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New York No. 1 producer of cottage cheese, yogurt

Almost a quarter of all land in New York state is farmland, which may come as a surprise to those who think of the state as one Big Apple.

A report issued by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli Thursday says $4.8 billion in revenue came from New York’s farms in 2017, with more than half of that — 56 percent — from milk alone.

“Agriculture is a crucial piece of the state’s economy, with farms contributing nearly $2.4 billion to the state’s gross domestic product,” DiNapoli said in a statement that accompanied the report. “Our farmers continue to provide jobs and fresh, locally sourced food, while also preserving open spaces. However, farmers face a number of challenges, from declining milk prices, which can threaten family businesses, to tariffs and restrictions on immigrant workers.”

New York was among the top five producers in the nation for 15 different farm products, and held the No. 1 spots for cottage cheese, sour cream and yogurt. It’s No. 2 for maple syrup, cabbage, apples and snap beans. And it’s No. 3 for milk, milk cows, grapes and Italian cheese.

Agriculture generates $4.8 million in revenue in New York.
Agriculture generates $4.8 billion in revenue in New York.

In descending order, the top five crops by dollar value in New York are: milk, corn, hay, apples, and cattle and calves.

DiNapoli’s report describes some trends of growth, particularly in the number of organic farms and in crops such as Concord grapes and maple syrup. Production of Concord grapes – used primarily for juice and jams – nearly doubled from 2012 to 2017. Some things remained stable though. Wyoming County, which has the largest number of cows in the state, at 47,500 head of cattle, still has more cows than people.

But DiNapoli warned of some clouds on the agriculture horizon in terms of trade and labor force.

“Declining milk prices have cut revenues sharply, in some cases threatening family businesses. Tariffs, including those imposed recently on agricultural products by the nation’s trading partners in response to those imposed by the federal government, have increased financial uncertainty for many farmers in New York and nationwide,” the report said. “Federal policies relating to visas for migrant workers and other immigration programs have increased restrictions on such workers, who play an important role in the state’s agricultural workforce; such steps may add to the challenge of planting and harvesting on a timely basis.”

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West Nile reports prompt call for vaccinating horses

The state Department of Agriculture has confirmed four cases of equine infection with West Nile Virus, including one in Livingston County, and so is urging horse owners to vaccinate their animals.

“This is the time of year when the risk of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases goes up significantly,” Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said in a written statement. “Taking simple, proactive steps to protect yourself and your animals can be extremely effective in reducing the chance of getting ill.”

The other reports of infections in horses were in Steuben, Suffolk and Cattaraugus counties.

Ball asked horse owners to have their animals seen by a veterinarian if they exhibit symptoms of infection, which include reduced appetite, depressed demeanor, skin and muscle twitching, sensitivity to touch and noise, drowsiness, weakness, unsteady gait and loss of control of body movements or the ability to rise.

Animals with symptoms should also be reported to the local health department and NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The state also suggested taking mosquito control measures, such as removing supplies of standing water, and keeping horses sheltered during early morning and evening hours when mosquitoes are most active.

Twelve case of West Nile virus have also been reported in New York in humans, for whom there is no vaccine. The virus starts in birds and is transmitted to other species by way of mosquito bite. Humans and horses are most likely to develop symptoms, which can be flu-like or neurological.

“The most effective way to reduce the spread of West Nile Virus in our state is for all New Yorkers to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their animals from mosquito bites,” said Dr. Howard A. Zucker, commissioner of the NYS Department of Health. Precautions for avoiding the mosquito-borne virus including using insect repellants, installing screens on windows and doors, eliminating debris and vegetation near ponds, removing standing water, and keeping pools and hot tubs both clean and chlorinated.

People can take precautions by using repellents and larvicides, eliminating standing water, installing window and door screens, removing debris and vegetation near ponds and keeping pools and hot tubs clean and chlorinated.

According to the Vermont Beef Producers Association, in places where West Nile virus is prevalent, it has sometimes been found in cattle, but the cattle apparently are not much affected as they develop an immune response. Nevertheless, the organization said cattle owners should take note of any unusual neurological behaviors that arise and contact a vet.

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