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Farm Bureau tour talks whole milk, waterways

Christine Wise prepares muffins during the Blair County Farm Bureau’s annual farm/legislative tour on Wednesday at Friends Farm in Huston Township. Mirror photo by Walt Frank

ROYER — Whole milk in schools and stream maintenance were among the topics discussed Wednesday during the Blair County Farm Bureau’s annual farm/legislative tour.

The event was held at Friends Farm in Huston Township, a small farm owned by Christine Wise, where everything grown there is sold directly from the farm via the Community Supported Agriculture Program or the on-farm market.

Bills have been introduced in the state House and Senate that would allow Pennsylvania school districts to serve whole milk in their schools provided that milk is produced and processed in the state.

“We need to push more to get whole milk back in the schools,” said Anthony Rice of Clover Creek Cheese Cellar, Williamsburg.

“We are saying in Pennsylvania we can do this and school districts believe this is the right thing to do. We are all here for the dairy farmers and the dairy industry that we are moving this forward,” said state Rep. Jim Gregory, R-Hollidaysburg. “We have lost a generation of people who don’t know the value of whole milk.”

Farm Bureau member Louis Brenneman said he was told by Williamsburg Community School Board President Barry England that “when we went from whole to skim milk, grades started to slip. Brain development needs whole milk. Teenagers need the fat in their diet.”

Tyrone Area High School agriculture teacher and FFA adviser Tiffany Hoy said kids are addicted to caffeine and sugar.

“I don’t know how we get them unaddicted. I wish they would take the caffeine drinks out of the school. Michelle Obama opened a can of worms that will take a while to close up,” Hoy said.

Waterway maintenance

Stream maintenance was another hot topic.

An eight-bill package of legislation known as the Clean Streams Maintenance Package was recently referred to the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee after passing the House in late June. Collectively these bills create an efficient, common sense approach to stream and waterway maintenance in the Commonwealth, according to the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

PFB recommends the creation of a general permit for stream restoration that does not limit the length of the stream authorized to be cleaned; does not prevent removal of gravel bars because of existence of vegetation; allows a landowner to restore the stream bed back to its original channel; and establishes an effective term of five years for the permit unless property ownership changes hands.

“We farm along the Juniata River, trees fall into the stream and cause flooding. We want to clean the streams and keep them running. Farmers get blamed for stuff flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. The last time any of the streams were cleared in Pennsylvania was after Hurricane Agnes in 1972. We are many years down the road. There are bills in the process, but it is not enough and not soon enough. We are asking you guys to help us to keep the streams clean if you can. If we get another hurricane in this area we will have a great disaster,” said member Ken Brenneman.

“Any landowner is permitted to move fallen trees from a stream, there is no permit required. We need to encourage landowners to participate, you can go help your neighbors, it is not bound by property lines,” said Donna Fisher, Blair County Conservation District manager.

Members also discussed meat processing.

The Pennsylvania Farm Bill of 2019 included creation of the Very Small Meat Processing Program. Currently funded at $500,000 yearly, an increase of funding to this grant program would be largely beneficial for small processors in the state.

Senate Bill 1216 would add language to include the eligibility for existing meat and poultry processors to secure grant funding, the key request will be to increase the amount of funding available for the program. PFB believes an annual allocation of $2 million is not unreasonable.

PFB favors legislation to develop a state meat inspection program to promote local processing and retail sale of livestock.

“Penn State’s program for meat processors has taken off, people are being encouraged to go into that program,” Gregory said.

“There has been a focus on getting more for small meat processors, there is a focus on getting more but there isn’t enough,” said state Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair.

Hoy said she has students interested in getting into butchering.

“We can’t even tour Kunzler’s because the kids need to be 18 to get into the facility. It is hard to get them in to see what these careers are all about. We don’t have the facilities to allow butchering at school,” Hoy said.

The topic of the spotted lanternfly was also mentioned.

Fisher said a lot of the pests have not been seen yet in Blair County.

“I dread the day that we do. Farmers should be checking their equipment after hauling something down the road,” Fisher said. “The best way to get rid of them is to just smash them.”

However Catharine Township farmer Daren Brubaker has seen his share of the bugs.

“They are everywhere you go, you can go to Barree and sweep them up. I’ve got packages from down east and they are in the packages,” Brubaker said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.

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