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Proposed WNY Ethanol Plant Changing Agricultural Landscape

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – A ground breaking date has not yet been set for the governor's proposed ethanol plant in Orleans County. But some local dairy farmers are ready to turn their land over to start making the fuel alternative.

The Gingerich Dairy Farm in Marilla is one of the rare hold-outs to rural housing development in Western New York. Here, Earl Gingerich Junior maintains a proud family tradition on the 500-head dairy farm.

He's pushed back developers for years to continue working the land. But with news that corn will soon be in big demand for ethanol, Gingerich said he will stay loyal to the land, but maybe not his cows.

"We plan on tilling additional acreage and with the fact that dairy is a little bit tougher, we might not expand as much in dairy, and actually, maybe downsizing dairy - and switch over more to soy beans and corn and other crops," said Gingerich.

In fact, Gingerich has already put in orders for new equipment to handle the anticipated demand for corn. The farm will soon have another 20,000 bushel storage bin, new a dryer and auger system.

"So, just this year alone we are going to be committed to spending about $90,000 to handle more grain, figuring on more market," said Gingerich.

He expects to produce about ten to twenty percent more grain on his farm to sell to the ethanol plant.

Gingerich is also president for the local office of Cornell Cooperative Extension Services. He said farmers tend to be conservative. But he's hearing that others will also be ready to expand their crops when the time comes.

"I do see that there will be a gradual easing in of more demand for land to... and, of course, there will be more land available if people downsize in dairy or go out of the dairy business - more of those acreages go into feeding animals than go into taking care of the ethanol plants," said Gingerich.

And Gingerich said that will give New York farmers an edge to stay competitive with farmers in other corn producing states. But he admits the downsizing of dairy farming could have an unintended negative impact on dairy prices.