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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Keeping track of rural New York"

ALBANY, July 15 -- The Legislature’s joint, 10-member bipartisan Commission on Rural
Resources, on which I serve as a member together with area Assembly representatives Phil Palmesano and Barbara Lifton, issues a publication called Rural Futures that's a must read if you’re interested in staying up to date on rural affairs locally, statewide and nationally.

It’s a publication that the Commission’s been extremely proud of for many years, one that’s chock full of valuable information on state legislation, exciting and interesting trends in rural communities throughout New York and around the nation, as well as summaries for local leaders and officials on grants, publications, useful websites, and upcoming events.

The latest Summer 2012 issue, for example, features:

-- an update on an issue that I highlighted earlier this year concerning the Commission’s efforts to expand the availability and implementation of telemedicine services statewide. It’s viewed as one key way to heighten access to quality health care for rural New Yorkers in the 21st century. Following t he Commission’s January 2012 roundtable, "Telehealth-Telemedicine: Putting the Pieces Together,” which focused on many of the challenges facing the potential growth of telehealth services across upstate rural regions, we began developing specific pieces of legislation based upon the ideas and recommendations we received. One measure I’m cosponsoring (Senate Bill Number 6970) awaits final action by Governor Andrew Cuomo. It would remove a key obstacle and broaden the granting of hospital privileges to providers of telemedicine services;

-- the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new take on one of the most recognizable symbols in American culture – the Food Pyramid that so many of us grew up with as the learning tool for healthy eating and proper nutrition. The USDA’s new “MyPlate” diagram aims to reeducate Americans of all ages on the staples of a healthy diet;

-- an overview of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s “County Health Rankings & Roadmaps” program, which has ranked the health of nearly every county in America while trying to show what can be done to create healthier communities through new partnerships involving policymakers, business, education, public health and community organizations;

-- an update on the armyworm invasion that’s plaguing farmers and destroying field crops in regions throughout New York, including ours. Nancy Glazier, a small farms specialist with the Yates County Cooperative Extension, recently said, “I have never seen them in such numbers.” Other local observers have noted that they’ve never seen anything like this year’s invasion in nearly a half century;

-- a reminder on the USDA’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program, which is accepting applications through September 30, 2012 to distribute $79 million in loans and $10 million in grants to promote economic development, job creation, business expansion and public
infrastructure improvements in rural areas;

-- a review of the federal government’s improvements to its “Plant Hardiness Zone Map” to assist gardeners and growers determine which plants are most likely to thrive at any given location;

-- information, in anticipation of apple picking season, on a new online guide for pickers created by the New York Apple Association; and

-- in keeping with the Commission’s longstanding tradition to periodically issue timely and informative guidebooks for rural officials and concerned citizens, a notice that the Commission has recently reissued a number of updated publications, including: “Local Roads Research and
Coordination Council Manual: Guidelines for Rural Town and County Roads, 2012.”

All in all, it’s a good, solid edition of Rural Futures and I’m glad to have the chance to share notice of its availability with you. I’ve recently posted a link to an online version on my state Senate website, (see the Rural Futures icon in the left-hand column
of the home page). You can always e-mail your request for a copy to, or call any of my offices in Bath (776-3201), Elmira (735-9671), or Albany (518-455-2091).

More than two-thirds of New York’s 62 counties are designated as rural, including all of the counties comprising my Senate District. It’s been a long struggle to raise the state Legislature's awareness of traditionally upstate, small city, rural issues, and the challenges for rural legislators just keep getting tougher. We’ve witnessed it time after time in the ongoing debates over tax policies, economic development priorities, infrastructure allocations and in so many other ways. It
remains an ongoing challenge and Rural Futures is one way to stay updated on the Commission’s work on issues like farm preservation, telemedicine, broadband access, volunteer recruitment and retention, water quality, education, and transportation, to name just a few items on a much more
comprehensive rural New York agenda.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869