WESTFIELD, NY (WNY News Now) – From invasive species to so-called over regulations, agriculture in Chautauqua County faces several obstacles amid their fall harvest.
This week, New York State lawmakers took part in an educational tour of the region’s agricultural industry to hear from farmers one-on-one.
Among the top issues discussed include the new wage overtime threshold mandate going into effect and a destructive species that could seriously damage crops.
On Thursday, New York State Senator George Borrello and others visited the Growers Co-operative, Grape Juice Company in Westfield, General Manager Steve Cockram spoke on the dangers that farmers in the area face, including the Spotted Lanternfly, an invasive species that is extremely dangerous to the grape crop.
“There’s a lot of concern,“ explained Cockram. “It’s not here, but this is an invasive species that could go through our entire industry and absolutely devastate it. I can slowly suck, literally suck all the life out of all the grapes around here.”
Senator George Borrello believes this firsthand is important to help identify issues farmers face in Western New York.
“It was really impactful I believe for those members to hear directly from those folks whos living depends on whether or not they can live under the oppressive laws and regulations that come out of Albany,“ said Borrello.
There is fear that recent legislation will hurt the local agriculture industry.
“And as George mentioned, the Farm Labor Wage Board Act is the most disastrous thing to happen to agriculture in New York State probably ever,” stated Assemblyman Chris Tague.
According to those with Grape Co-op, Chautauqua County’s vineyards are among the largest farming industries around, and it is important for elected officials to get a first hand look.
“When you buy it at the grocery store it seems like it’s magic, it’s just in a bottle and life is good,“ said Cockram. “But there’s a lot of steps that go into making that grape juice.”
The Growers Co-op has been around since 1929, taking freshly harvested grapes and turning them into wines, jams, jellies and even grape juice.