GRAMPIAN — Local farmers on Saturday learned at the spring meeting of the Clearfield County Farm Bureau that the lack of a state budget could result in the closing of Penn State Extension offices — including the one located in Clearfield County.
Approximately 50 people attended the event held at Grampian Firehall. The welcome was given by CCFB President Leon Kriner.
The guest speaker was state Farm Bureau President Rick Ebert. Ebert, a dairy farmer from Blairsville, has served as president since 2014.
He spoke about the importance of the Pennsylvania’s legislators and Gov. Tom Wolf approving a 2015 state budget to prevent an adverse effect on Penn State Extension offices. He said if the current proposed budget is vetoed by Wolf, all 67 extension offices, including the one in Clearfield County, will close — eliminating programs and services used by farmers and consumers.
If the funding is not approved for the extension offices, it could also mean the loss of 1,100 jobs, and 90,000 youth would lose access to leadership development programs such as 4-H. Pennsylvania would also be the first state in the nation to abandon the land grant mission that is funded in the agriculture portion of the spending plan.
“The governor indicated he would veto this. I think it is time we get a budget done and move on to the next one,” Ebert stated.
He encouraged CCFB members to contact the governor’s office Monday to lobby for him signing the budget. “We need to make sure the Penn State Extension offices are safe.”
Ebert also spoke about a proposal for a uniform labeling law for food. He noted Vermont has passed a law that requires food containing genetically modified organisms or GMO’s be labled. He said if each state adopts its own labeling laws it would become a “nightmare” for food manufacturing companies and likely would result in much higher food costs.
Ebert also thanked CCFB for its willingness to work for the organization.
“Every member needs to do a little bit so that Farm Bureau can have a great outcome,” Ebert said. “Doing small simple things can have a huge impact.”
Clearfield County Commissioner John Sobel provided an update on the county’s plan to adopt an agriculture land preservation program. He said the state has a program, but Clearfield County did not until the CCFB brought the need for a program to the commissioners’ attention.
He said by adopting the program, the county will ensure land is available for farming and is “not gobbled up by urban sprawl.”
He said farmers can also petition the municipality where their land is located to adopt an agriculture land security area. He said Brady, Union and Becarria townships currently have a program.
The commissioners are in the process of considering applications the board has received to express interest from residents in serving on an agricultural land preservation board.
Sobel said the commissioners are planning to appoint a board at their Tuesday’s meeting or its first meeting in April.
State Rep. Tommy Sankey (R-Clearfield), reported a budget had been passed by the state House of Representatives and has been given to Wolf for consideration. He said although Wolf has promised to veto it, he said he hopes Wolf will reconsider to stop the demise of the Penn State Extention Program and approve funding for colleges, especially those with agricultural and animal care programs.
He said the lack of a budget may also affect local school districts and force them to close early.
PFB State Board Director Marty Yahner of Patton, Cambria County, encouraged CCFB members to complete a survey they are being sent by Penn State. He said information from the poll will be given to the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency to allow them to create new models for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed initiative since the agencies recently announced their models are flawed.
Yahner said it is important to note the best practices local farmers have been conducting for years have resulted in less chemicals and sediments leaching into the watershed.
PFB Regional Director Joe Diamond reminded members about the Rural Road safety initiative in April when members of the public are educated through public service announcements to remain vigilant about sharing the highways with tractors and farm equipment as farmers move from field to field to prepare for planting.
Mary Snyder of CCFB woman’s committee discussed several projects including the Farmer’s Care program. At Saturday’s spring meeting, members were encouraged to bring non-perishable food items or give a monetary donation to be given to three food banks.
Snyder said CCFB worked with Community Action to identify three food pantries in the county that do not receive a lot of public support. She said those are Burnside/Mahaffey, Westover and Karthaus. Items and funds collected from the spring dinner will be donated to them.
She also showed the book that will be distributed to 14 Clearfield County elementary schools.
“First Peas to the Table” will be donated to schools through the Farmtastic Book Program.