OLANTA — Members of the Clearfield County Farm Bureau shared their viewpoints with local legislators on issues related to agriculture during its annual farm tour held Wednesday.
Approximately 30 state and federal legislators or aides, county officials and guests visited Windy Legacy Farm on the Bloomington-Glen Richey Highway near Curwensville.
The annual excursion is sponsored by the Clearfield County Farm Bureau. It provides members an opportunity to discuss issues important to farmers and those with agriculture-based businesses.
Members spoke about three topics — Sunday hunting, expansion of high-speed broadband infrastructure to rural areas and fairness and transparency in gas well operations and assessment of royalty deductions.
CCFB Member Leon Kriner reported Clearfield County Farm Bureau is not opposed to Sunday hunting if it is limited to three Sundays — but would like the law strengthened to include several requirements. Those include the use of purple paint to designate “No Trespassing” areas and hunters be required to obtain written permission from property owners.
Kriner said several states allow landowners to use purple paint to identify areas where public access to their property is prohibited. Landowners in those states are afforded the same legal protection as if they had posted traditional signage.
Hunters who ignore the paint markings by entering prohibited areas are subject to the same penalties.
Kriner said the practice has several advantages including it is less costly and time-consuming than posting signs. Paint markings are difficult to tamper with or remove. The color purple also stands out in nature and is one of few colors those with color blindness can see, Kriner said.
State Rep. Matt Gabler, R-DuBois, asked if obtaining written permission was going to prove difficult. Kriner said it is a “necessary evil.”
CCFB Member Bill Clouser discussed expanding high-speed broadband infrastructure. He said although technology has made great advances through the years, none of it matters if you can’t connect a portable device to the internet.
“You might have a cell phone but that doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t get on the internet,” Clouser stated.
He also reported that currently one-fifth of commonwealth residents don’t have have high-speed internet access.
He reported Pennsylvania farms no longer sell or buy in local or state markets, they are selling and buying in a global economy.
“If the capability is now improved, Pennsylvania farms will continue to lag behind in business capability. This is not just a farm issue, it’s a rural area issue,” Clouser said.
State Sen Wayne Langerholc Jr., R-Clearfield/Cambria, explained he intends to introduce a bill next month that would create a state fund to be used to enlarge rural broadband especially in targeted underserved areas.
“This is something that needs to get done,” Langerholc said.
CCFB Member Mike Kennis reported on fairness and transparency in gas well operations and assessment of royalty deductions.
Kennis said numerous landowners who leased property for the development of natural gas are experiencing deductions in their royalty payments because of company claims for production costs in operating wells and managing produced gas.
In addition to additional costs, royalty pay stub information is often difficult for landowners to read and determine whether deductions are properly being taken from their royalty checks.
Current law does not require natural gas companies to provide that type of transparency, nor does it prevent retaliatory action against landowners who question or challenge the accuracy of their payments, Kennis said.
State Rep. Tommy Sankey, R-Clearfield/Cambria, told those in attendance that although the matter has been debated, the difficulty lies in deciding whether the regulations should pertain to current contracts or future ones.
“It needs to be done right,” Sankey said, explaining that the regulation needs to be worded so that those who are under contract to receive free gas rather than royalties don’t find themselves with their gas turned off because of how the court may interpret the law.
Windy Legacy Farm, a 40-acre beef cattle farm that specializes in reproductive technology, is owned by Bryan and Dr. Andrea Loar. The couple spoke about the work they have done since purchasing the farm to make it economically sustainable while remaining friendly to the environment.
The fair was named Clearfield County Conservation District’s 2018 Farm of the Year. In 2016, the Loars began working with the CCCD and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to make improvements to the farm and its water lines by creating pastures, building stabilized walkways to prevent soil erosion and instituting rotational grazing.
The Loars spoke about features of their farm and herd, and took those attending on a tour of the facilities following lunch.