Area officials attend farm bureau tour|
Friday, August 24, 2012
By Dianne Byers Staff Writer
WEST DECATUR - Yesterday, members of the Clearfield County Farm Bureau hosted legislators, would-be legislators, township supervisors and other guests to discuss issues important to local farmers and gave those in attendance a firsthand look at an innovative agribusiness.
The CCFB's annual legislative farm tour was held at Fred and Tammy Bush's Dream Catcher Farm and Fiber Mill, West Decatur. The Bush family raises alpacas, shears them and uses their fleece to spin yarns that are crafted into apparel and other items sold at a small store located on their property. Approximately 30 people were in attendance.
Leon Kriner of Luthersburg, president of the CCFB, said the legislative farm tour provides an opportunity for the organization's members to present issues and topics that are of concern and request legislators either support, deny or work to have them revised.
Mike Kennis of Troutville, a dairy farmer, spoke about the lack of a federal farm bill. Although the Senate has passed a farm bill, the U.S. House of Representatives has failed to do so.
Kennis said part of the holdup is a majority of legislation included in the comprehensive bill addresses the food stamp program, making substantial cuts to it, and that is why there has been a lack of support. Kennis said the portion of the proposal addressing farming is very small, with food stamps and related programs making up 80-90 percent of the proposed law.
Mike Kunsman, a veal farmer from LaJose, told the crowd how the state's vehicle code is affecting his family farm. He said changes to the law have not kept up with technology or the requirements of farmers. He said while the code's language changes has attempted to provide farmers with special allowances to facilitate farming tasks such as moving machinery additional changes are needed.
He said farmers work "long and odd hours," which makes the restrictions imposed difficult for them to complete their tasks such as planting and harvesting in a timely manner.
Kunsman said he has not encountered many problems from the state police but finds local police officers are not aware of details of the code and "cause grief." He urged the legislators and those in attendance to contact their local legislators and request support for state Senate bill 390 and House of Representatives' bills 2371-2374, which would further revise and define the vehicle code.
Ralph McClarren, a retired farmer from West Decatur, told the audience that property tax relief, especially in regard to school taxes, is needed. He said the amount is continually increased as school districts opt to construct new buildings or develop additional programs.
McClarren said he believes increased earned income or sales tax would be a more just method for school districts to collect the funds they need.
State Rep. Matt Gabler, R-75 of DuBois, said he agrees, referring to school property tax as "the most painful tax that anyone pays." He said he has been told of instances locally where senior citizens are selling their jewelry and family heirlooms to get funds to pay the taxes on their property and said he believes that is not right.
Current proposed legislation does allow local municipalities to enact additional income or sales tax to replace property tax increase - a method Gabler said he believes is a fairer way than a statewide income or sales tax. This could shift money away from rural areas such as Clearfield County and give it to sections of the state with larger school districts.
"Property taxes do need to be fixed. There's no doubt about that, however, if we allow Harrisburg to distribute the money, we could end up with an even bigger problem," Gabler said.
Kriner presented information about the Environmental Protection Agency's mandates in regard to water, stating he believes for years farmers have been good stewards of both the land and water, and additional restrictions from agencies that know nothing of the local area are not needed.
He urged legislators and those in attendance to contact their local government representatives to support a reduction in EPA's authority. Rick Sollman, legislative aide to U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-5 of Howard, said the congressman supports change of current legislation and a reduction in EPA's clout. He said in many instances the regulatory agency is using computer models as the basis for its regulations rather than examine real situations.
The event concluded with a tour of Dream Catchers Farm and Fiber Mill, owned by Fred and Tammy Bush of West Decatur. The Bush family raises alpacas - currently 11 males. Tammy Bush said their herd is made up of males because female alpacas are too expensive, citing a price of more than $10,000 for a female alpaca. Also the family does not breed the animals but raises them for their fur.
The alpacas' fleece fibers are washed, dried, combed either by hand or in their fiber mill. In some cases the fibers are dyed then spun into yarn or blended with another natural material such as sheep's wool or silk, which Tammy Bush said adds memory to the fit of the garment. The yarn is then crafted into apparel and other items that are sold along with the yarn and fibers in the small store on the Bush's property.