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Sat., Feb. 28
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Budget would cut support for farms

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Research and support programs for farms and agriculture will lose funding under Gov. David A. Paterson's proposed 2010-11 state budget.

The New York Farm Viability Institute would lose $3.24 million and the Center for Dairy Excellence would lose $376,000, their entire budgets. The two organizations are based in Syracuse.

"While that was a bit shocking, it was not near as shocking as the fact that all the previous reapportionments were also zeroed out," said Thomas N. Sleight, the institute's executive director. "That's really going to hurt us."

Money for ongoing research and support projects from previous years is normally rolled over to the next budget year. The institute has 119 ongoing projects, including dairy profit teams, research to resist the invasive alfalfa snout beetle, workshops on value-added products for maple producers and research on the best feedstock for biofuels.

"We've got lots of stuff going on," Mr. Sleight said. "In a worst-case scenario, we'll look at the roster and see what has to be cut."

The projects were begun in the previous three budget years and need a few million dollars to be completed. He said the lost projects also will mean lost jobs for about 100 people.

Through 75 completed projects, the institute helped support the creation of 160 jobs in new and expanding enterprises or business reorganizations.

"We were flabbergasted when we heard that," Mr. Sleight said.

Besides jobs, the projects have brought 7-to-1 investment returns through increased sales and investment or reduced production cost, he said.

One of the ongoing projects, dairy profit teams, has a strong presence in the north country.

"We have seven or eight farms operating on dairy profit team funding from previous years," said Jay M. Matteson, Jefferson County agricultural coordinator.

The program provides up to about $2,000 in reimbursements for consulting costs to farms. For the farms that are still using previous years' grant money, he'll encourage them to submit reimbursement requests before March 31, the end of the 2009-10 budget year.

"The Farm Viability Institute is extremely important to our industry as a funding resource and economic developer," Mr. Matteson said.

The first group of dairy profit teams led to 12 jobs created, he said.

Mr. Sleight praised state Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine, D-Cape Vincent, for helping get funding restored in the 2009-10 budget for the institute.

Mr. Aubertine's spokesman, Andrew G. Mangione, said the budget process is still at an early stage.

The institute and Center for Dairy Excellence "are important programs and the senator is working to prioritize the programs to ensure that the most effective ones for our farmers have funding for the coming year," he said.

Mr. Sleight said at the least, he'd like to see the previously promised funds restored.

"We do not want to have projects end before we have results," he said.

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