Federal program aids farmers in COVID-19 era

NEW HAMPTON – Congressman Sean Maloney (D, NY-18) joined with management from Minkus Family Farm to talk about a current relief fund program for local agriculture operations and local agriculture market issues, specifically regarding a study of an invasive species affecting onion production.

During a tour of Minkus’ facility on Wednesday, viewing the various changes and equipment investments they’ve made in their operations since COVID, Maloney and Minkus’ management discussed the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). 

Minkus had just invested $100,000 in a second production line to get their workers safely distanced. With the added, and according to Minkus, one of their largest, expenses of cleaning costs and losing business to Canada because of their anti-competitive subsidies, they have applied for CFAP currently through their FSA. Maloney said this assistance not only helps Minkus, but can also help other farms in the Hudson Valley.

“It’s very important and every local farmer should know about it,” said Maloney. “The program is still open until December 11th. It provides up to $250k in relief to our local farmers if they’ve experienced losses because of the pandemic. They can go to their local farm service agency. They’ll help them fill out the paperwork. It’s not hard. It’s making a big difference for a lot of our local farmers, so it’s very important,” he said.

Farm General Manager Rod Runnalls said if he could prioritize the biggest need for local onion producers, like themselves, it would be securing funding for the creation of an extension associate at Cornell University who would reach out to vegetable growers about the invasive species: Allium leafminer. It has been infecting onions and other Allium crops like garlic and chives, but its origins and preventative measures are not widely enough communicated according to Runnalls.

He said he hopes the immediate action would be to secure funding for a study in Canada to see if the leafminers are coming from there after originating in Europe, which is a known point of origin for the species.

“For me right now, today, would be to get the USDA AFIS department to do a risk assessment on Canada. That would be a big step for not just leafminers,” said Runnalls. “The Congressman has helped us in the past. He’s aware of the leafminer. He has helped us in the past, but that would be the one big thing today,” he said.

Maloney said they have put in approximately $1 million in funding for studying the allium leafminers. Professor Brian Nault from Cornell’s AgriTech Department of Etymology said in an overview of the Extension Associate that it would cost an additional $400,000 overall: $213,000 for three year’s salary, $146,970 for fringe benefits and $40k for travel and lodging.



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