WESTFIELD - U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, is now equipped with a shovel to toss aside useless bureaucratic jargon.
On Friday, Reed visited Grape View Dairy in Westfield to learn more about the farm's operation, which includes a robotic milking machine. The congressman was also there to hear from local dairy farmers and learn more about the issues affecting the agricultural community.
Reed has been meeting with farmers throughout Chautauqua County and across the 23rd District to gain frontline information from dairy farmers. During Reed's visit, he listened to six local farmers speak about the problems dairy producers face. One issue the congressman heard about is the floor price for fluid milk is to low. Without an increase, dairy farmers won't be able to continue producing milk. A price floor is a government or group-imposed limit on how low a price can be charged for a product.
The local dairy producers said the system is being manipulated by processors, who want to keep the price low. The local farmers said a new pricing process needs to be developed because, the way it works now, processors are setting the price.
The farmers told Reed that dairy producers aren't as organized as the processors, which adds to the reform problem because there is no unified dairy-producing voice. Chad Fredd, Grape View Dairy owner, said dairy farmers would be helped if the system allowed for more of a free market price on fluid milk.
''That is what my gut tells me. The more free market principles involved, the better,'' Reed said.
Reed told the farmers he will stay in touch and this would not be the last time they will talk.
''This is the beginning of the conversation,'' Reed said.
As a way of thanking Reed for taking the time to visit the farmers, and as a joke they gave Reed a shovel. The farmers want Reed to use the shovel plow through unnecessary political nonsense in Washington, D.C., in order to accomplish reform to assist dairy farmers.
GRAPE VIEW DAIRY
During Reed's trip to Grape View Dairy, he watched a robotic milking machine in action. Fredd, who owns the farm with his wife, Jill, said the machine was made in the Netherlands by Lely Astronaut. The machine is more efficient than previous methods of milking a cow. Fredd said the machine milks a cow in about six minutes. In a milking parlor, the process used to take 10 to 12 minutes a cow.
The machine also helps with knowing the health of a dairy cow. Through a collar on the cow, the machine knows how active a cow has been. Also, the machine knows the weight and temperature of each cow. Grape View Dairy has around 200 dairy cows.
REED'S FARM BILL
In September, Reed introduced the Family Farm Relief Act in the House of Representatives, which was introduced in a bipartisan manner with support from two New York congressmen.
''Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in New York,'' Reed said at the time. ''Our towns rely on farmers not just for food, but the economic activity generated by the farms. Our purpose with the Family Farm Relief Act is to streamline and improve the H-2A program so that our farmers have more time to do what they do best: grow and produce the food and commodities we need.''
Reed said the Family Farm Relief Act will move administration of the current H-2A seasonal agriculture worker program from the Labor Department to the Agriculture Department, where the needs of the farmer are better understood. The legislation includes other reforms to the H-2A visa program, which has several regulatory burdens that deter use of the program. One notable reform is the inclusion of dairy workers in the H-2A program.