duc­tion of ap­ples, cab­bage and maple syrup.

“We have a thriv­ing lo­cal food move­ment and a proud tra­di­tion in the equine in­dus­try,” he said. “Peo­ple don’t re­al­ize how im­por­tant farm­ing is to New York state. There was $5 bil­lion worth of agri­cul­tural sales in

2015 alone. The spinoff to our lo­cal econ­omy is much larger.”

How­ever, Fisher called for in­creased fed­eral fund­ing for re­search, at schools such as Cor­nell, as China, Brazil and Ar­gentina are out­spend­ing the U.S. twoto-one in this area.

“Im­mi­gra­tion is some­thing that must be re­solved,” Fisher said. “We need a gov­ern­ment pro­gram that ad­dresses sea­sonal and long-term worker needs.”

From Northum­ber­land, Per­due trav­eled to Schaghti­coke for a tour of WestWind Ag, an­other fam­i­lyrun farm, owned by the Czub fam­ily. Rachel Czub is in the process of de­vel­op­ing a grain hub on West Road in Moreau that would sup­ply New York’s fast-grow­ing craft brew­ing in­dus­try.

Per­due’s visit to Kings Ransom Farm in­cluded a tour of its new bot­tling plant, where he sam­pled fresh milk.

Dur­ing his lengthy talk with farm­ers, Per­due stopped briefly and asked a fa­vor of Jeff King, the dairy’s co-owner.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate this Poland Spring wa­ter,” he said. “But I’d re­ally rather have an­other choco­late milk if you’ve got it.”

PAUL POST — PPOST@DIGITALFIRSTMEDIA.COM

U.S. Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Sonny Per­due, at cen­ter in ma­roon shirt, was joined by New York Farm Bureau Pres­i­dent David Fisher, im­me­di­ately left of Per­due, and many lo­cal res­i­dents dur­ing a visit to Kings Ransom Farm in Northum­ber­land on Mon­day.

PHOTOS BY PAUL POST — PPOST@DIGITALFIRSTMEDIA.COM

U.S. Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Sonny Per­due, sec­ond from left, tours Kings Ransom Farm in Northum­ber­land on Mon­day. He is joined by, from left, county Of­fice of Emer­gency Ser­vices Di­rec­tor Carl Zeil­man, U.S. Rep. Elise Ste­fanik, Saratoga County Sher­iff Mike Zurlo and U.S. Rep. John Faso.

U.S. Sec­re­tary of Agri­cul­ture Sonny Per­due an­swers ques­tions dur­ing a visit to Kings Ransom Farm. More than 100 peo­ple at­tend a ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion with U.S. Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Sonny Per­due at Kings Ransom Farm in Northum­ber­land on Mon­day.

PAUL POST — PPOST@DIGITALFIRSTMEDIA.COM

U.S. Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Sonny Per­due, left, and Saratoga County Sher­iff Mike Zurlo, right, shared fa­vorite farm mem­o­ries dur­ing Per­due’s visit.

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