SONNY DAY AT THE DAIRY
U.S. Ag Secretary visits Saratoga County farm
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.”
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.
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...
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.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, left, and Saratoga County Sheriff Mike Zurlo, right, shared favorite farm memories during Perdue’s visit.